Design by Numbers Paperback – October 1, 2001
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John Maeda shows graphic designers how to step back a level and create their own digital tools. His elegant book could change the way we think about graphic design; I hope it will.―William J. Mitchell, Dean, School of Architecture and Planning, MIT
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jimi hendrix once said that he and keith emerson played the same instrument -- the speakers. they just used a different "axe." for digital artists, maeda's techniques are as revolutionary as the electric guitar or synthesizer.
parents often feel compelled to teach their children certain skills - to swim, to ride a bike, throw a ball, to play an instrument. with "numbers" maeda adds a new skill that list - true computer literacy for artists who otherwise see the computer as an intimidating means to an end.
Much of the book will also give you insight into computational art. Many nice example programs are given from which variations are easily created, and the author offers some glimpses into his own philosophy.
The computer language used for the programs, dbn, seems designed to impose very pure, minimalist art. It uses a tiny screen space (101x101 pixels), no colours (only 101 shades of grey), has a small set of keywords (there's no "else" construct!) and has no built-in support for graphical primitives beyond points and lines. What's more, it is an interpreted language, and the interpreter is written in Java, which makes it pretty slow when run from a browser. You can however make some very attractive little programs with it, and it has the ease-of-use of a scripting language.
The book is a quick read, having sparse text spread out over 256 pages :P but you really have to type out and try the programs to get the most out of it. Overall it's quite cool.
Beautiful grey/black combinations, meticulous rags, tiny illustrations and a very interesting grid make this the best looking book with sample code I've ever seen.
It's a book about method, so if it's Maeda's work you want to see, I assume his next book is the one you want.
It is a beautifully made basic primer which articulates the virtues of a new technology for design-- it has a proud place on my shelf next to 'Grid Systems' by Josef Mueller-Brockmann and 'Typography' by Emil Ruder.