Casey Reas


Interviewed by

Demian Conrad
Rob van Leijsen

<Casey Reas>18 (aka Casey Edwin Barker Reas, b. 1972, Troy, Ohio) lives and works in Los Angeles. He holds a Masters degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Media Arts and Sciences and a Bachelor's degree from the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning at the University of Cincinnati. In 2001, Reas created Processing, an open-source programming language and environment for the visual arts, in collaboration with Ben Fry. His software, prints, and installations have been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Reas’ work ranges from small works on paper to urban-scale installations, and he balances solo work in the studio with collaborations with architects and musicians. His work is also part of both private and public collections, including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Reas is currently a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

<GG>18 Who is
<Casey Reas>

It’s a question that’s being asked more frequently these days. Since his name first appeared in 2013 on a website set up as a public resource for software developers, his work has been the subject of intense scrutiny on both sides of the Internet. As a professional software designer, Casey Reas designs tools and techniques for software development. But on the web-based project management platform called Asana, he writes and maintains the design guidelines for projects. The latter is a job that requires intense focus and rigorous attention to detail. Reas holds two professional degrees: a B.S. in computer science from Cal Poly Pomona and an M.S. in computer science from San José State University. Over the course of his career, he’s designed computer apps, worked on the systems architecture for a couple of dot-coms and most recently helped launch Google+ into the world. He’s worked with startups and large corporations and he still does. The Casey Reas Experience In fact, Reas left the Googleplex and moved to Amsterdam for a while last year to work on the new version of Gmail. And as you’d expect from a former Cal Poly Pomona computer science major, he’s well versed in all things code. If you want to get a peek at some of his software design process, Google Plus will show you how it all works. You can go to Reas’ homepage, sign up for an account, and then simply open a project in G+. (That’s a lot of text to write, and a bunch of clicking to do as well. I’ve provided a link to G+ right at the top of this article. The reason for the design guidelines (you’d think Google’s engineers would know better than to let such a large, well-paying company fail at so fundamental a task, but then again you’d think wrong) is so that everyone can have a common experience when working on any Google project. Reas’ process starts with his own research, then moves through a series of drafts. Reusing a lot of code that’s been written before means less time spent writing new stuff. In recent years, Reas’ project-sharing approach has come in for quite a bit of criticism. On the one hand, you have to admire anyone taking his project to such a level. On the other hand, it strikes me that a lot of the criticism focuses on Reas’ ideas, process and the need for the guidelines. Those things are just the way he designed his projects and you know what, that’s fine.

D.C.Hi Casey, thanks for participating in this project. To begin with, we’d like to know how you started using creative coding in your design practice.

C.R.Well, Ben Fry, my partner and co-creator of the Processing project, and I both had degrees in graphic design. I had studied at the University of Cincinnati (Ohio), and he had studied at Carnegie Mellon University (Pennsylvania). I attended design school in the early to mid-1990s, which was a time of change. We were moving away from a hand-based, craft system to using software. I learned a lot of the original techniques of drawing type by hand, and how to develop these little systems manually. However, we were also learning to use the really early versions of some of the design softwares that have now become the standard, such as Illustrator and Photoshop . Consequently, I would say that I had a bit of a hybrid education that combined the more traditional manual methods and software techniques.

C.R.When I graduated, the World Wide Web was becoming an international phenomenon. In 1995, I began applying what I had learned about publication design and typography to the Web. It was the first time I felt I was working in a way that felt compelling—writing HTML and CSS —and for me this was the bridge. Once I started to think about onscreen type and typographic systems, I decided I wanted to do more of that, and that was when I began to learn code. I really hadn’t done that before. At the time, designers who were coding were generally using programs like Macromedia Director . It was like a multimedia system, where you would bring in media elements, like images, and then apply code to those. Ben and I were both interested in working more directly with code as a medium. That led to our working with languages like C++ and Java , which had remained primarily confined to computer science, and were not adapted for the visual arts.

C.R.The concept behind Processing was to adapt design education and design ideas to a method of thinking and making using computer science, to create a coding system we felt was more approachable and accessible for people who are primarily visual. We had visual artists and designers, and even, to a lesser degree, architects, in mind as potential users.

C.R.When you learn coding, you need to learn it within a domain, and that domain traditionally consists of working with text and mathematics. Consequently, the idea of Processing was to change the domain in which you learn to code, and let you explore code within a visual framework.

C.R.The design education that I received in Cincinnati in the 1990s was very much rooted in the Bauhaus, and what had happened in Basel in the 1970s, as well as at Yale, which had also been heavily influenced by Basel. My teachers had been trained in the same manner.

C.R.When we started working with Processing , I was influenced by these teaching methods as well as the design books of the 1960s and 1970s. We tried to think about a way of learning to code where you could practice and study following those foundational traditional design education techniques. The Processing project grew directly out of a coding initiative written by John Maeda called Design By Numbers. It was a coding environment that was very approachable for visual designers, but it had a lot of constraints. You could only make programs that were 100 × 100 pixels, and black and white was the only option. Ben and I had assisted John with that project, we had taught workshops with it, and we were very enthusiastic about its potential, but we wanted to expand and extend it, in order to be able to work with color, in full screen, and all those sorts of things. That was essentially the inception of the Processing project; it was extending everything we thought was amazing about Design By Numbers, but bringing it more into a complete, visual environment.

R.v.L.Can you tell us a bit more about the environment and the situation in which you and Ben developed this platform? Since you were already graphic design graduates at that point, had the educational environment provided an incentive to build this or not?

C.R.I think we both graduated around 1996 and worked as designers for a number of years, before going to graduate school. I worked in New York at the time, at a small company doing work on the Web, and Ben worked in California. I think he might have worked for Netscape for a while, then we both met for the first time at the MIT Media Lab . Ben started there in 1998, and I started in 1999. We both went there to study with John Maeda, who was a professor there, and had founded a research group called the Aesthetics and Computation Group [ACG]. The Aesthetics and Computation Group occupied the space in the Media Lab that had previously been used by Muriel Cooper’s Visual Language Workshop, before her untimely death, and also built on a lot of its ideas. Consequently, it was imbued with the feeling of carrying on some of that legacy and a sense of exploration. It was there that Ben and I started working together with John Maeda on Design By Numbers.

C.R.It was also the birthplace of Processing . I think we made our initial sketches in June of 2001, which was at the very end of my time there, but Ben continued on as a PhD student during Processing ’s early years. When I graduated, I moved to Northern Italy and began teaching at the Interaction Design Institute in Ivrea, north of Turin. I also started doing workshops around Europe, while Ben was still at MIT. We developed the software together over the course of many years, and released the first official version in 2005, I think, but it had been released informally as of 2001 through a lot of workshops, and to anyone who asked us.

C.R.I would say the Processing project grew absolutely and directly out of the culture of the MIT Media Lab , and then the community around Processing and the people using it just continued to expand from there.

C.R.One of the fundamental ideas behind it was to take different code libraries we had access to at MIT, and make those available to people outside of any institution. Another initial concept behind the project was to enable people to be able to work quickly with the code. For example, you typically needed twenty to forty lines of code to make a line move across the screen at the time, but Processing would only need five. It could handle some of the infrastructure that a computer science person knows how to build, but a beginner coming from the sphere of the arts does not, providing a bridge to enable such people to begin working directly with code.

C.R.A really important early idea of the project was sketching with code. In addition, as a designer, when you start working, you often do so without knowing the destination. You do research, and develop ideas, and you work out ways to get you where you want to be. We wanted that process to be possible with code. The original idea behind the Processing language was to make it more accessible for sketching, and to think through writing small sketches in code.

