Arduino Mini

Vinay Venkatraman created an art piece with Pei Yu called The Book Radio at the IDII, Figure 5-9.[1] They reduced the Arduino in size to be small enough to fit in the spine of a book. Mellis asserts that Book Radio was one of the contributing factors to the Arduino mini being created, Figure 5-10. The book was used as a media format for listening to data from various sensors as the pages were turned. Venkatraman and Yu comment about the metaphors that prompted the Book Radio "We explored the common metaphors of everyday life and integrated them into a radio with the mental model of using a book.[2]" Venkatraman and Pei needed to modify the Arduino to fit into a different form factor, an example of function following form.

book-radio-microcontroller.pngPhotograph provided by Aram ArmstrongFigure 5-9 Vinay Venkatraman and Pei Yu, "Book Radio microcontroller", 2005, Arduino-based electrical design on PCB, collection of the artist.

arduino-mini.pngPhotograph provided by Arduino.ccFigure 5-10 Arduino, "The Arduino Mini", 1.6 cm. x 3 cm.

Another way adaptations can be made to the Arduino is through shields that get placed on top of the Arduino, conversing through the I/O pins. Shields breakout the Arduinos pins and include other components to enhance Arduino's capabilities.

arduino-mini2.pngPhotograph provided by IDEOFigure 5-11 Dave Vondle, "The Arduino Mini", "Arduino Mini Shield", "The Arduino Mini Shield placed on top of the Arduino Mini", 1.6 cm. x 3 cm.

Vondle uses the Arduino Mini often because he creates hand held designs that require a small board. He created the Mini Shield,[3] as seen in Figure 5-11, because he needed to control vibrating lights and motors within his design prototypes. For each design he was rebuilding a circuit that the Arduino mini could safely plug into, due to the lights and motors pulling more current than the Arduino mini pins can source. The shield creates safe power management with the electrical current that Vondle needs. The shield enables him to "stop re-inventing the wheel each time and allow for faster prototyping within design".

The significance that artists and designers are modifying the Arduino means their understanding is deep enough to manipulate the behavior and design of this microcontroller in both its functionality and its footprint. Artists and designers readily modify the board components and footprint to fit within the confines of the piece. The Arduino microcontroller shows clarity in its process and purpose and is a flexible design. Just as Antonelli's statement of transparency in process and design expresses, "Modern design is about showing clarity of process and purpose, and the best among them relied on their post-modern flexibility to update the positive qualities of modern design and to express the most contemporary visual culture."[4] Artists were able to keep the original form of their piece they designed without modifying it for the function of the electronics. The modified Arduino boards when documented or sold are used by many more people, creating an additional economic award for artists and designers to open source their Arduino-based microcontroller. This type of payback is unique to the open source market.


  1. The Book Radio. http://www.idnext.com/bookradio/ (visited on 11/12/2009)
  2. Ibid.
  3. Arduino Mini Shield for Small Prototypes. IDEO Labs Blog, http://labs.ideo.com/2009/08/10/arduino-mini-shield-for-small-prototypes/ (visited on 08/08/2009)
  4. Paola Antonelli, Forward of "Design By Numbers". Cambridge, MA: First MIT Press, 1999