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Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists

4.7 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262182621
ISBN-10: 0262182629
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Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists (MIT Press)
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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.

An internationally recognized leader at the intersection of design and technology, John Maeda is Design Partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in Silicon Valley. He served until 2014 as the 16th President of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and before that was Associate Director of the MIT Media Lab. He is a designer, technologist, and catalyst behind the national movement to transform STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to STEAM with the addition of the arts. He is the author of Design by Numbers (1999), The Laws of Simplicity (2006) and Redesigning Leadership (2011), all published by The MIT Press.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 712 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (August 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262182629
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262182621
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Adam Greenfield on November 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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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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Format: Hardcover
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 Processing.org 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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This book is, quite simply, a godsend. If you are an artist that enjoys tinkering with all things technological (especially an artist that enjoyed mathematics or beating up your computer in high school lab class) than it's certainly for you. If, on the other hand, you are the type of person that hopes to breeze though this and start applying "techie things" to your video art, then you are in for a let-down...it IS a bit tough for someone that has never played with a computer programming language. No way around it, you're going to have to WORK!!

But, that's the thing. You're supposed to work, massage, twist, graft, apply, subtract and otherwise mangle these functions and commands until they do some (random, unexpected) beautiful thing. This is exactly what the authors want you to do. Take their simple equations and use your imagination to change them up a bit and make your own.

And, a big plus is how the whole book is structured. It starts with simple enough topics and progressively increases in difficulty, BUT, and here is the stroke of genius for artsy types, it does so by switching the topics here and there from shapes, to type, to math, to random, to trig, to type again, back to shapes...etc. So, you see, it's structured (if you read from cover to cover in a linear fashion) in a way that will NOT bore the reader in any way. It's as if Reas and Fry knew that most of us artsy types were (completely and hopelessly) ADHD and needed this kind of variety to keep our interest (lord knows they probably wish they did, coming from artistic backgrounds before entering MIT as grads). And, as an added bonus, if you are the kind of person that likes the topics all neatly together, there is a second topical index behind the main index so you can jump through the book by topic.
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