Here is your moment to relax: A Q&A with ‘Here is Today’ creator Luke Twyman

May 7, 2013

Perspective can be difficult to come by in a tweeted-out, pinned-up world where we now say “okay” to our Glass, choose to stumble upon things and constantly poke the digital universe in the hopes that it will poke back.


A screengrab of the interactive graphic “Here is Today,” created by freelance designer and illustrator Luke Twyman. (WhiteVinyl)

If you haven’t answered your e-mails and your voicemails and your text messages and chat messages, then you’re likely buried under a sea of physical mail — fliers, coupons, bills and, like a spotted zebra, the occasional personal letter. The wave of demands on your time is constantly crashing against your capacity to take it all in. But let’s, for the purposes of this post, stop and focus on today.

Just today.

If you need help, there’s an interactive for that. “Here is Today,” created by freelance graphic designer Luke Twyman (a.k.a. WhiteVinyl), places this day — as crazy (or not) as it may be — within the context of the month, the year, and so on until you reach the time span of the entire universe. It shows each period of time relative to today. It’s a nice reminder, in the midst of the immediate crush of demands on one’s time, to take stock of the bigger picture. After taking a break to click through Tywman’s interactive, we posed a few questions to him about the making of the interactive and his general take on design. The questions and responses have been edited for clarity.

Q: How did you get into design?

Twyman: I think, really, from when I was a kid — my parents didn’t have much money but were big on [do-it-yourself] DIY and self-sufficiency. So, many things that we needed or wanted we made ourselves. I’d make things from paper a lot. In primary school, I made a mechanical “video” game from an old cigarette packet and a load of paper. It was a racing game that took two people — one person to play the game and another person to operate it, basically being the game.

When I was in college we got a computer and I began making real video games — just as a hobby. That was my first jump into creative programming. Other aspects of design and visuals I’ve just taught myself along the way, and I’ve been freelance now for about eight years.

What inspired you to come up with “Here is Today”?

The scale of time always fascinated me. Sometimes people speak as if their own lifespan covers all of time — commenting on the weather is a classic one. We might say how this is the longest winter we’ve had, or the wettest summer we’ve had, etc. But  for all the years there have been, we’ve really only experienced a tiny quantity. I did a previous audio/visual called SolarBeat, which dealt with long-scale time as well. So, I guess this was a kind of follow-up project.


A screengrab of the interactive graphic “Here is Today,” created by freelance designer and illustrator Luke Twyman. (WhiteVinyl)

What are you hoping to convey with the piece?

I wanted to leave any meaning totally open and present the information message-free. But I also wanted to simply convey the incredible scale of time and our place in it. I wasn’t really sure if I could get across how I feel about that by just using some coloured rectangles, but I hope I was able to. The most common responses have been people saying it gives them perspective, or makes them feel insignificant compared to the universe.

How long did it take to put together?

It took about a week. At the moment, I’m trying to make sure that where I have gaps between work I’m still continuing with personal projects like this. This was only my second project using Javascript/HTML5 canvas. So, some of that time was spent teaching myself how to do what I wanted to do. The rest was spent researching, figuring out lots of percentages and programming the animations/interaction. My starting knowledge on geologic time and its events was next to nothing. So, again, that’s something I had to teach myself as I went along.

Why use the Web for this feature?

There are lots of printed charts of the geologic or astronomic time scales, but they normally serve a different purpose than to simply compare different blocks of time. To do that there really needed to be some realtime scaling/zooming. Also it’s what I know, interactivity is always a big hook for people, and it makes sharing so easy. Actually for a while now I have been drawing up plans of a physical interactive art/science piece I’d love to do which is also based on the concept of time, but it’s really the kind of thing I’d need funding help for, so that’s another reason why the web is an easy go-to medium.

What are you hoping to work on next?

I have a load of personal projects underway. I think the next one I plan to complete is a large graphic poster on which I’ve been collecting together all of the NASA launch vehicles and all of their variations used for space missions. What I’m hoping is that I can move into doing more interactive or graphic work for the purposes of science and informal education. It’s something I’ve been planning for a little while but hopefully the interest in “Here is Today” puts me in a good position to make that happen.

What’s the coolest/most innovative work, other than your work, that you’ve seen online recently?

This was from last year but I only recently saw it:

I think it’s difficult to tell if the MIT visit would have been of huge value to [15-year old Sierra Leonian inventor] Kelvin Doe, but certainly Doe is amazing and I’m sure inspiring to a lot of people. To me it has always felt most rewarding making something with limited resources, but it’s incredible seeing what some people can do.

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