D.C.It’s interesting to hear that you derived some inspiration from the legacy of Muriel Cooper and the Visual Language Workshop. She was probably the first to try and bridge the gap between engineering and design. Were you fortunate enough to have met her?

C.R.I didn’t have the opportunity, but other people did. John Maeda knew Muriel Cooper, he had had some interactions with her as a student at MIT. Also, David Small was someone who had been a part of both research groups: he had been working on his PhD when Muriel passed away, and he continued on with John Maeda—he was a direct bridge.

C.R.Our research group [ACG] was located in the exact same space in the Media Lab where Muriel’s group had worked, and all of their research documents and papers were still around. My own personal story is that I was working in Boston as an intern at a design studio, and I attended a design symposium at the Media Lab, probably in 1993. It was there that I saw David Small and Yin Yin Wong present demos that had been created in the Visual Language Workshop.

C.R.That was my lightning moment, when I saw what I wanted my future to be. I saw what I was doing in design, what I knew about design, and the direction in which I wanted to be moving, so my original intent was to apply to study with Muriel Cooper. Unfortunately, she passed away before I completed my undergraduate work, but then I had the luck of meeting John Maeda, and I was able to study with him.

C.R.The Lab was not a large place. There’s a line of continuity from when it was first originated as the Architecture Machine Group, before becoming the Media Lab in 1985, and a lot of people who knew and loved Muriel Cooper were still at the lab at that time. I think that her legacy lived on through the individuals that she had worked with and had mentored.

R.v.L.Earlier on, you mentioned the workshops you did with the Media Lab, but also abroad. Did you adapt your teaching methods between the two? How important was the feedback of your students in the development of the software?

C.R.It was really important. We developed the software through teaching workshops and we always made adjustments each time we held one. Those modifications we made to the software were very important. I think the subsequent adaptations in the way we taught were even more critical, namely in the method we used and the order in which we presented things.

C.R.For instance, I remember doing a brief two-day workshop in Paris. On the first day, we started introducing sine and cosine mathematics, as a way of creating motion. For us, that was really just the basics, it was a technique that we were excited about, and had been using for such a long time, so we didn’t realize that there was a steep learning curve with that, and that oftentimes, for students from design backgrounds, mathematics is not something that either comes naturally or is particularly loved. Consequently, experiments in trying to study animation through mathematics were quickly eliminated from the one and two-day workshop platforms.

C.R.That’s just one example, but I think there were lots of more subtle ones, and many other examples of how the curriculum evolved at the time. I think when you go to a computer science class and you start learning code, there’s a certain set of priorities, which in my opinion, are very different from the priorities I have in my classrooms.

PDGD-ITW-CaseyReas, Image 2
Documentation from the Processing 3.0 development meeting sponsored by the Emergent Digital Practices program at the University of Denver, November 2014. Left to right: Ben Fry, Casey Reas, Dan Shiffman.

C.R.For me, it’s always about the digital media that’s produced and created. The primary objective is not the efficiency of the code, or other technical details. Accordingly, the curriculum changed rapidly over the first few years, and, I think, continues to change.

R.v.L.So, right from the start, the open-source platform was really a key element in the development of the software?

C.R.Yes, one of the important early decisions was to make what we call “libraries.” Ben and I realized that we were in a bottleneck and getting in the way of how people wanted to expand and extend Processing . Ben and I primarily focused on visual media. We don’t really have an expertise in audio or other areas of media in which other artists and designers like to work. So, we developed a library system that allowed people to extend Processing in their own way. Now, there’s well over 100 libraries which have extended Processing into other domains in which people have expertise. An important thing about the library system is that people can create them in their entirety, author and maintain them, then give them back to the community. It’s a way of getting engaged, without needing to delve into the complete source code. They are isolated pieces of source code that individuals can develop and share with other people. The libraries, I think, have been the primary way in which people contribute to the community, and also the means by which the project has expanded beyond its roots.

R.v.L.Would you call it a kind of co-authorship?

C.R.Well, I think it’s a co-authorship in terms of the larger frame of the project. I think the library authors really are the autonomous or complete authors of those contributions of theirs.

D.C.You mentioned in an interview that the project was half engineering, and half community building. Those are two areas of expertise that a designer doesn’t learn in school, and that they currently have to pick up by themselves. How did you acquire this expertise, and how did you develop it? What was the most difficult aspect of this for you as a designer?

C.R.I think one thing that’s important to clarify is that Ben Fry, my collaborator, is the primary software engineer of the project. He is better at those things than I am. He actually was, I think, a double major, or a computer science minor, while I really didn’t have any technical expertise in coding until I started learning, after I earned my undergraduate degree.

C.R.However, I think we developed a lot of our skills and knowledge by learning as we went along. In terms of community building, we put a lot of energy into that, but I don’t think that we were necessarily skilled at it. People had a desire to collaborate, and to come together and share knowledge. We put some really minimal resources in place, and people built on that with a lot of energy. I think the original forum was a place where people truly gathered, before Facebook, Twitter and such.

C.R.One idea behind being an open-source project was that people really shared. Someone would ask questions, and someone else would take the time to explain and write some code. That’s still happening on the forum, but at that time, I would say it was a small and pretty close-knit community.

C.R.As the Processing project expanded and became more international, that single close-knit community spread out. Now, there are a lot of more localized communities being formed and developed. We started the first Processing Community Days a few years ago, and the second year, we made it international. There were almost 100 events all around the world, across every continent. Local organizers made their own days for their own communities. I would say that the period from around 2002 to 2006 was one when it felt almost like a unified international community created around the forum. After that, it began to disperse and became something different.

C.R.Another thing that’s been really unexpected with Processing is that it was originally written as an university-level and art school-level introduction to coding for artists and designers, but lately it’s being used more and more in high schools and middle schools, at least in the United States. It’s oftentimes used in other areas as well, like in a mathematics class, for making visuals for math, or in a physics class, for small physics demos. So Processing has found its way into areas beyond our original expectations.

C.R.When the project first began in 2001, it was really heavily integrated into the World Wide Web, and Java was able to play in all the browsers through Java applets. You would basically just be working in the Processing editor, you would click export, and it would then build a Java applet and an HTML file. You could put that on any server, and then display your work through the web. That was the aspect of it that allowed us to grow, and for other people to find and see it. It was the community aspect of sharing your work with other people, and getting feedback about that work. People in design communities would have their own websites and post their own experiments, and then communicate through the forums. I think, to a large extent, that’s a thing of the past. Still, it was the way the project found a community, and an audience in the beginning. Of course, the decline of Java applets on the Web is one of the main reasons for this change. As a result, Lauren Lee McCarthy started the p5.js project in 2013. You might say that it’s been a way of bringing the Processing coding style back onto the Web, and that’s why it’s a separate and very energetic community.

R.v.L.You mentioned Processing being used in a variety of educational programs, did you also see different outcomes there?

C.R.I think each kind of class has its own kind of assignments, as well as outputs that are oriented towards what that particular educator has in mind. Originally, a lot of the Processing assignments, and exercises as well, were more like traditional basic graphic design assignments. Now that’s really no longer the case: we see every kind of visual style.

PDGD-ITW-CaseyReas, Image 2
Screenshot of the Processing 3.0 integrated development environment.

D.C.You’ve been teaching at UCLA, a major university, for a while. We wanted to know how they currently perceive creative coding, and what their pedagogical strategy is regarding creative coding?

C.R.UCLA is a huge university, but the School of Arts and Architecture is a relatively small community. Our department, which is called Design Media Arts, numbers twelve faculty members, and probably about 180 students, so everybody knows each other.

