A Commitment to Art and Dogs
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A Commitment to Art and Dogs

Back in Memory Allocation, I introduced Haskie.

A husky puppy looking triumphant


The idea behind Haskie was to create a character that could ask questions the reader might have, and to "soften" the posts to make them feel less intimidating. I got some feedback from people that Haskie was a bit too childish, and didn't feel like he belonged in posts about serious topics. This feedback was in the minority, though, and most people liked him. So I kept him and used him again in Hashing.

Having a proxy to the reader was useful. I could anticipate areas of confusion and clear them up without creating enormous walls of text. I don't like it when the entire screen is filled with text, I like to break it up with images and interactive elements. And now dogs.

Then in Bloom Filters, I found myself needing a character to represent the "adult in the room." If Haskie was my proxy to the reader, this new character would serve as a proxy to all of the material I learned from in the writing of the post. This is Sage.

A husky looking happy

Well met!

I liked the idea of having a cast of characters, each with their own personality and purpose. But I had a few problems.

# Problems

Both Haskie and Sage, because I have no artistic ability, were generated by AI. Back when I made them I was making no money from this blog, and I had no idea if I was going to keep them around. I didn't want to invest money in an idea that could flop, so I didn't feel bad about using AI to try it out.

Since then, however, I have been paid twice to write posts for companies, and I know that I'm keeping the dogs. It wasn't ethical to continue piggybacking on AI.

While ethics were the primary motivation, there were some other smaller problems with the dogs:

  1. The visual style of them, while I did like it, never felt like it fit with the rest of my personal brand.
  2. It was difficult to get AI to generate consistent dogs. You'll notice differences in coat colouration and features between variants of the same dog.
  3. The AI generated images look bad at small sizes.

So I worked with the wonderful Andy Carolan to create a new design for my dogs. A design that would be consistent, fit with my brand, and look good at any size.

# Haskie, Sage, and Doe

A husky puppy called Haskie A husky called Sage A husky puppy called Doe

The redesigned dogs are consistent, use simple colours and shapes, and use the SVG file format to look good at any size. Each variant clocks in at around 20kb, which is slightly larger than the small AI-generated images, but I'll be able to use them at any size.

Together the dogs represent a family unit: Sage as the dad, Haskie as the youngest child, and Doe as his older sister.

They also come in a variety of poses, so I can use them to represent different emotions or actions.

A husky puppy called Haskie looking bored A husky puppy called Haskie looking concerned A husky puppy called Haskie looking confused A husky puppy called Haskie looking triumphant A husky called Sage looking cautioning A husky called Sage looking cautioning A husky called Sage looking despaired A husky called Sage looking proud A husky puppy called Doe looking amazed A husky puppy called Doe looking mischievous A husky puppy called Doe looking protective A husky puppy called Doe looking proud

We were careful to make the dogs recognisable apart. They differ in colour, ear shape, tail shape, and collar tag. Sage and Doe have further distinguishing features: Sage with his glasses, and Doe with her bandana. Doe's bandana uses the same colours as the transgender flag, to show my support for the trans community and as a nod to her identity.

# Going forward

I'm so happy with the new dogs, and plan to use them in my posts going forward. I suspect I will, at some point, replace the dogs in my old posts as well. I don't plan to add any more characters, and I want to be careful to avoid overusing them. I don't want them to become a crutch, or to distract from the content of the posts.

I also haven't forgotten the many people that pointed out to me that you can't pet the dogs. I'm working on it.

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