Designing Programs [Theory]

(This essay was commissioned by Centre national des arts plastiques for Graphisme en France 2012)

Technical mastery and innovation are part of the rich history of visual design. The printing press is the quintessential example of how a shift in design technology can ripple through society. In the Twenty-First Century, innovation in design often means pushing the role of computers within the visual arts in new directions. Writing software is something that's not typically associated with the work of a visual designer, but there's a growing number of designers who write custom software as a component of their work. Over the last decade, through personal experience, We've learned many of the benefits and pitfalls of writing code as a component of a visual arts practice, but our experience doesn't cover the full spectrum. Custom software is changing typography, photography, and composition and is the foundation for new categories of design practice that includes design for networked media (web browsers, mobile phones, tablets) and interactive installations. Most importantly, designers writing software are pushing design thinking into new areas. To cut to the core of the matter, we asked a group of exceptional designers two deceptively simple questions:

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