C.R.I don’t think there are going to be any radical shifts regarding creative coding happening anytime soon. One thing that’s evolved over time is that our introductory class in coding for artists and designers, called Interactivity, is now a required course for all of our students. This has been the case since around 2006. Even if somebody wants to move into typography and specialize in print design, this class is a required part of the program.

C.R.The course has evolved a lot, in order for it to work for students who are not necessarily interested in the topic, or perhaps don’t know yet that they are interested, and we don’t have any plans to change that. Right now, we find this to be fundamental knowledge for the students. I think the idea is that, as a university-level design program, we want them to have some degree of understanding of how software is constructed, how the software that they’re using is put together, because these students are going to be using computers constantly for their work, and they’re going to be using high-level tools like InDesign , Illustrator and Photoshop .

C.R.In that sense, the class is very much a general introduction, and it has become a lot less technical over the years. It includes less coding, but encourages the students to be original and inventive with the small amount of coding that they do learn. The class is very media-focused, so our students have a wide range of aims and aspirations. Some students are interested in video, animation, photography, typography, etc., so the class I teach on coding touches upon all of those subjects over the course of the term. For instance, we do a project that focuses on looping photographic images, almost like an old zoetrope, but integrating interactivity. We also do a project that allows them to load different typefaces and set them in a way that involves interactivity.

R.v.L.What obstacles to coding, if any, do you perceive when it comes to your students? Do they have difficulties starting out, or with accessibility? How do you deal with that?

C.R.It really isn’t an issue where there’s a lot of friction or conflict. I think all the students know they will have to deal with code, and perhaps they kind of prepare themselves. I have been readjusting the class now for many years to try and ease them into it.

C.R.I know all the students can do it, they’re all capable of doing it, it’s just a matter of enabling them to gain confidence, and kick-starting an interest in creative coding. At the beginning of each course, I’m very upfront in letting my students know that I’m aware that this might be their only experience with coding, and that they may never want to look at another line of code again when the class is over. As long as we’re all open about that, things seem to flow rather smoothly. Focusing on the media they’re making and its visual and interactive aspects hopefully provides them with the necessary motivation.

D.C.Have you ever been approached by other schools, perhaps through your foundation, for suggestions on how to integrate Processing and coding into an academic curriculum?

C.R.That happens mostly for lower grade levels, but not at the university level. We have a part-time Director of Education at the foundation now, Saber Khan, who is a high school teacher who holds open office hours and puts on events and series called the Creative Coding Festivals. He leads the initiative of interacting with educators. In addition, we have started a series of interviews with educators.

C.R.Over the years, I’ve written two books with the intent of sharing what I do in my classroom with everybody else; a longer textbook published by the MIT Press, followed by a book that’s much shorter and more casual, intended for younger people, that was originally published through Make magazine, also, I’ve always shared my syllabi online.

C.R.Other independent sites have a multitude of classes, with different syllabi, OpenProcessing , for example. I feel that people in the community have always been open about sharing their assignments and exercises, and one can look around and select from what they’re interested in when they develop things. Different institutions have taught coding with Processing for long enough that they have now developed their own internal ways of doing it, with their own syllabi, and they kind of pass it on from person to person. There was a time where I might have known most of the schools that were working with Processing , but now I have no idea. It seems like whenever I travel somewhere, I learn about new places using it. I guess nobody really knows exactly to what extent it has spread around, and where and how it’s being taught, but I would be interested in finding out.

R.v.L.When you were building the software at the MIT Media Lab , did you have the impression that you were subverting the establishment, or that you were doing something that was appreciated and welcomed in the sphere of graphic design, or design in general for that matter?

C.R.In the beginning, we were really making something for ourselves, to help us with our own work, to do our own sketching, something that we could use to teach. Honestly, my initial aim for the project, in addition to those two things I mentioned, was to initiate introductory coding classes within design schools everywhere.

C.R.Personally, coming from a design program, I was frustrated that my professors didn’t have any interest in computation, and did not see what software could do and make possible when used as a medium for design. It was actually a goal of mine to show what was possible. When I was at design school, a program for digital design was launched, separate from graphic design, because the graphic design professors disdained computers. However, I think that the program only existed for a short time, before it kind of became one discipline. Consequently, I definitely set out to think about code as a future area of design, and wanted that to be a part of the design curriculum.

R.v.L.So you mean that design departments should be much more inclusive, instead of relegating coding to the sidelines, separating it from the core graphic design courses?

C.R.I think that the idea of students having exposure to code, and an opportunity to explore it is exciting. One thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes, the students who don’t expect to enjoy it, are paradoxically the ones who actually create the best work. Sometimes it can just open up a range of possibilities that weren’t there before they had the opportunity to work with code. Another way I always frame it, is that, even if you’re not going to be a coder, even if it’s not going to be essential to your work as a designer, having some degree of literacy in this area facilitates your collaborations with other people.

C.R.I think the pragmatic truth is that, as a designer, you’re often working in teams, or working on projects for the Web; with UI and UX, you’re often working with people who are implementing that, and this enables you to have an understanding of what’s involved in moving your design into a piece of software for an app or for a website. The degree of literacy acquired from having some exposure to code can be really helpful in collaborations. There are different paths that can open up for someone if they learn a little bit of coding.

C.R.As design moves onto the Web more and more, and continues to evolve within a space of interfaces, applications and software, it becomes essential for designers to work with code, to gain some exposure and a level of introduction to coding, along with the skills necessary to work with those areas of design.

R.v.L.Designers today who are working independently, doing web-based work, are very aware of their limits, the need for collaboration, and understand what programming has to offer them. You can’t make it without any collaboration, and even if you specialize in web projects, you cannot substitute the extent of a professional programmer’s expertise.

C.R.Everybody needs help with coding, from time to time, even the most advanced coders. The more you learn about coding, the more you get a sense of where your own personal boundaries might be, and when it’s worthwhile to spend months learning something new, or when it’s better to find the right person to commission to handle that. I still need assistance with my own work. Sometimes I’ll hire somebody to write a shader, for example, because shader coding is not something that’s a part of my expertise.

D.C.How do you perceive the creative coding community at the moment? Would you call it a movement? How do you think it will evolve?

C.R.One thing I see is that software is far more powerful in 2020 than it was twenty years ago, when Processing was created. I think it can be difficult to take a student who is used to working with video editing or animation, and bring them into a space where we’re just drawing lines on a screen.

C.R.My entire design education basically consisted of composing lines for a few years, but now software can do extraordinary visual things, rendering styles, and high-end animation techniques. So how do we bring people back into an environment where they’re making these very minimal elements with code? I think that’s a challenge, at least for me, but a lot of these high-level visual environments in animation also have scripting languages embedded in them, which is something that’s always been a part of design tools.

C.R.You take an environment like Processing , which is just a text editor, versus a really extensive interface that has scripting capabilities. I think this goes all the way back to the precursors of multimedia environments, to things like Hypercard, which were environments where you would script on the elements; this, I believe, led to Macromedia Director , which was a whole generation’s primary environment for code work. In my view, the contemporary version of that is the Unity software, largely used within gaming programs. That’s one area, another is node-based coding platforms, things like Max, and there’s a lot of people who start teaching code with those kinds of node-based flow control programs. Then there’s the paradigm represented by Processing ’s pure text code.

C.R.As I see it, we have these three different areas to choose from when it comes to introducing coding concepts to our students. At the moment, I’m continuing to proceed with text-based coding, because I think this is the most general. The method we apply at UCLA consists of teaching the fundamentals of text-based coding, in Processing or p5.js , then students apply what they’ve learned to other areas. So students go and they work with Unity for game design, and some students move forward and dig really deeply into Java Script for web-based work. The idea is to learn coding fundamentals, which then enables them go further, into more specific domains.

