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Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists [Hardcover]

by Casey Reas, Ben Fry, John Maeda
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 17, 2007 0262182629 978-0262182621

It has been more than twenty years since desktop publishing reinvented design, and it's clear that there is a growing need for designers and artists to learn programming skills to fill the widening gap between their ideas and the capability of their purchased software. This book is an introduction to the concepts of computer programming within the context of the visual arts. It offers a comprehensive reference and text for Processing (, an open-source programming language that can be used by students, artists, designers, architects, researchers, and anyone who wants to program images, animation, and interactivity. The ideas in Processing have been tested in classrooms, workshops, and arts institutions, including UCLA, Carnegie Mellon, New York University, and Harvard University. Tutorial units make up the bulk of the book and introduce the syntax and concepts of software (including variables, functions, and object-oriented programming), cover such topics as photography and drawing in relation to software, and feature many short, prototypical example programs with related images and explanations. More advanced professional projects from such domains as animation, performance, and typography are discussed in interviews with their creators. "Extensions" present concise introductions to further areas of investigation, including computer vision, sound, and electronics. Appendixes, references to additional material, and a glossary contain additional technical details. Processing can be used by reading each unit in order, or by following each category from the beginning of the book to the end. The Processing software and all of the code presented can be downloaded and run for future exploration.Includes essays by Alexander R. Galloway, Golan Levin, R. Luke DuBois, Simon Greenwold, Francis Li, and Hernando Barragán and interviews with Jared Tarbell, Martin Wattenberg, James Paterson, Erik van Blockland, Ed Burton, Josh On, Jürg Lehni, Auriea Harvey and Michaël Samyn, Mathew Cullen and Grady Hall, Bob Sabiston, Jennifer Steinkamp, Ruth Jarman and Joseph Gerhardt, Sue Costabile, Chris Csikszentmihályi, Golan Levin and Zachary Lieberman, and Mark Hansen.Casey Reas is Associate Professor in the Design Media Arts Department at the University of California, Los Angeles. Ben Fry is Nierenburg Chair of Design in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University, 2006-2007.

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Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists + Getting Started with Processing + The Nature of Code: Simulating Natural Systems with Processing
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Editorial Reviews


"A whole generation of designers, artists, students, and professors have been influenced by Processing. Now, a handbook is published that goes far beyond explaining how to handle the technology and boldly reveals the potential future for the electronic sketchbook."Joachim Sauter , University of the Arts, Berlin, Founder, Art+Com

" Processing, the handbook and tutorial, is an indispensable companion to Processing, the integrated programming language and environment that has developed from phenomenon to revolution. Bridging the gap between programming and visual arts, the Processing handbook, in a concise way, connects software elements to principles of visual form, motion, and interaction. The book"s modular structure allows for different combinations of its units and self-directed reading. Interviews with artists who create software-based works and extension chapters that expand software practice into computer vision, sound, and electronics successfully connect the realms of art and technology. Now used by artists, visual designers, and in educational institutions around the world, Processing has been groundbreaking not only as an alternative language for expanding programming space, but as an attempt to nurture programming literacy in the broader context of art and cultural production."Christiane Paul , Adjunct Curator of New Media Arts, Whitney Museum of American Art

"Processing is a milestone not only in the history of computer software, of information design, and of the visual arts, but also in social history. Many have commented on the pragmatic impact of the open source movement, but it is time to also consider Processing"s sociological and psychological consequences. Processing invites people to tinker, and tinkering is the first step for any scientific and artistic creation. After the tinkering, it leads designers to their idea of perfection. It enables complexity, yet it is approachable; it is rigorous, yet malleable. Its home page exudes the enthusiasm of so many designers and artists from all over the world, overflowing with ideas and proud to be able to share. Processing is a great gift to the world."Paola Antonelli , Curator, Architecture and Design, MOMA

