BIGpicture was inspired by, a website where anonymous internet users voted on what word should come next in a haiku. It was fascinating to browse the gallery of all the Haikus that the internet hive-mind had created. Most were nonsensical, some were profane, and some were actually quite beautiful. Lots were funny, sometimes repulsive, and once in a while thought provoking. Browsing that gallery was a fascinating insight into the cumulative mindset of the internet.

But why limit yourself to the few words of a haiku when a picture is worth a thousand words?

We thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if we asked the internet to contribute to a massive art project, with each user contributing a small fraction to recreate images.

What it does

By combining the countless small colored chunks submitted by users, BIGpicture can produce uniquely stylized interpretations of images.

Upon first logging on, users are presented with a simple task: color in this square.

They see a rough outline of what they have to draw, and try their best to color. They doesn't have to be prefect, as long as they match up the lines, and line up the colors, magic will happen. We make each chunk small enough so that anyone of any artistic level can color it, but large enough so that they have features to outline.

Once they hit submit, they get to a page where they can view all of the art people before them have made, and are also presented with a list of paintings currently being drawn.

  • If they are up for more, they can contribute another square to any of the collages they want. -If they are done, they can just browse the completed gallery, or even watch collages being filled in real time!

Regardless of what they chose, the user has contributed to this massive art-project, and has helped create a unique reinterpretation of an image, an interpretation only possible when countless people come together to make art.

Challenges we ran into

Getting the drawing canvases set up and using websockets was relatively painless. UI, UX on the other hand, that was a whole new level of frustrating. We got it to a nice state, but we think this GIF explains UI, UX development perfectly: (

Regardless, we managed to implement roughly 90% of the features we set out to include, with those features implemented seeming to be relatively stable. Success!

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We don't know of any website where people can collaborate on art in the way that they can on BIGpicture, and we think that the paintings that result from mass collaboration are fascinating, both artistically and sociologically. While we won't know for sure until we start posting BIGpicture around the web, it will undoubtedly be very interesting to see what the internet hive-mind will create. Will it be art? Possibly. Will it be trash? Maybe. Will there be male genitalia in some tiles? Without a doubt.

But no matter what, it will be fun to watch what happens.

What we learned

  • Delegating roles (each of us handled a single aspect of the app)
    • Daniel Prilik - Web Client
    • Ethan Hardy - iOS Client
    • James Hageman - Node.js Backend
  • James learned a ton about backend server design
  • Ethan and Daniel both learned how to interface with a backend component of an application
  • All of us learned how to effectively use websockets

What's next for BIGpicture

We want to polish up out code, polish up our UX, add some moderation tools, and publish this app to the world, and see what the internet will create.

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