Art Made of Code: monopo london on the design of Matt DesLauriers' debut book

NFTs may be on the wane, but mashing up the digital and physical still holds a lot of promise, as this innovative book project demonstrates.

Who says writing code can't be creative? Generative artist Matt DesLauriers weaves together art, programming and technology to build playful, creative projects for public installations, print media, and the web. His interactive installations have been displayed in special events at the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. And in 2023, he launched his first book featuring his generative art collection, Meridian.

Meridian is a collection of 1,000 artworks originally released on the digital art platform Art Blocks, each created with code written by Matt.

A JavaScript program which runs the code constructs stratified landforms using thousands of small strokes of colour. Different styles of strokes create different effects, all inspired by analogue techniques such as charcoal, gouache or linogravure. The trick is that whenever a collector mints an artwork on Art Blocks, the code randomly generates a new artwork that not even the artist can know in advance.

To design the book, Matt collaborated with monopo london, the UK hub for the Tokyo-born creative agency. Art director Mason El Hage worked on the project at monopo, along with graphic designer Jorie Einarsen and producer Maud Dedecker.

Published by Vetro Editions, the title showcases the full breadth of the Meridian collection, along with essays, full-bleed imagery and technical breakdowns. Essays are interspersed throughout its 240 pages, with chapters covering the generative process and community-curated pages filled with favourite Meridians, voted by the Art Blocks community. There's also a Gallery chapter honouring favourite artworks from the artist and the monopo london team.

Limited edition prints and collectables were inserted into copies that had been pre-ordered. As an extra touch, every book came with a limited edition signed RISO print made with the same code used to generate the art collection. The book was also gifted to all the owners of digital token holders as a physical extension to strengthen the sense of exclusivity in the community.

The book's pre-sale began in August last year and was finished and dispatched in January.

Cover roulette

"The intention was to design an artefact – a relic to be admired through touch and sight," explains monopo's Mason El Hage. "monopo london crafted an indulgent and spacious art direction to respect the detailed images, processes and essays by the artist. Meridian is a beautiful coffee table book with richly printed artwork and mesmerising large-format spreads. There were four different front covers which showcase the variation of the algorithmic process – people receiving the Meridian book did not know in advance which cover would be theirs."

While the market for digital-only goods like NFTs may have slumped lately, Mason believes this kind of mix of physical and digital has a lot of promise. "While the initial success of NFT projects has largely been driven by the novelty of truly owning a digital good, the future of digital art projects is said to be more hybrid," he explains.

"Many projects are now introducing physical goods that reward owners of the digital token. While the generative art form has been around for decades, blockchain technology has finally given it a significant platform.

"For the first time, it is now truly possible to own a piece of art, right down to the code. Meridian is a milestone for showing the shift in how this art form is respected. The book marks a unique moment that will become a legacy publication for generative art projects."

Copies of the book are sold out online. But a limited number of 100 will be available at a pop-up book launch event hosted by Matt DesLauriers, monopo london and publisher Vetro Editions this week. This event will take place at Stolenspace Gallery in London, 17 Osborn St, London E1 6TD today and tomorrow.


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