Generating Door Decs

At the beginning of each new academic year any typical college expects new incoming first-year students. The college goes to some lengths to customize the students’ experience, to look out for them, and to make them feel like they are at the right place, like they belong. A small but potentially important part of this is to create door decorations, or simply, nametags to put on students’ names to mark their living spaces—spaces that are their very own (in addition to their roommates, of course). Additionally, ‘door decs’ are made uniform across a community, such as a small pod within a hallway, an entire hallway, or even a floor, so that the residents of that community feel a sense of being in a community together. This is not all, of course, there are many other things, such as floor traditions, hall events, and even just casual hanging out that actually build the community; but small things can matter.

I needed to create door decs. I was running slightly behind schedule, but at the same time I didn’t want to take the easy way out like many RAs do by just picking stock cut-outs of arbitrary objects, such as pine trees or apples or whatever and just writing their names in. Last year I had inserted an impossible geometry drawing inspired from Escher’s art next to each resident’s door. This year had to be something different (though I still have the templates from last year lying on my machine, if anyone’s interested).

I’ve had a habit of tinkering around with my mobile phone’s operating system for a while now. Something I always notice is that these operating system modification operations have (sometimes very) long scripts that they run in order to ‘flash’ the software on your device, and you keep staring at that script hoping it terminates any second. The developers probably realize this and for whatever reason, include some fun ASCII-art, usually just their stylized developer name or online identity, but sometimes it can be entertaining to see the stuff people come up with using just ASCII symbols. Last year, I went around hunting for some Python package to generate ASCII-art from text (I knew there had to be one). I kind of played around with it, didn’t really do much other than including some ASCII art in the license prompt of some tiny program, and even forgot about it for a good semester, until this week, when I was told I should have my door decs ready soonish.

Well, why not write residents’ names in ASCII-art then? I had to be efficient, however: the names shouldn’t be too big, and so I’d rather fit many on a single sheet of paper and cut them out later. However, I couldn’t dump all the names in a single text file and expect page breaks to not mess everything up. Not all the fonts in te art package were appropriate for door decs—a font had to be easily visible and readable in order for it to make it to my list; and oh of course, I couldn’t have used the same font for all my residents, because, well, that would get boring. Even with the fonts I chose, not each font worked well with each name, so there had to be some form of manual decision on that.

The result was a tiny tiny script that takes my roster file (which is, of course, a csv), shows me a couple of options for a name with a font from my list as it cycles through fonts (so that I reasonably end up using distinct fonts), and asks whether that font is okay to use.

Anyway, that was my quick recap of what’s been going on; I’d best get back to cutting out these prints and pasting them on the doors before move-in day.

 ____  __   __    __   
(_  _)(  ) (  )  (  )  
  )(   )(  / (_/\/ (_/\
 (__) (__) \____/\____/
 __ _  ____  _  _  ____   
(  ( \(  __)( \/ )(_  _)  
/    / ) _)  )  (   )(    
\_)__)(____)(_/\_) (__)  
 ____  __   _  _  ____      
(_  _)(  ) ( \/ )(  __)     
  )(   )(  / \/ \ ) _)  _   
 (__) (__) \_)(_/(____)(_)

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