Behind the Plugins: Matt DesLauriers, Generative Artist & Creative Coder

Morgan Kennedy

Editor's Note: This article is part 4 of a 5-part series about the creators behind Figma plugins—coming to a Figma near you on August 1, 2019. Tune in to watch our live announcement.

Today’s interview is with generative artist and creative coder Matt DesLauriers. Given Matt’s many contributions to the broader design and art community, it’s no surprise that he has several Figma plugins in the works. 

You may have seen some sneak peeks of Matt’s plugins on Twitter, like this animations plugin that opens up new possibilities:

And this image palette plugin that suggests color pairings:

And this parametric design generator: 

Now let’s meet the creator behind the plugins. 

Q: How did you first get into generative art?A: I've been interested in both art and code since I was young. As a kid, I would spend more time modding, hacking, and re-designing games than actually playing them. I started to learn about generative art in 2014 while making small demos in the browser with JavaScript. Some of the demos would produce images that evolved and changed over time, always producing new and unique imagery. I was really fascinated by the concept of emergence, exploring how complex images and artworks can be produced from a simple set of rules and parameters fed into a computer.

Q: What piece of work are you most proud of?A: One of my favourite projects was building LUMOS. Along with two friends (Jean-Michel Gariepy and Steven Mengin), we designed and built an interactive light sculpture that was put on public display in Toronto as part of Ontario Place Park's 2018 Winter Light Exhibition.

Q: You do a lot of workshops and write a lot about creating art through code. Why is it important to you to bridge art and code?A: For me, combining code and art feels natural. It becomes a collaboration between me and the computer, where code is a tool—much like a brush or pen—that acts as a bridge between me and the machine. I can lay down instructions, rules, and parameters, and the computer can execute those millions of times in a second without ever tiring. This collaboration helps free my imagination from my own human limitations, and can also produce some surprising and unexpected results that can spawn ideas for new artworks (for example, an error in my code).

Q: Why are you building plugins for the Figma community?A: I'm hoping my plugins inspire designers to explore more code, and developers to explore more design. I like to build tools and software that make creative coding and generative art more accessible to coders and non-coders alike.

Q: Do you have a favorite feature in Figma?A: It's the little things—like being able to put math expressions such as "25 / 2" into a Figma number field and have it evaluated.

Q: What do you think the design industry needs more of?A: I’d like to see more open, hackable, and experimental tools. I’d also like to see the lines blurring between designers, coders, artists, and other creative fields.

On August 1, Matt’s plugins will be available to the Figma community. Tune in to watch our announcement live.