"This is an elegant and practical introduction to programming for artists and designers. It is rigorously grounded, informed by a vast amount of practical experience, and visually compelling. The worked examples are terrific. There's no better starting point for visual artists who want to learn how to think computationally, or for programmers who want to give visual and spatial expression to their ideas." William J. Mitchell , Program in Media Arts and Sciences, MIT

"This long-awaited book is more than just a software guide; it is a tool for unlocking a powerful new way of thinking, making, and acting. Not since the Bauhaus have visual artists revisited technology in such a world-changing way. Ben Fry and Casey Reas have helped a growing community of visual producers open up fresh veins of expression. Their work proves that code is open to designers, architects, musicians, and animators, not just to engineers. Providing a powerful alternative to proprietary software, Processing is part of a new social phenomenon in the arts that speaks to self-education and networked engagement."Ellen Lupton , Director of the graphic design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, and author of D.I.Y: Design It Yourself

"With Processing, Casey Reas and Ben Fry have opened up the world of programming to artists and designers in a manner that inspires playfulness and creativity with code." Red Burns , Chair and Arts Professor, Interactive Telecommunications Program, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University

About the Author

Casey Reas is Professor of Design Media Arts at UCLA and coauthor of Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists (MIT Press, 2007).

Ben Fry is Principal of Fathom, a design and software consultancy in Boston. Together, Reas and Fry cofounded Processing in 2001.

John Maeda is President of Rhode Island School of Design and former Associate Director of the MIT Media Lab. In 2008 Esquire magazine named Maeda one of the 75 most influential people of the twenty-first century. He is the author of The Laws of Simplicity (MIT Press, 2006) and other books.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (August 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262182629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262182621
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 7.1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,944 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exemplary November 23, 2007
In their Processing (the computer language and development environment), Casey Reas and Ben Fry set out to do something most people would have regarded as highly challenging, if not outright impossible: provide a platform on which technically-minded programmers and aesthetically-minded visual artists might find common ground and learn from one another's strengths. "Processing" (the book) makes good on these ambitions, with exemplary clarity and generosity.

"Processing" starts by quoting, and endorsing, legendary developer Alan Kay's definition of full literacy: "The ability to 'read' a medium means you can access materials and tools created by others. The ability to 'write' in a medium means you can generate materials and tools for others. You must have both to be literate." The clear implication is that one can only be a fully-empowered citizen of a digital age if one understands just how the tools which shape our environments and experiences were made - and Reas and Fry get just what a daunting prospect that is for most of us.

To a surprisingly great degree, acquiring even a rudimentary familiarity with Processing-the-language will help demystify exactly what's happening in the black-box machines that surround us. (Because Processing shares important syntactic elements with general-application languages like Java and C, the insights you pick up from wrestling with it will transfer with relative ease to those environments.) "Processing" does a great job of helping even an absolute novice like me ramp up to that level of familiarity quickly and painlessly.

But honestly, that's icing on the cake: Processing is really about placing all the computational power sitting on your desktop in the service of beauty.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a high school physics teacher with a lot of advanced students, I've been trying to work a bit of computer programming into the course over the last few years. I always wanted to do graphics programming with the students in order to help them visualize and simulate systems, because the pictures produced are a lot prettier and more rewarding than just the formulas on their own, but the languages I tried were just too difficult to teach from scratch in the time we had. Processing seems to be just what I'm looking for: it's free so the kids can download it themselves, and it really doesn't take much to produce stunning graphics. Now I would NOT recommend the book to someone with no programming experience at all - the emphasis of the book is clearly (and rightly) on how to get up to speed making images, not on what a variable is. That said, this book is a terrific resource for me; anyone with a basic programming course under their belt ought to have no trouble making sense of Processing's syntax, and the power of the language is phenomenal. The authors have done a fine job of both explaining the use of the Processing language, and showing off what it can do with all the examples. Processing is letting me do what I always wanted to do with a computer - make stunning graphics from mathematical information - at a level high school students can understand. If you are at all interested in Processing, download the free software and go here next.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a reference book! May 5, 2008
I have been watching the development of processing and the processing community for a few years but until now haven't explored it much.
I create live visuals for musical performances - mostly within the chiptunes music scene (people using game console hardware to create new music). Originally I did all of my work with PureData, GEM and other libraries but then decided to move to performing with handhelds, writing code for the GP2X and Gameboy Advance (because unlike newer machines, the GBA has video out).

