Alex Chen on the possibilities of a line

Combining his love of music, drawing and coding, Alex Chen creates interactive works that turn chaotic things into something beautiful and charming.

Alex Chen loves making things and often combines his interests in music (he plays the viola), drawing and coding to make interactive works, both as part of his job at Google Creative Lab and in his personal capacity.

Chen’s dabbled in a variety of things, some of which he highlighted in his talk at Design Indaba Conference 2013. Fascinated by the possibilities of a simple line on a page, Chen explored how such a line could become a string that one could reach out and pluck. This quest – exploring the sound of a scribble – resulted in interactive works like turning the Google logo and the New York Subway system into a musical instrument!

It’s about taking a visual source that has no inherent musical value to it and drawing music from it, Chen explains. He also showed how he visualised Bach’s cello suites in a project titled

For Chen, working at Google Creative Lab is about making things, be it using code, film or design. He describes it as a “chaotic and inspiring” environment to work in.

Chen also offers in a glimpse into the very exciting Google Glass project, an exploration into wearable computing. With Google Glass, he explains, it is about reducing the user interface to the point where it becomes a naturally ingrained extension of the body. 

Watch the Interview with Alexander Chen