It's rare to find a drawing app that can be as sloppy as fingerpainting while still offering a dizzying array of precise parameters to play with as well. But Anna Oguienko's WURM fits that bill and then some. Imagine MIT's Singing Fingers crossed with M.C. Escher and you'll get the idea.
Tapping and swiping combine with algorithms to create visual patterns.
Oguienko calls WURM "a generative art app," which means that the tapping and swiping interactions combine with algorithms to create a visual pattern that's more than the sum of its parts (or your intentions). "Generative art has been a fascination of mine ever since I first discovered work of Joshua Davis in high school," she tells Co.Design. "In university I took an intro course to Processing where we did a lot of "generative" sketches that introduced me to many basic principles. When the iOS platform came out I instantly saw the touch screen as the perfect interface for generative work. To learn the platform, I gave myself the challenge of adapting one of those sketches on the iPhone, which is how WURM came about."
WURM's interface is slightly mysterious -- the first thing you see isn't a tutorial, but a bunch of symbols that look like Apple crossed with the Dharma Initiative from Lost -- and that's part of the point. The goal is to get you to explore by doing, so you have to just start tapping away and see what happens. For example: What happens if I place my palm flat on the screen instead of tap with my fingertip? (Cool stuff.) What happens if I start messing around with these unlabeled sliders? (Cooler stuff.) You get the idea.
WURM's interface is slightly mysterious and that's part of the point.
And whether you just skim WURM's surface or dive deep into its many parameters, the visual results always have a uniquely crisp, geometric look that make it seem like you did whatever you did on purpose. "My background is in graphic design and vector illustration, so I'm naturally drawn to flat, crisp 2d aesthetic," explains Oguienko. "I'm also a big fan of geometry, which is how I designed the shapes for WURM. I started out with primitives and gradually added elements until they gained some personality. In the end, I picked five that I enjoyed most and that provided enough variety for the app. The outcome is whimsical, colorful and simple -- which tends to be my style."
A "style" that's instantly engaging but encourages and rewards focused experimentation? That's UI-design advice that any developer, not just artists, would do well to follow.