For an upcoming project, I decided that I wanted to create a web "playable" version of the software that I have created for the gp2x (where the visuals react to the joystick, button presses, etc) - enter Processing!
I decided that Processing would be the best tool for this job because it is easy to deliver on the web, has functions for interactivity (key presses, mouse actions, etc), and is open source which is important to me.

After looking at the website, I decided that while there is a good reference there, a book might be nice. I was pleased to find the book "Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists" written by the creators of Processing, Casey Reas and Ben Fry and thought that no matter how useful it would be, it was good to support the developers of the project.

The pleasant surprise was that book is great!
I was expecting something like an extended reference book but it is much more than that. For one, this is a book that teaches programming concepts regardless of the language used to implement them.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Painless programming for the visual arts February 17, 2008
This is a great book on that new Java-based language designed with the visual arts in mind - Processing. Tons of essays, examples, tutorials, and interviews are in the book to convey a proof of concept of the language as well as instruction on how to program with it. The writing style - for you Java programmers out there - reminds me of a cross between "Core Java" and "Head First Java". The book uses Core Java's "assume nothing" approach with instructions and code examples for all facets explained and combines that with interviews that are something like what you see in the "Head First" series of books from O'Reilly. Although the emphasis is on the visual arts, of course, there is coverage of the parts of Processing that makes it a complete language - networking, printing, object orientation, interfacing, and language extensions. Highly recommended for anyone interested in using this new language.

Note that this new language is not just getting the attention of computer artists. It is of use in electronics projects as seen in the book Making Things Talk: Practical Methods for Connecting Physical Objects and in the art of information presentation for business purposes in Visualizing Data. The following is the table of contents for this book:

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars good quality
it was interesting book - as a dictionary.
Recommend to people who want to have a quick view of the processing concept.
It is good for the class room too.
Published 16 days ago by otli4ni4ka
5.0 out of 5 stars great book for processing
awesome read for someone who wants to use the full potential of processing to be able to do outstanding drawings. easy to read and understand as well as follow along.
Published 1 month ago by Anthony Scouras
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great book for anyone wanting to understand processing
Very comprehensive explanation of processing. A must have if you plan on learning and writing processing code. There are some great examples of this code to work with in the book.
Published 4 months ago by James E. Mikkalson
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Introduction Book
Simple and easy to understand book for beginner. Definitely recommend to any beginner. Nothing to complain for me. Have it for several years now.
Published 11 months ago by Anh Nguyen
5.0 out of 5 stars This is brilliant
You need this book. It's the most clearly laid out of all the books about processing.
The Shiffman on the other hand is very smart.
Published 11 months ago by G. Hovagimyan
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Do Any Processing Without This Book By Your Side!
I took some classes on processing and even did some teaching of processing to others, but the breadth of Processing is beyond what I thought I already knew about Processing and... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Manuel Muro
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book.
This book is phenomenal and I have read it before but I am reordering it because its so fun to program in processing and this books helps so much.
Published 17 months ago by Nicholas Lawson
1.0 out of 5 stars Be warned!
I expected more from a handbook! The textbook reads like reference documentation. If you are looking for the language reference documentation you can find it FREE on the... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Len
5.0 out of 5 stars Christmas Gift
This book was on the Christmas list for this particular person so this person was very happy to receive this book.
Published on January 6, 2012 by BEJ
5.0 out of 5 stars Great BOOOK.
This book is wonderful, I recommend to all people who want to learn visual art, visual programming. The authors teach from basic to advanced.
Published on December 23, 2011 by vj panick
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