I've enjoyed the fruits of Instructables as a member since 2007 and thought it was time to contribute to this wonderful community. With that, I present you an Instructable on how to design and build your own functional art!
I really feel the need to start with a quote:
Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. -Steve Jobs
Since the beginning of quality art, artists have layered in technique and meaning, alike, in their pieces. It's wonderful, and each viewer derives their own meaning in each viewing.
However, in our modern era, I've chosen (as have others) to be a little more literal with the layering. In fact, I like to refer to anyone within proximity of these pieces not as "viewers", but "users". That is, the piece responds to you, just as you respond to it.
Alright, that's enough intro, head over to step 1! :)
Step 1: Materials
How about we get started designing? Lets begin with materials. As a computer technician, I was able to collect various (broken) motherboards so this will be one of my primary mediums. I love repurposing material, especially when it was never intended to be used in its newfound manner. I encourage everyone to recycle old plastic, wood, paper, carpet, and any part you salvage from the trash can. Just be sure to give it a nice cleaning, beforehand. :)
When I designed this piece, I wanted something that was beautiful during the day and came alive at night (or when the lights dimmed). I decided on a LED marquee. Doing some research, I found various methods that could achieve this: arduino, pre-made matrixes, custom-from-scratch builds, etc. Ultimately, I decided on using the hardware/code found in NerdKits Marquee LED Array. In turn, this gave me a scalable 21x5 matrix that I could work with. There are tons of ways to achieve this and I encourage you to find what fits you and your budget best. I had never created an LED marquee before so don't let it scare you.
Approximately 10 motherboards
1 - 4x2 (or wider) backing mdf/plywood
Approx 55' of 1/8" Basswood strips (2" deep or larger if you want to cut down, as I did).
Hardware: (threaded rod, nuts)
Bolts/Nuts - $10
MDF - $10
Basswood - $60
Recycled Material (I chose motherboards) - $0
Electronics - $135
Total - $215