A powerful pattern in designing creative tools seems to be perspective transformations on input.

I first had this thought while thinking about an iPad app for creating animations called Looom. Looom is special because rather than sketching an animation frame-by-frame as in a traditional animation illustration process, you sketch the time-axis first. You first draw a few motion-tracked strokes that set the "motion timing curves" (not sure what else to call them) for your animation, and attach illustrations in every frame to those animation curves. It feels like a totally different way to produce animations, and I've been thinking about it a lot since I first saw the app.

Looom's brilliance is that it lets creation happen in a different perspective, painting "in time" first, than "filling in" the details in space. My phrase for this perspective shift is a perspective transformation, because it reminds me of coordinate transformations.

I can imagine other kinds of interesting perspective transformations:

  • A Fourier transform when creating music, so that you create the rhythm/beats first then add tone and timbre later.
  • A "color space first" video editor, where you start by defining how the color palettes should evolve over the story and later find clips that fit that color palette to flesh out the video.
  • An "emotional arc" based writing tool that lets you first sketch the ups and downs of tone and emotion across your story, and then later transforms your sentences as you type to fit that narrative arc.
  • A songwriting interface that lets you "sculpt" a verse by humming the rough ups and downs of the track first, then iteratively refine the exact notes and rhythms, adding more precision at each step.