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Joshua Davis

Joshua Davis (born June 13, 1971) is an American web designer, author and artist in new media. He was an early pioneer in the use of Macromedia Flash. He is the author of Flash to the Core (2002)[1] and was featured in the seminal book New Masters of Flash (2000).[2]



A proficient illustrator and painter with a passion for technology, Davis’ work brought an entirely new dimension to art. Utilizing randomization in controlled environments, or Chaos Theory, Davis established a new and unique perspective on visual communication and creative expression, pioneering an area previously unexplored in graphic design.

In January 2001, as part of issue #100 of, Davis posted an autobiography — a revealing look at his personal life in the New York City art/club scene in the early 1990s, his drug addiction, and his ability to overcome it to pursue his goal of being a full-time artist.[3] Davis wrote that once he left the club scene, he aspired to be a writer and illustrator of children's books. It was at the Pratt Institute that Davis began to delve into writing HTML, working under Thomas Noller in 1995. Soon after, he began to experiment with Macromedia Flash and its early scripting language, and further with ActionScript programming.

Joshua Davis' work became a major influence in graphic and web design in the "Y2K" era of the Internet’s dot-com explosion. Davis himself was distinguished from other web designers by his many tattoos, leading to his reputation as being a web design "rockstar" — a label he dismisses. From 1998 to 2001, he worked with the web production company Kioken. When Kioken folded, Davis became an independent web designer and artist, touring the world to speak at various graphic design conferences, such as SIGGRAPH, Flash Forward, FITC, BD4D, OFFF, Graphika Manila and others.

In 2003, he was asked by Tool's Adam Jones to take over their websites. The band's official site was replaced by an intro page designed by Davis, but has since been changed.[4]

In 2002 he teamed up with developer Branden Hall to form The Department of Notation Studios, a media development studio. The company was disbanded in 2006 when Hall left to form Automata Studios Ltd. with fellow developer Keenan Keeling. Despite the separation Davis and Hall continue to collaborate on various projects.

As of 2007, Davis lives in New York with his wife and daughter. He is a professor at New York’s School of Visual Arts, runs his own design studio, and continues to lecture and lead workshops in design conferences.


Among modern artists, I conceptually identify with Jackson Pollock — not that I'm a particular fan of his visual style, but because he always identified himself as a painter, even though a lot of the time his brush never hit the canvas. There's something in that disconnect — not using a brush or tool in traditional methods.

—Joshua Davis, from his studio website

Davis was strongly influenced by Jackson Pollock, an abstract expressionist whose work came of age in the 1940s and 50s. Pollock splattered paint (as well as other items) across large canvases with the idea that his art was the process of its creation rather than the final product. Embracing the computer as a tool for generating his work, Davis wrote code that randomly distributed, arranged, and distorted his artwork, essentially creating new work as a final result. Other times he generated entire pieces practically completely at random. That is, the art is the code that produces the final result rather than the final randomly generated works themselves.

Davis was also influenced by his love of classic video games, including using a sprite of an alien from Space Invaders as his logo for Praystation.


PrayStation Hardrive standing plastic CD casing

His website,, which he would use to exhibit new design work and experiments, was extremely influential and was one of the first to offer open source Flash files.

The second year of was compiled into a CD-ROM called PrayStation Hardrive, which included source files, photos and miscellaneous items that Joshua Davis worked on during that time, distributed in limited quantities by IdN magazine. The disc included a 32-page booklet and was packaged in a plastic casing modeled after the PlayStation 2.[5]

Dreamless was the site of a popular Internet forum, hosted by Joshua Davis from 1999 to 2001. Its minimal design, understated Web presence and hidden registration page all added to its intrigue, and for a while it was a gathering place for many graphic and web designers and programmers. "Photoshop Battles" were a popular activity among forum members, leading into the internet phenomenon now referred to as Photoshop tennis. The community of Dreamless traveled past the boundaries of the Internet — impromptu local meetings ("riots", as Davis called them) were arranged for Dreamless users to meet face-to-face and exchange ideas.

One notorious forum on Dreamless was "08 - Meaningless and Shallow", a topical free-for-all which lead to numerous flame wars, post floods and user-led XSS vandalism. After several "meltdowns" and member disputes, Davis closed Dreamless in July 2001.

Selected Works



  • Davis, Joshua. Praystation Hardrive. Systems Designs, Ltd.. ISBN 962-86177-1-0.  




Awards & Accolades

Joshua Davis was the winner of the 2001 Prix Ars Electronica Golden Nica in the category “Net Excellence” and has exhibited his works at the Tate Modern (London), the Ars Electronica (Austria), the Design Museum (London), le Centre Pompidou (France), the Institute of Contemporary Arts (London), PS.1 MoMA (New York), among others. PraystationIn December 2006, His work will be inducted into the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum’s "National Design Triennial: Design Life Now" exhibit.[6]


  1. ^ Davis, Joshua (2002-07-24). Flash to the Core: An Interactive Sketchbook. New Riders Publishing. ISBN 0735712883.  
  2. ^ Davis, Joshua (2000). New Masters of Flash. Friends of Ed. ISBN 1-59059-209-3.  
  3. ^ "Issue 100". 2001-01-01. Retrieved 2006-07-07.  
  4. ^ "TOOL "Swarm" intro". Retrieved 2006-07-10.  
  5. ^ Davis, Joshua (2001). Praystation Hardrive. Systems Designs, Ltd.. ISBN 962-86177-1-0.  
  6. ^ "National Design Triennial: Design Life Now". Retrieved 2006-07-07.  

External links


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