PDGD-ITW-CaseyReas, Image 2
15 C-prints on Fuji Crystal Archive Pearl, metal box, Edition of 8 + 2 AP ( 50 × 50 cm), Process Compendium 2004 – 2010 (A). Casey Reas, 2010.

C.R.I don’t feel that students necessarily need to continue working with Processing over the entire course of their education, or throughout their careers. I do that, and some other people do as well, but I’ve always thought of it more as a gateway. I think learning within the context of the Web through Java Script can also be a really good way of learning code. During the last twenty years, so many different tools have come out for designers to learn coding.

R.v.L.To follow up on this, do you perceive any visual influence of coding in advertisement campaigns, or on other visual outputs that now embrace coding solutions?

C.R.I think that the interesting thing about a lot of these high-level tools is that these scripts are often encoded into an interface where you check this or that box, and then it runs this really complicated script that somebody has written to generate something visual. More and more, a lot of these fundamental algorithm s continue to be added to different animation tools. You can more easily see the result of an algorithm being applied through a program like AfterEffects than if someone wrote the code directly.

C.R.I see it everywhere in design, from a logo system that might be kinetic, or an instance randomly chosen from a thousand different variations. Still, I don’t feel that it’s a norm or a dominant way of working. Maybe there’s a few dozen different studios from which you would expect that work to come. Yet I’m hopeful that this kind of work will continue to grow because I just find that it looks fascinating.

D.C.What are your plans for Processing ? Where do you want to take this project in the future?

C.R.The Covid pandemic has allowed me to work on an aspect of the Processing project that I have been thinking about for a long time. The software has always been completely free and open source, but a certain amount of the educational material is trapped in publishing contracts. So my current mission is to make a new modular series of tutorials that will be completely free, open, and accessible. It will include a web version, a book version, and a version that you can print and bind easily at home.

C.R.Another priority is the Processing website, which has been stalled for a number of years, along with the efforts to internationalize it. We are working right now with a design studio to rebuild it from scratch, and the idea of making it translatable is a priority. I really want it to be translated into Spanish first, along with many other languages, to make it even more accessible to global and international communities. The p5.js project has been informing a lot of my own approaches to Processing . Lauren’s work in building community and prioritizing access has allowed me to see a new path forward for the Processing project. That’s my current vision.



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Adobe InDesign is a desktop publishing and page layout designing software application produced by Adobe Inc. Graphic designers and production artists are the principal users, creating and laying out periodical publications, posters, and print media. It also supports export to EPUB and SWF formats to create e-books and digital publications, including digital magazines, and content suitable for consumption on tablet computers. In addition, InDesign supports XML, style sheets, and other coding markup, making it suitable for exporting content for use in digital and online formats.

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is a raster graphics editor developed and published by Adobe Inc. It was originally created in 1988 by Thomas and John Knoll. Since then, the software has become the industry standard not only in raster graphics editing, but in digital art as a whole. Photoshop can edit and compose raster images in multiple layers and supports masks, alpha compositing and several color models. Photoshop uses its own PSD and PSB file formats to support these features.

Adobe Shockwave

Adobe Shockwave (formerly Macromedia Shockwave) is a discontinued multimedia platform for building interactive multimedia applications and video games. Developers originate content using Adobe Director and publish it on the Internet. Such content could be viewed in a web browser on any computer with the Shockwave Player plug-in installed. MacroMind originated the technology; Macromedia acquired MacroMind and developed it further, releasing Shockwave Player in 1995. Adobe then acquired Shockwave with Macromedia in 2005. Shockwave supports raster graphics, basic vector graphics, 3D graphics, audio, and an embedded scripting language called Lingo.


In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is a finite sequence of well-defined, computer-implementable instructions, typically to solve a class of specific problems or to perform a computation. Algorithms are used as specifications for performing calculations, data processing, automated reasoning, and other tasks. Starting from an initial state and initial input, the algorithm’s instructions describe a computation that, when executed, proceeds through a finite number of well-defined successive states, eventually producing “output” and terminating at a final ending state. Algorithms are essential to the way computers process data. Many computer programs contain algorithms that detail the specific instructions a computer should perform—in a specific order—to carry out a specified task.


Apple Inc. is an American multinational technology company that specializes in consumer electronics, computer software, and online services. Apple was founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in 1976 to develop and sell Wozniak’s Apple I personal computer. It was incorporated by Jobs and Wozniak as Apple Computer, Inc. in 1977, and sales of its computers, including the Apple II, grew quickly. They went public in 1980 to instant financial success. Over the next few years, Apple shipped new computers featuring innovative graphical user interfaces, such as the original Macintosh.

Application Programming Interface (API)

An API is a set of defined rules that explain how computers or applications communicate with one another. APIs sit between an application and the web server, acting as an intermediary layer that processes data transfer between systems.


Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on easy-to-use hardware and software. Arduino boards are able to read inputs—light on a sensor, a finger on a button, or a Twitter message—and turn it into an output: activating a motor, turning on an LED, publishing something online. You can tell your board what to do by sending a set of instructions to the microcontroller on the board. To do so you use the Arduino programming language (based on Wiring), and the Arduino Software (IDE), based on Processing. All Arduino boards are completely open-source, empowering users to build them independently and eventually adapt them to their particular needs. The software, too, is open-source, and it is growing through the contributions of users worldwide.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines, as opposed to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals. Leading AI textbooks define the field as the study of “intelligent agents”: any system that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of achieving its goals. Some popular accounts use the term artificial intelligence to describe machines that mimic “cognitive” functions that humans associate with the human mind, such as learning and problem solving. AI applications include advanced Web search engines, recommendation systems (used by YouTube, Amazon and Netflix), understanding human speech (such as Siri or Alexa), self-driving cars (e.g. Tesla), and competing at the highest level in strategic game systems (such as chess and Go).

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality is computer-generated content overlaid on a real world environment. AR hardware comes in many forms, including devices that you can carry and devices you wear, such as headsets, and glasses. Common applications of AR technology include video games, television, and personal navigation.


(Beginners’ All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) is a family of general-purpose, high-level programming languages whose design philosophy emphasizes ease of use. The original version was designed by John G. Kemeny and Thomas E. Kurtz and released at Dartmouth College in 1964. They wanted to enable students in fields other than science and mathematics to use computers. At the time, nearly all computer use required writing custom software, which was something only scientists and mathematicians tended to learn.


basil.js is a simplified library aimed at designers. It brings scripting and automation into layout and makes computational and generative design possible from within InDesign. Additionally it also includes workflow improvements for data imports from various sources, indexing and complex document management.


C++ is a general-purpose programming language created by Bjarne Stroustrup in 1982 as an extension of the C programming language, or “C with Classes.” The language has expanded significantly over time, and modern C++ now has object-oriented, generic, and functional features in addition to facilities for low-level memory manipulation. It is almost always implemented as a compiled language, and many vendors provide C++ compilers, including the Free Software Foundation, LLVM, Microsoft, Intel, Oracle, and IBM, so it is available on many platforms. C++ was designed with an orientation toward system programming and embedded, resource-constrained software and large systems, with performance, efficiency, and flexibility of use as its design highlights.


Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a style-sheet language used for describing the presentation of a document written in a markup language such as HTML. CSS is a cornerstone technology of the World Wide Web, alongside HTML and JavaScript. CSS is designed to enable the separation of presentation and content, including layout, colors, and fonts. The term cascading derives from the specified priority scheme to determine which style rule applies if more than one rule matches a particular element. This cascading priority scheme is predictable.

