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

Casey Reas , Ben Fry
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 17 2007 0262182629 978-0262182621 1

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 (www.processing.org), 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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"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.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Je suis un adepte de Processing et, considérant l'engouement croissant autour de cette application, j'attendais avec fébrilité la parution de l?ouvrage. Il faut dire que j'anticipais la fierté que devaient éprouver les auteurs du bouquin, ces derniers étant également les principaux responsables de ce fabuleux logiciel libre, initialement développé au MIT. De fait, l'ouvrage est très soigné. Présentation impeccable, avec une alternance intéressante entre des extraits de code et des entrevues, tenues avec la crème des créateurs numériques contemporains. Le contenu se livre à travers une série de petites capsules de quelques pages à la fois : structures, données, mathématiques, contrôle, forme, pixel, couleur , typographie, simulations... Il fournit également une série d'annexes pratiques : optimisation du code, traitement des caractères spéciaux dans les langues étrangères, positionnement de Processing dans les langages de programmation et applications destinés aux concepteurs médias. Enfin, comme le format du livre est relativement petit, la taille des caractères l?est également. En revanche, je trouve agréable la sensation d'avoir sous la main un objet de connaissance aussi sophistiqué, sans la prétention d'un livre grand format. Pour conclure, on ne peut que recommander chaudement l'acquisition de cet ouvrage à toute personne susceptible de tomber sous le charme des arts computationnels.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction July 6 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Liked this book a lot. Gives a good introduction to programming for people who have done little if any in the past and serves as a nice stand alone text on both the programming environment and what you can do with computer manipulated images.

Happy to recommend.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Sept. 24 2013
By blank
Essential book if you want to start learning Processing, or just the basics of programming in general. Beautiful design and the Author is a reference in the subject. Lost of examples.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exemplary Nov. 23 2007
By Adam Greenfield - Published on Amazon.com
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. The sheer joy of seeing your imagination take shape on the screen, seeing a creation respond to external input, watching something organic and vivid take shape from a bare few lines of code - these are tremendous feelings, and the book places them within ready reach.

Also particularly gratifying is their commitment to the open-source ethos, a fundamental statement of belief in the power of openness and sharing which infuses every page. In "Processing," Reas and Fry talk quite an impressive game...and then go on to walk it. I can't recommend it highly enough to any artist or designer - no matter how "non-technical" or computerphobic you feel yourself to be - who would incorporate software's unique capacity for dynamic evolution and interactivity in their work.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a different, and beautiful, approach to programming May 4 2008
By Paul Bianchi - Published on Amazon.com
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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a reference book! May 5 2008
By Paris Treantafeles - Published on Amazon.com
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. Although I have previous programming experience, I know that I could give this book to someone with no previous experience and they would be able to follow along and not only learn Processing, but learn programming. Sure, you can learn programming by reading C (or name your favorite language here) tutorials, writing text to the screen, reading and writing to files, etc. but ... I think that for some people it's much more exciting and motivating to see cool things happen, shapes moving, colors changing, etc. when they type in commands, learn about functions, conditionals, objects and so on. This book does that.

Another interesting thing about the book is that periodically there are interviews with visual artists who create with software - and not all with processing but with various types of software. I liked these and could imagine seeing more (or just new ones) in future editions of the book or online. I'll admit that I only use open source software so I am biased, but could imagine seeing more mention of Pd (Pure Data) as alternative to Max/Jitter.


Overall, the book is very well written and enjoyable to read even when you aren't in front of a computer (I read much while traveling) - the authors make reference to many pioneers of computing, visualization, motion graphics, film, etc. and I had fun looking up those whose works I wasn't familiar with. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in creating visuals with computers.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pedagogic masterpiece Oct. 7 2008
By dijitalhaze - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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.

In closing, Reas and Fry have done us "new media" types a great service by developing a trimmed-down form of Java programming so that we don't have to do the heavy work and learn full-blown Java or C++ on our own (though, after using this language, the hope is that it WILL get us "artsies" to learn those higher level languages and make genre-smashing art). So, get going!

P.S. The only thing I wish this book had were MORE Exercises at the end of each topic. Or, a workbook that had more problems to solve, like my old Calculus text that had 30 problems after each section. Guys, could we, just maybe, extend the problem sets in a future edition, from three to maybe 10? It would be much appreciated! :)
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Painless programming for the visual arts Feb. 17 2008
By calvinnme - Published on Amazon.com
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:

Processing... 1
Using Processing 9
Structure 1: Code Elements 17
Shape 1: Coordinates, Primitives 23
Data 1: Variables 37
Math 1: Arithmetic, Functions 43
Control 1: Decisions 51
Control 2: Repetition 61
Shape 2: Vertices 69
Math 2: Curves 79
Color 1: Color by Numbers 85
Image 1: Display, Tint 12
Data 2: Text 101
Data 3: Conversion, Objects 105
Typography 1: Display 111
Math 3: Trigonometry 117
Math 4: Random 127
Transform 1: Translate, Matrices 133
Transform 2: Rotate, Scale 137
Development 1: Sketching, Techniques 145
Synthesis 1: Form and Code 149
Interviews 1: Print 155
Structure 2: Continuous 173
Structure 3: Functions 181
Shape 3: Parameters, Recursion 197
Input 1: Mouse I 205
Drawing 1: Static Forms 217
Input 2: Keyboard 223
Input 3: Events 229
Input 4: Mouse II 237
Input 5: Time, Date 245
Development 2: Iteration, Debugging 251
Synthesis 2: Input and Response 255
Interviews 2: Software, Web 261
Motion 1: Lines, Curves 279
Motion 2: Machine, Organism 291
Data 4: Arrays 301
Image 2: Animation 315
Image 3: Pixels 321
Typography 2: Motion 327
Typography 3: Response 333
Color 2: Components 337
Image 4: Filter, Blend, Copy, Mask 347
Image 5: Image Processing 355
Output 1: Images 367
Synthesis 3: Motion and Arrays 371
Interviews 3: Animation, Video 377
Structure 4: Objects 395
Drawing 2: Kinetic Forms 413
Output 2: File Export 421
Input 6: File Import 427
Input 7: Interface 435
Structure 5: Objects II 453
Simulate 1: Biology 461
Simulate 2: Physics 477
Synthesis 4: Structure, Interface 495
Interviews 4: Performance, Installation 501
Extension 1: Continuing... 519
Extension 2: 3D 525
Extension 3: Vision 547
Extension 4: Network 563
Extension 5: Sound 579
Extension 6: Print 603
Extension 7: Mobile 617
Extension 8: Electronics 633
Appendixes 661
Related Media 693
Glossary 699
Code Index 703
Index 705
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