Processing and Coding Literacy

Few months ago, I had the chance to gave workshop on making data visualization using Processing. The course were designed for someone who didn’t come from a technical background, who wished to hit the ground running making something using programming or specifically, Processing. On that day I had several people coming who are designers and architects.

For several hours, I sat there, talking, explaining, running some examples and gave short exercises for them, guiding them to the magical world of creative coding, and they did grasp it. The best thing about working with these creative people is that I could plan seed in their mind and I would instantly watch as they bend codes into their will. One guy has made his own brand identity using Processing code at that workshop. Another one, I know, is still exploring and happily tells me new things he learns.

Processing Workshop 1

And that’s probably the first step in coding literacy: looking at code as a tool to help doing something or solving a problem.

I’m not gonna hard sell the whole coding literacy thing, nor do I wish to debate should designer learn to code (that’s like beating a dead horse from decades ago). No. But the truth is, coding gives you access to new capabilities to talk to your computer, way beyond what’s being offered by existing software. It even enables you to gain a custom made tool specifically to solve your own problem or experiment. For example: Processing enables you to generate real time interactive visual work, following your ideas not previously impossible to implement using After Effects.

In this sense, Processing becomes a very good teaching tool to introduce programming, because it gives an instant visual result to its user. Making the whole concept of programming easier to grasp. I even owe a lot to Processing in opening new doors of programming possibilites. It may has its own shair of critics, but for me, I have viewed programming differently thanks to it, and thus encourage me to look at other programming options as a friendly tool. As for workflow wise, now, I mostly resort to Processing as a quick prototyping tool, one where I can rapidly express my idea into some form of software that I can interact with. That’s just an old habit I guess.

So yes, if you’re looking to start to code, Processing can be a good, friendly tool. Should you learn to code? No, unless you really want to. From my point of view, coding literacy opens up a new world of making stuff and solving problems. However, it’s not going to make you a billionaire overnight.

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