Commodore C64

The Commodore C64 was a flagship personal computer product of the Commodore company, released in 1982. It was largely recognized as the highest-selling personal computer model of all time, with between 10 and 17 million units sold (according to available estimates). The Commodore C64 was an 8-bit home computer with 64 kB of RAM. It ran on a Commodore BASIC operating system and had a VIC-II graphics card, an external 170 K floppy drive, ports for two joysticks, and a cartridge port. In its time, the Commodore C64 stood out from its competitors in terms of both sound and graphics, with multicolored sprites and three-channel sound that provided what was, for that era, cutting-edge technology. The ability to play Commodore games on the system was only part of the appeal, with a variety of business uses also built into the early computing system.

Commodore VC-20

The Commodore VIC-20 / or VC-20 (known as the VC-20 in Germany and the VIC-1001 in Japan) is an 8-bit home computer that was sold by Commodore Business Machines. The VIC-20 was announced in 1980, roughly three years after Commodore’s first personal computer, the PET. The VIC-20 was the first computer of any description to sell one million units.


A database is an organized collection of structured information, or data, typically stored electronically in a computer system. A database is usually controlled by a database management system (DBMS). Together, the data and the DBMS, along with the applications that are associated with them, are referred to as a database system, often shortened to just database. Data within the most common types of databases in operation today is typically modeled in rows and columns in a series of tables to make processing and data querying efficient. The data can then be easily accessed, managed, modified, updated, controlled, and organized. Most databases use structured query language (SQL) for writing and querying data.


DrawBot is a powerful, free application for MacOSX that invites you to write simple Python scripts to generate two-dimensional graphics. The built-in graphics primitives support rectangles, ovals, (Bézier) paths, polygons, text objects and transparency. DrawBot is an ideal tool for teaching the basics of programming. Students get colorful graphic treats while becoming familiar with variables, conditional statements, functions, etc. Results can be saved in a selection of different file formats, including high resolution, scaleable PDF, SVG, movie, PNG, JPEG and TIFF. DrawBot is written in Python. The DrawBot project started in 2003 as a program named DesignRobots, written for a Python workshop at the TypoTechnica conference. Since then the application evolved into a Cocoa application with a powerful API and image export functionality. It has proven itself as a key part of the curriculum at the Royal Academy in The Hague, and is developed by Just van Rossum, Erik van Blokland and Frederik Berlaen.

Dual Licensing

Using dual licensing, licensors can distribute software to licensees under a proprietary model as well as an open-source model, allowing the licensor to simultaneously leverage the advantages of both types of licenses.


EPUB is an e-book file format that uses the “.epub” file extension. The term is short for electronic publication and is supported by many e-readers, and compatible software is available for most smartphones, tablets, and computers. The EPUB format is implemented as an archive file consisting of XHTML files carrying the content, along with images and other supporting files. EPUB is the most widely supported vendor-independent XML-based e-book format. EPUB is a technical standard published by the International Digital Publishing Forum and supported by almost all hardware readers.


An e-reader, also called an e-book reader or e-book device, is a mobile electronic device that is designed primarily for the purpose of reading digital e-books and periodicals. Any device that can display text on a screen may act as an e-reader; however, specialized e-reader devices may optimize portability, readability, and battery life for this purpose. Their main advantages over printed books are portability. An e-reader is capable of holding thousands of books while weighing less than one book. Many e-readers use the Internet through Wi-Fi and the built-in software can provide a link to a digital library or an e-book retailer, allowing the user to buy, borrow, and receive digital e-books.


Adobe Flash is a multimedia software platform used for production of animations, rich web applications, desktop applications, mobile apps, mobile games, and embedded web browser video players. Flash displays text, vector graphics, and raster graphics to provide animations, video games, and applications. It allowed streaming of audio and video, and can capture mouse, keyboard, microphone, and camera input. Flash was initially used to create fully interactive websites, but this approach was phased out with the introduction of HTML5. Instead, Flash found a niche as the dominant platform for online multimedia content, particularly for browser games. Due to numerous security flaws, the use of Flash declined as Adobe transitioned to the Adobe Air platform. The Flash Player was deprecated in 2017 and officially discontinued at the end of 2020.


Fontographer, developed by James R. Von Ehr for the Mac and released in January 1986, was the first commercially available Bézier curve editing software for a personal computer. High quality fonts in PostScript format could be developed for a fraction of the cost of other existing methods, leading to the democratization of type design. For the first time, numerous self-taught type designers without substantial capital investment could produce fonts for professional use. Fontographer 2.0 was released eight months later, in the fall of 1986. In 1989, Fontographer 3.0 was released, featuring an auto-trace tool and automatic generation of hints for PostScript printer fonts.

For Loop

In computer science, a for-loop (or simply for loop) is a control flow statement for specifying iteration, which allows code to be executed repeatedly. A for-loop has two parts: a header specifying the iteration, and a body which is executed once per iteration. The header often declares an explicit loop counter or loop variable, which allows the body to know which iteration is being executed. For-loops are typically used when the number of iterations is known before entering the loop. For-loops can be thought of as a shorthand for while-loops, which increment and test a loop variable.


Fortran is a general-purpose, compiled imperative programming language that is especially suited to numeric computation and scientific computing. It was originally developed by John Backus and IBM in the 1950s for scientific and engineering applications, and subsequently came to dominate scientific computing. It has been in use for over six decades in computationally intensive areas such as numerical weather prediction, finite element analysis, computational fluid dynamics, geophysics, computational physics, crystallography and computational chemistry.

Generative Adversarial Network (GAN)

A generative adversarial network is a class of machine learning frameworks. Two neural networks contest with each other in a game (in the form of a zero-sum game, where one agent’s gain is another agent’s loss). Given a training set, this technique learns to generate new data with the same statistics as the training set. For example, a GAN trained on photographs can generate new photographs that look at least superficially authentic to human observers, having many realistic characteristics.


Git is a software that tracks changes in any set of files. It is generally used for coordinating work among programmers who are collaboratively developing source code during software development. Its goals include speed, data integrity, and support for distributed, non-linear workflows (thousands of parallel branches running on different systems). Git was created by Linus Torvalds in 2005 for development of the Linux kernel, with other kernel developers contributing to its initial development. Since 2005, Junio Hamano has been the core maintainer. As with most other distributed version control systems, and unlike most client-server systems, every Git directory on every computer is a full-fledged repository with complete history and full version-tracking abilities, independent of network access or a central server. Git is free and open-source software distributed under GNU General Public License Version 2.


GitHub, Inc. is a provider of Internet hosting for software development and version control using Git. It offers the distributed version control and source code management (SCM) functionality of Git, plus its own features. It provides access control and several collaboration features such as bug tracking, feature requests, task management, continuous integration and wikis for every project. Headquartered in California, it has been a subsidiary of Microsoft since 2018. GitHub offers its basic services free of charge. Its more advanced professional and enterprise services are commercial. Free GitHub accounts are commonly used to host open-source projects.


GitLab is a web-based DevOps lifecycle tool that provides a Git repository manager providing wiki, issue-tracking and continuous integration and deployment pipeline features, using an open-source license, developed by GitLab Inc. The open source software project was created by Ukrainian developers Dmitriy Zaporozhets and Valery Sizov. GitLab follows an open-core development model where the core functionality is released under an open-source (MIT) license while the additional functionality is under a proprietary license.


Glyphs is a Mac font editor that puts you in control, enabling you to quickly draw high-precision vectors, efficiently reuse shapes, and easily manage any number of letters, figures and symbols. Glyphs is a project of type designers and software developers Georg Seifert and Rainer Erich Scheichelbauer.


Google LLC is an American multinational technology company that specializes in Internet-related services and products, which include online advertising technologies, a search engine, cloud computing, software, and hardware. It is considered one of the big four technology companies along with Amazon, Facebook, and Apple. Google was founded in September 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University in California.

