Daniel Bretl - Portfolio for Graduate School Application

100 Word Story

Collaborative spontaneous story writing


Taking a few megapixel-sized steps backwards


Using color to discover patterns of word usage

Long Exposure

Exploring the display of change over time


Living a life in images

Travel Blog

Visually exploring the world at large

Place in Silhouette

Capturing the essence of a place in its shapes

This Pen...

Finding my true paper self


Turning everyday life into art

Living Image

Setting colors free in the name of evolution

At the surface, Living Image is a simple painting application. Underneath, however, it features a biological simulation that turns colors into species of creatures which live and act autonomously in a canvas world. Color creatures can move, compete with others, reproduce, and quite possibly die, and thus disappear from the canvas altogether. Behaviors of colors are emergent traits of species' genes. As creatures reproduce, their genes are subject to mutation; in the end only the fittest colors survive to remain on the canvas.

This Mac OSX application invites the user to experiment with evolution in an intensely visual manner. The user is given a great deal of control over almost all parameters of the world itself, each of which affects what types of creatures prosper or perish. This encourages active student participation and provides opportunities for experimentation and true discovery. The experience is intrinsically multidisciplinary; it interweaves art making and biology in such a way that to think about one necessitates considering the other.

This project was my senior thesis in college, and it is my current number one ambition for iPad app development, precisely embodying the type of educational and creative experience that I strive to design for potential users. There is a great deal of work left to be done on the project. I hope not only to rewrite the application for a touchscreen interface and to include new usability features like image import and export, but also to collaborate with biology scholars to work out new more sophisticated ways of translating from genotypes to phenotypes. I also hope to someday hook up the system to an extremely large scale "display" such as a building in NYC with lights in all of its windows.

  • In order to run Living Image, you must have an Intel-based Macintosh computer. (PowerPC architectures might work, but they are not supported.) You should download the compiled application and instructions which are bundled in a zip file. Once you have unzipped that file, you can open any of the application builds (depending on your desired canvas size) like you would any other Mac OSX application. I would highly recommend looking at the quick "essentialReadMe" guide, which gives basic operational insructions and also gives some tips on particular parameters to play with to quickly get some interesting results.There is one bug currently which must be dealt with by the user to run the program successfully. After you launch Living Image, you should make the Parameters Window active for a moment and move it around a bit with your mouse. This seems to "wake up" that window, which otherwise often remains quite unresponsive (which makes changing parameters - a central part of the Living Image experience - almost impossible). This bug is a mystery currently, and the solution is a silly one, but it works consistently! Just remember that if the Parameters Window ever seems to be acting strangely, you can probably fix the problem by making it active and moving it around a bit! (One time per application launch should be enough though...)
  • If you would like, you can read the project summary from my senior thesis to gain an understanding of the underlying biological system.
  • View screenshots produced from the application: