Tuesday 12pm, 13 October 2015


Lillicon: Transient Widgets for Creating Scale-Variations of Icons

Gilbert Bernstein

PhD Student - Stanford University


Good icons are legible, and legible icons are scale-dependent. Experienced icon designers use a set of common strategies to create legible scale variations of icons, but executing those strategies with current tools can be challenging. In part, this is because many apparent objects, like hairlines formed by negative space, are not explicitly represented as objects in vector drawings. We came up with transient widgets, a mechanism for selecting and manipulating apparent objects that is independent of the underlying drawing representation. We implemented transient widgets using a constraint-based editing framework; demonstrated their utility for performing the kinds of edits most common when producing scale variations of icons; and looked at qualitative feedback on our prototype tool from professional icon designers.

Time permitting, I’ll also talk about Differential Manipulation, an interesting but largely forgotten alternative to constraint-systems, which formed the underlying technology of Lillicon. Differential Manipulation suggests that the underlying constraint engine should only strive to maintain constraints that already hold, rather than search for a design (i.e. drawing, shape, pattern, motion) ex nihilo. I’ll argue that trends and progress over the last 20 years make Differential Manipulation an effective and practical approach to building design tools for fabrication and other physically constrained domains.


Gilbert Bernstein is a Ph.D. student in the department of Computer Science at Stanford University. His work focuses on a range of topics across Computer Graphics, HCI and Programming Languages, including Domain-Specific (Programming) Languages, Visual Tools for Artists and Designers, Geometry and Topology. He’s gotten some awards in the past that you don’t really care about. The only song Gilbert can rap at karaoke is “Amish Paradise."