Google Docs

Google Docs is an online word processor included as part of the free, web-based Google Docs Editors suite offered by Google. Google Docs is accessible via an Internet browser as a web-based application and is also available as a mobile app on Android and iOS and as a desktop application on Google’s Chrome OS. Google Docs allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating with other users in real-time. Edits are tracked by user with a revision history presenting changes. An editor’s position is highlighted with an editor-specific color and cursor and a permissions system regulates what users can do.

Google Sheets

Google Sheets is a spreadsheet program included as part of the free, web-based Google Docs Editors suite offered by Google. The app allows users to create and edit files online while collaborating with other users in real-time. Edits are tracked by user with a revision history presenting changes.


HyperText Markup Language, better known as HTML, is the standard markup language for documents designed to be displayed in a web browser. It can be supported by technologies such as Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and scripting languages such as JavaScript. Web browsers receive HTML documents from a web server or from local storage and render the documents into multimedia web pages. HTML describes the structure of a web page semantically and originally included cues for the appearance of the document. HTML can embed programs written in a scripting language such as JavaScript, which affects the behavior and content of web pages. Inclusion of CSS defines the look and layout of content. In 1980, physicist Tim Berners-Lee, a contractor at CERN, proposed and prototyped ENQUIRE, a system for CERN researchers to use and share documents. In 1989, Berners-Lee wrote a memo proposing an Internet-based hypertext system. Berners-Lee specified HTML and wrote the browser and server software in late 1990.


HyperCard is a software application and development kit for Apple Macintosh and Apple IIGS computers. It is among the first successful hypermedia systems predating the World Wide Web. HyperCard combines a flat-file database with a graphical, flexible, user-modifiable interface. HyperCard includes a built-in programming language called HyperTalk for manipulating data and the user interface. HyperCard is based on the concept of a “stack” of virtual “cards”. Each card contains a set of interactive objects, including text fields, check boxes, buttons, and similar common graphical user interface (GUI) elements. Users browse the stack by navigating from card to card, using built-in navigation features, a powerful search mechanism, or through user-created scripts. HyperCard was originally released in 1987 and was included free with all new Macintosh computers. It was withdrawn from sale in March 2004, having received its final update in 1998 upon the return of Steve Jobs to Apple. HyperCard runs in the Classic environment, but was not ported to Mac OS X.


HyperTalk is a discontinued highlevel, procedural programming language created in 1987 by Dan Winkler and used in conjunction with Apple Computer’s HyperCard hypermedia program by Bill Atkinson. Because the main target audience of HyperTalk was beginning programmers, HyperTalk programmers were usually called “authors” and the process of writing programs was known as “scripting”. HyperTalk scripts resembled written English and used a logical structure similar to that of the Pascal programming language.


Java is a high-level, class-based, object-oriented programming language that is designed to have as few implementation dependencies as possible. It is a general-purpose programming language intended to let application developers write once, run anywhere (WORA), meaning that compiled Java code can run on all platforms that support Java without the need for recompilation. The syntax of Java is similar to C and C++, but has fewer low-level facilities than either of them. The Java runtime provides dynamic capabilities (such as reflection and runtime code modification) that are typically not available in traditional compiled languages. As of 2019, Java was one of the most popular programming languages in use according to GitHub, particularly for client-server web applications, with a reported nine million developers.

JavaScript (JS)

JavaScript is a lightweight, interpreted, object-oriented language with first-class functions, and is best known as a scripting language for Web pages, but it’s used in many non-browser environments as well. It is a prototype-based, multi-paradigm scripting language that is dynamic, and supports object-oriented, imperative, and functional programming styles. JavaScript runs on the client side of the web, which can be used to design/program how the web pages behave on the occurrence of an event. The basic syntax is intentionally similar to both Java and C++ to reduce the number of new concepts required to learn the language.


Kinect is a line of motion-sensing input devices produced by Microsoft and first released in 2010. The technology includes a set of hardware originally developed by PrimeSense, incorporating RGB cameras, infrared projectors and detectors that map depth through either structured light or time of flight calculations, and a microphone array, along with software and artificial intelligence from Microsoft to allow the device to perform real-time gesture recognition, speech recognition and body skeletal detection. This enables Kinect to be used as a hands-free natural user interface device to interact with a computer system.

Kinetic Type

Kinetic typography—the technical name for “moving text” or “motion typography”—is an animation technique mixing motion and text to express ideas using video animation.


LaTeX, pronounced “Lah-tech” or “Lay-tech,” is a high-quality typesetting system; it includes features designed for the production medium-to-large technical or scientific documents but it can be used for almost any form of publishing. LaTeX is available as free software.

Library (computing)

In computer science, a library is a collection of non-volatile resources used by computer programs, often for software development. These may include configuration data, documentation, help data, message templates, pre-written code and subroutines, classes, values or type specifications. A library is also a collection of implementations of behavior, written in terms of a language, that has a well-defined interface by which the behavior is invoked. Library code is organized in such a way that it can be used by multiple programs that have no connection to each other, while code that is part of a program is organized to be used only within that one program. The value of a library lies in the reuse of standardized program elements. When a program invokes a library, it gains the behavior implemented inside that library without having to implement that behavior itself. Libraries encourage the sharing of code in a modular fashion and ease the distribution of the code.


Lingo is a verbose object-oriented scripting language developed by John H. Thompson for use in Adobe Director (formerly Macromedia Director). Lingo is used to develop desktop application software, interactive kiosks, CD-ROMs and Adobe Shockwave content. Lingo is the primary programming language on the Adobe Shockwave platform, which dominated the interactive multimedia product market during the 1990s.


The Linux kernel is a free and open-source, monolithic, modular, multitasking, Unix-like operating system kernel. It was conceived and created in 1991 by Linus Torvalds for his i386-based PC, and it was soon adopted as the kernel for the GNU operating system, which was created as a free replacement for UNIX. Since then, it has spawned a large number of operating system distributions, commonly also called Linux. Linux is deployed on a wide variety of computing systems, such as embedded devices, mobile devices (including its use in the Android operating system), personal computers, servers, mainframes, and supercomputers.

MIT Media Lab

The MIT Media Lab promotes an interdisciplinary research culture that brings together diverse areas of interest and inquiry. Unique among other laboratories at MIT, the Media Lab comprises both a broad research agenda and a graduate degree program in Media Arts and Sciences. Faculty, students, and researchers work together on hundreds of projects across disciplines as diverse as social robotics, physical and cognitive prostheses, new models and tools for learning, community bioengineering, and models for sustainable cities. Art, science, design, and technology build and play off one another in an environment designed for collaboration and inspiration.

Machine Learning

Machine learning is an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can access data and use it to learn for themselves. The process of learning begins with observations or data, such as examples, direct experience, or instruction, in order to look for patterns in data and make better decisions in the future based on the examples that we provide. The primary aim is to allow the computers learn automatically without human intervention or assistance and adjust actions accordingly.


The Macintosh (generally referred to as a Mac since 1998) is a family of personal computers designed, manufactured, and sold by Apple Inc. (originally Apple Computer, Inc.) since January 1984. The original Macintosh is the first successful mass-market all-in-one desktop personal computer to have featured a graphical user interface, built-in screen, and mouse. Apple sold the Macintosh alongside its popular Apple II, Apple IIGS, Apple III, and Apple Lisa families of computers until the other models were discontinued in the 1990s.

Macromedia Director

Adobe Director (formerly Macromedia Director) was a multimedia application authoring platform created by Macromedia and managed by Adobe Systems until its discontinuation in 2017. Director was the primary time-based editor on the Adobe Shockwave platform, which dominated the interactive multimedia product space during the 1990s. Originally designed for creating animation sequences, the addition of a scripting language called Lingo made Director a popular choice for creating CD-ROMs, stand-alone kiosks and internet video game content during the 1990s.

