Processing, a programming handbook for visual designers and artists

More and more software aimed at visual designers, animators or artists, incorporates the possibility to script or program certain aspects of it.
Be it to produce sinusoidal movement in After Effects, simulate growing trees in Maya, optimize an effects chain or simply streamline your workflow: the power is in your hands.

Ok, true, it might not be all that simple and yes, it requires studying and a lot of trial and error. It is in that respect no different than any other medium one tries to tackle.
The programming language ‘Processing’ uses the analogy of sketching, hinting at its ease of use and the speed with which one can transform an idea into a working program. It is aimed specifically at people that are interested in programming but who may be intimidated by or uninterested in the type taught in computer science departments.

The book “Processing, a Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists”, is not as much a manual for, well, processing, as it is a comprehensive introduction to programming-aided-design. This in part because processing is powerfull and yet very transparent and straightforward. Ranging from general programming jargon to visual design concepts and briefly touching on electronics, this book contains everything you need to get an idea of what is possible and how it is within your grasp.

Clearly the authors set out to make the book they would’ve loved to have had when they started out. With this book MIT shows that it doesn’t like to do a half-baked job. It is the result of over fifteen years of research, linked to the MIT Aesthetics and Computations Group. It proves to be well thought-out all the way through to the appendices.
The book is divided in units, that do not have be read or studied front to back. A reader can also choose to follow each category (for example Input, Shape, Structure), although it might be that certain aspects require knowledge from other units. But it really is about using the book with your own interest as a guide.
Interviews with artists who use a varying degree of programming in their practice provide welcome interludes throughout. Inspiring examples such as Josh On (They Rule), Richard Linklater (Waking Life), Sue C (Minimovies) and last but not least MIT’s own Golan Levin are subjected to the same set of questions covering the traditional who, what, when, where, how and why.

This book is a valuable asset for every designer who wants to add the programming of his/her own software to his/her toolset. Its main goal is to make programming accessable to artists and designers alike and to promote the ‘art of programming’ as more than just a tool.

If you want to see processing in action, you can download it for free at : processing.org.
More info on this book and a download of all the code examples in it can be found at the same address.