Computational Approach to Graphic Design

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Since the emergence and widespread distribution of a large number of high-level programming languages, e.g., Processing (which first appeared 2001), many graphic designers have incorporated computation in their research and practice. Increasingly, graphic designers today do not only use existing standard software but create their own programs by using code and data, and taking programmatic, or computational, approaches to design. To date, literature and other published work exploring computation in the context of graphic design are small in number (in comparison to, for example, published work on computation in the context of architecture) and limited in scope. Examples of published work that demonstrate how to use code for creating visuals are “Designed by Numbers” by John Maeda from 1999, and “Generative Design,” published in 2012, by Hartmut Bohnacker, Benedikt Gross, Julia Laub and Claudius Lazzeroni; yet, there is little focus on what constitutes a programmatic perspective and why and how computational approaches might be taken. In this regard, increasing uses of and interest in computation for graphic design demand research on how graphic designers are informed by computation and computational approaches in their process. This article examines first, the comparison between taking a computer-aided approach, i.e., using standard software programs in graphic design, and a computational approach, i.e., writing one’s own programs through computation in graphic design; and second, what some of the contributions or benefits there may be to the latter.