Material Design

Material Design is a design language developed by Google in 2014. Expanding on the “cards” that debuted in Google Now, Material Design uses more grid-based layouts, responsive animations and transitions, padding, and depth effects such as lighting and shadows.


Max, also known as Max/MSP/Jitter, is a visual programming language for music and multimedia developed and maintained by San Francisco-based software company Cycling ’74. Over its more than thirty-year history, it has been used by composers, performers, software designers, researchers, and artists to create recordings, performances, and installations. The Max program is modular, with most routines existing as shared libraries. An application programming interface (API) allows third-party development of new routines (named external objects). Thus, Max has a large user base of programmers unaffiliated with Cycling ’74 who enhance the software with commercial and non-commercial extensions to the program.


Metafont is a description language used to define raster fonts. It is also the name of the interpreter that executes Metafont code, generating the bitmap fonts that can be embedded into PostScript. Metafont was devised by Donald Knuth as a companion to his TeX typesetting system.


Microsoft Corporation is an American multinational technology corporation which produces computer software, consumer electronics, personal computers, and related services. Its best known software products are the Microsoft Windows line of operating systems, the Microsoft Office suite, and the Internet Explorer and Edge web browsers. Its flagship hardware products are the Xbox video game consoles and the Microsoft Surface lineup of touch-screen personal computers.Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen on April 4, 1975, to develop and sell BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800. It rose to dominate the personal computer operating system market with MS-DOS in the mid-1980s, followed by Microsoft Windows.


Node.js is an open-source, cross-platform, back-end JavaScript runtime environment that runs on the V8 engine and executes JavaScript code outside a web browser. Node.js lets developers use JavaScript to write command line tools and for server-side scripting—running scripts server-side to produce dynamic web page content before the page is sent to the user’s web browser. Consequently, Node.js represents a “JavaScript everywhere” paradigm, unifying web-application development around a single programming language, rather than using different languages for server-side and client-side scripts.

Open Source

Open-source software is software with source code that anyone can inspect, modify, and enhance. The term originated in the context of software development to designate a specific approach to creating computer programs. Today, however, the term “open source” designates a broader set of values. Open source projects, products, or initiatives embrace and celebrate the principles of open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community-oriented development. Open-source licenses affect the way people can use, study, modify, and distribute software. In general, open-source licenses grant computer users permission to use open-source software for any purpose they wish. Some open-source licenses—sometimes referred to as “copyleft” licenses—stipulate that anyone who releases a modified open-source program must also release the source code for that program alongside it. Moreover, some open-source licenses stipulate that anyone who alters and shares a program with others must also share that program’s source code without charging a licensing fee for it.


OpenFrameworks is an open source C++ toolkit for creative coding, designed to assist the creative process by providing a simple and intuitive framework for experimentation. The code is written to be massively cross-compatible. OpenFrameworks supports five operating systems (Windows, OSX, Linux, iOS, Android) and four IDEs (XCode, Code::Blocks, and Visual Studio and Eclipse). OpenFrameworks is distributed under the MIT License. This gives everyone the freedom to use openFrameworks in any context: commercial or non-commercial, public or private, open or closed source. While many openFrameworks users give their work back to the community in a similarly free way, there is no obligation to contribute. OpenFrameworks is actively developed by Zach Lieberman, Theodore Watson, and Arturo Castro, with help from the OpenFrameworks community.


P5.js is a JavaScript library for creative coding created by Lauren Lee McCarthy in 2013. Its purpose is to make coding accessible and inclusive for artists, designers, educators and beginners. P5.js is free and open-source. To use the metaphor of a sketch, p5.js has a full set of drawing functionalities. However, one is not limited to a drawing canvas—you can visualize your whole browser page as a sketch pad, including HTML5 objects for text, input, video, webcam, and sound. P5.js is currently led/run?/maintained? by Qianqian Ye and Evelyn Masso.


p5.js’ collaborative live-coding VJ environment.


PHP is a general-purpose scripting language geared towards web development. It was created by Danish-Canadian programmer Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994. PHP originally stood for Personal Home Page, but it now stands for the recursive initialism PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. PHP code is usually processed on a web server by a PHP interpreter implemented as a module, a daemon or as a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) executable. On a web server, the result of the interpreted and executed PHP code – which may be any type of data, such as generated HTML or binary image data – would form the whole or part of an HTTP response.


PageBot® is a scriptable page layout, vector graphics and typography environment that enables designers to create high quality documents in various print-ready and web-based formats. It is available as a Python library with multiplatform support based on Flat as well as a Mac OS X extension that uses DrawBot. The core library, tutorials and basic examples for PageBot are available under the MIT Open-Source license. PageBot is initiated and developed by Buro, Petr van Blokland and Claudia Mens.


Paged.js is a free and open source JavaScript library that paginates content in the browser to create PDF output from any HTML content. This means you can design works for print (e.g. books) using HTML and CSS.


Paper.js is an open-source vector graphics scripting framework that runs on top of the HTML5 Canvas. It offers a clean Scene Graph / Document Object Model and a lot of powerful functionality to create and work with vector graphics and Bézier curves, all neatly wrapped up in a well designed, consistent and clean programming interface. Paper.js is developed by Jürg Lehni & Jonathan Puckey, and distributed under the permissive MIT License.

Portable Document Format (PDF)

Portable Document Format (PDF), is a file format developed by Adobe in 1993 to present documents, including text formatting and images, in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems. Based on the PostScript language, each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout flat document, including the text, fonts, vector graphics, raster images and other information needed to display it. PDF files may contain a variety of content besides flat text and graphics, including logical structuring elements, interactive elements such as annotations and form-fields, layers, rich media (including video content), three-dimensional objects, and various other data formats.


PostScript is a page description language (PDL) that describes a page’s text and graphical content. It can be used to define the appearance of graphics and text for both screen and print. The language was developed by Adobe in 1984 and has since gone through many revisions and updates. Before PostScript was introduced, publishing systems relied on proprietary typesetting systems, which often caused incompatibilities between computers and printing systems. Adobe PostScript makes it possible to produce high-quality page content that can include text, images, and line art in a standard format compatible with multiple devices. PostScript (.PS) files will print out in the exact same way from any PostScript compatible printer. They can also be opened using Adobe Acrobat and will look consistently the same on Macintosh and Windows platforms. The evolution of PostScript led to the development of Adobe Acrobat, which creates PDF documents.


ProcessWire is a free and open-source content management system (CMS) and framework (CMF) written in the PHP programming language. ProcessWire is built around an API with usage and naming conventions similar to the JavaScript framework jQuery. The stated goal behind the API is to provide the level of accessibility and control to pages in a website that jQuery provides to the DOM. Content is managed either via the API or the web-based admin control panel. ProcessWire is largely used for development of websites, web applications, services, content feeds and related applications.


Processing is a flexible software sketchbook and a language for learning how to code within the context of the visual arts. Since 2001, Processing has promoted software literacy within the visual arts and visual literacy within technology. There are tens of thousands of students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists who use Processing for learning and prototyping. Processing was initiated in Spring 2001 by Ben Fry and Casey Reas. At the time, Fry was a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Laboratory and Reas was an Associate Professor at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (IDII). Processing began as a personal initiative and it was developed over nights and weekends through 2003. MIT indirectly funded Processing through Fry’s graduate stipend and IDII indirectly funded Processing through Reas’s salary. Due to his research agreement with MIT, all code written by Fry during this time is the intellectual property of MIT.


