Derek Olson

I am a coder and tinkerer.
I design and build unique interactive experiences.



An interactive kiosk for American Family Insurance’s new flagship “DreamBank” location in Madison, Wisconsin. Built on Adobe AIR and the Starling framework, the software controls several high-performance particle systems and manages the playback of custom high-definition motion graphics.

Typeforce 3

“Turned On”, a collaborative project, is an interactive neon sculpture that was featured in Typeforce 3 - an annual typographic art show in Chicago. It is powered by an Arduino, ultra-sonic distance sensors, and custom fabricated servos that control a neon dimmer module. As you approach the piece it glows brighter while emitting satisfying mechanical sounds. More on this project here.

Let's Merge

A live twitter feed, keynote announcer, and interactive sound visualizer all rolled into one. This project was created for “Let’s Merge”, a social mixer for those in the creative field throughout Chicago. Its custom particle systems and feeds were built in Processing and had the ability to be controlled remotely over OSC.

Star Studio

Star Studio is an interactive photobooth concept that initially launched at shopping malls throughout California. We faced enormous challenges in integrating all the various systems, including a DSLR camera, photo printers, payment systems, digital signage, effect lighting, and two multi-touch photo editing stations. Built on Adobe AIR and PixelBender, I was tasked with building and integrating the editing stations, as well as developing the final chroma key / green screen implementation.

McDonald's Spinart

A physics-based paint engine built with AS3 to promote a new line of McCafe fruit smoothies. A custom rendering engine allowed users to add as much paint as they desired, without sacrificing performance.

Chicago Creative Club Awards

Custom-built real-time motion graphics system created for the Chicago Creative Club Awards show, programmed entirely with Processing. The system utilized a database, allowing for fast and easy changes to the content without the need to render any video files. More at Mode Project.


An experimental project in generative art and design. Process of hacking into a toy slot car set and capturing its data stream to create an interactive art installation. Built with Processing. Check out my R&D blog here.


About Me

I am a software developer and designer who is fueled by unique and challenging problems. I aim to fuse art and design with electronics, code, sensors, wires, and solder.

Over the last seven years, I have been recruited to produce work for outstanding digital shops around Chicago. I currently work as a software designer at IDEO, helping dream up new products and experiences. In my downtime, I aspire to create magic by joining forces with kick-ass artists, designers and developers throughout the midwest. I am always seeking new challenges and collaborations.

You can find me elsewhere on the web: follow me on Twitter, browse my open-source code on GitHub, and see my professional network on LinkedIn.