Python is an interpreted, object-oriented, high-level programming language with dynamic semantics. Its high-level built-in data structures, combined with dynamic typing and dynamic binding, make it very attractive for Rapid Application Development, as well as for use as a scripting or glue language to connect existing components together. Python’s simple, easy-to-learn syntax emphasizes readability and therefore reduces the cost of program maintenance. Python supports modules and packages, which encourages program modularity and code reuse. The Python interpreter and the extensive standard library are available in source or binary form without charge for all major platforms, and can be freely distributed. Python was conceived in the late 1980s by Guido van Rossum at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) in the Netherlands as a successor to the ABC programming language, and it was first released in 1991 as Python 0.9.0. Python 2.0 was released in 2000. It introduced new features, such as list comprehensions and a garbage collection system using reference counting. Python 3.0 was released in 2008 and was a major revision of the language that is not completely backward-compatible.


RAWGraphs is an open source data visualization framework built with the goal of making the visual representation of complex data easy for everyone. Primarily conceived as a tool for designers and vis geeks, RAWGraphs aims at providing a missing link between spreadsheet applications (e.g. Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, OpenRefine) and vector graphics editors (e.g. Adobe Illustrator, Inkscape, Sketch). The project, led and maintained by the DensityDesign Research Lab (Politecnico di Milano) was released publicly in 2013.


React (also known as React.js or ReactJS) is a free and open-source front-end JavaScript library for building user interfaces or UI components. It is maintained by Facebook and a community of individual developers and companies. React can be used as a base in the development of single-page or mobile applications.


Just van Rossum, Erik van Blokland and Tal Leming developed RoboFab, a Pythonic API to FontLab’s native objects. RoboFab was heavily inspired by RoboFog and their APIs are very similar. A simple toolkit for creating UIs in Python, DialogKit, was also created. All together, this allowed designers to port their old RoboFog scripts to RoboFab. The RoboFab package was distributed freely under an open-source license and worked in both Windows and Mac versions of FontLab. It had a pretty website with very complete documentation and a colorful font object map. RoboFab became popular among font makers and helped them create useful tools to get work done.


RoboFog is a Python-powered version of Fontographer produced by Petr van Blokland in the early 1990s. With Just van Rossum’s help, Van Blokland managed to compile Fontographer with a Python interpreter, and built an API so that the program became scriptable. RoboFog was very successful within its niche market. It included a small toolkit for creating custom UIs in pure Python. Users have a lot of fun with its features, and used it to build tools which were very useful for their workflows.


Written from scratch in Python with scalability in mind, RoboFont is a fully featured font editor with all the tools required for drawing typefaces. It provides full scripting access to objects and interface and a platform for building your own tools and extensions.

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is an XML-based markup language for describing two-dimensional based vector graphics. It is a text-based, open Web standard for describing images that can be rendered cleanly at any size without loss of quality and is designed specifically to work well with other web standards including CSS, DOM, JavaScript, and SMIL. In essence, SVG is to graphics what HTML is to text. SVG images and their related behaviors are defined in XML text files, which means they can be searched, indexed, scripted, and compressed. Additionally, this means they can be created and edited with any text editor or with drawing software. SVG has been developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) since 1999.


Scriptographer is a scripting plug-in for Adobe Illustrator. It enables the user to extend Illustrator’s functionality through the use of the JavaScript language. Scriptographer allows the creation of mouse-controlled drawing tools, effects that modify existing graphics and scripts that create new ones.


Sketchbook (formerly StudioPaint, Autodesk SketchBook), is a raster graphics software app intended for expressive drawing and concept sketching. The software was first developed by Alias Systems Corporation as StudioPaint, before being acquired by Autodesk and then being spun out into an independent company, Sketchbook, Inc. Originally developed as commercial software, it evolved into a subscription model before eventually being made freeware for personal use.

Turbo Pascal

Turbo Pascal is a dialect of the Pascal programming language which was sold by Borland International during the 1980s and 1990s for use with the MS-DOS and later Microsoft Windows operating systems. A few versions (1.0 and 1.1) were also released for Apple’s System 6 and System 7. It provided an Integrated Development Environment or IDE, which combined editor, program compiler and execution environments for developing, debugging, and compiling Pascal source code.

Turtle Drawing Robot

The concept can be traced back to William Grey Walter’s work in robotics in the 1940s which investigated complex behaviors in simple systems. Turtle robots are generally slow-moving with tight turning radiuses and can trace a design that shows their behavior over time. They make excellent teaching aides because their programmed output can be seen visually.

Type Foundry

A type foundry is a company that designs and distributes typefaces. Before digital type design, type foundries manufactured and sold metal and wood typefaces for hand typesetting, and matrices for line-casting machines like the Linotype and Monotype, for letterpress printers. Today’s digital type foundries distribute typefaces created by type designers, who may either be freelancers, or employed by the foundry. Type foundries may also provide custom type design services for clients.


Unity is a cross-platform game engine developed by Unity Technologies, first announced and released in June 2005 by Apple as a Mac OS X exclusive game engine. The engine has since been gradually extended to support a variety of desktop, mobile, console and virtual reality platforms. It is particularly popular for iOS and Android mobile game development. The engine can be used to create three-dimensional (3D) and two-dimensional (2D) games, as well as interactive simulations.

User Experience (UX)

User experience (UX) refers to the way a user interacts with and experiences a product, system or service. It includes a person’s perceptions of utility, ease of use, and efficiency.

User Interface (UI)

User interface (UI) design is the design of interfaces for machines and software, such as computers, mobile devices and other electronic devices, with a focus on maximizing usability for the user.

Variable Font

A variable font is a font file that is able to store a continuous range of design variants. An entire typeface (font family) can be stored in such a file, with an infinite number of fonts, styles and widths available to be sampled. The variable font technology originated in Apple’s TrueType GX font variations. The technology was adapted to OpenType as OpenType variable fonts (OTVF) in version 1.8 of the OpenType specification. The technology was announced by Adobe, Apple, Google, and Microsoft in September 2016.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. Applications of virtual reality include entertainment (e.g. video games), education (e.g. medical or military training) and business (e.g. virtual meetings).

Web Open Font Format (WOFF)

The Web Open Font Format is a font format for use in web pages. WOFF files are OpenType or TrueType fonts with format-specific compression applied and additional XML metadata added. The primary goals are to distinguish font files intended for use as web fonts from font files intended for use in desktop applications via local installation, and to reduce web-font latency when fonts are transferred from a server to a client over a network connection. The first draft of WOFF 1 was published in 2009 by Jonathan Kew, Tal Leming, and Erik van Blokland. Following the submission of WOFF to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) by the Mozilla Foundation, Opera Software and Microsoft in April 2010, the W3C commented that it expected WOFF to soon become the “single, interoperable [font] format” supported by all browsers. The W3C published WOFF as a working draft in July 2010. The final draft was published as a W3C Recommendation on 13 December 2012.


Web-to-Print, also referred to as Web2Print, W2P or Remote Publishing, does not just have one general definition. Many different processes, systems and software fall under this umbrella term. Web-to-Print combines the traditional way of producing print materials, as well as all other processes that take place online, like the creation and publishing process for example. All the following processes are part of Web-to-Print, from the editing of simple templates, uploading and generating print materials to database publishing.


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Documentation from the Processing 3.0 development meeting sponsored by the Emergent Digital Practices program at the University of Denver, November 2014. Left to right: Ben Fry, Casey Reas, Dan Shiffman.
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Screenshot of the Processing 3.0 integrated development environment.
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15 C-prints on Fuji Crystal Archive Pearl, metal box, Edition of 8 + 2 AP ( 50 × 50 cm), Process Compendium 2004 – 2010 (A). Casey Reas, 2010.

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