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  • Bree Volker

Code Savvy Presents: Creative Coding

By Bree Volker
girls standing at a laptop with the words creative coding above them

Have you ever heard of creative coding technology? Creative coding is computer programming that aims to make artistic media. This kind of programming that creates art has been used since the 1960s but really took off in the 80s. Usually when you think about coding you think of programs that are functional and ask a computer to complete a certain task. Creative coding creates a large variety of media such as art, video games, and even music.

In order to make creative codes you need both an artist and a programmer to work together. The artist first creates a central idea or focus to base the work off of. Then, the programmer makes drafts of the artist’s idea. Coding expert Sean Zhai describes artists and programmers as “creatures who do not even speak the same language”. It is key to have communication in a creative coding team in order to make sure the goal is met. Usually, this type of work has a lot of trial and error to make the perfect end piece and it is easier to build off of other projects instead of creating a new invention.

This is a creative coding art piece named Sphere 3D made by Jessica In

creative coding piece titled Sphere 3D by Jessica In

Creative coding may seem like technology just for seasoned professionals but in reality, it is taught to people of all ages! There are many different types of creative coding programs, but when starting out, many choose to use the program, Scratch. This platform is free and allows beginners to invent interactive media such as animations or games. Their goal is to make coding accessible and create opportunities for learners.

Scratch is considered visual programming which offers an easier learning experience. MIT created Scratch and in 2020 58 million projects were shared and there were over 48 million monthly website visits! Scratch is used in over fifty languages and used by hundreds of thousands of educators. Scratch tries to keep coding simple by using ten basic categories of programming blocks.

The 10 basic categories of programming from Scratch: motion, looks, sound, events, control, sensing, operators, variables, blocks, and extensions.

The most popular tool for creative coding is called JavaScript and up to 98% of websites have used their technology. Essentially, JavaScript is like a language that programmers use to code. Traditional coding with JavaScript requires you to type specific commands to reach your desired function. The creators of JavaScript wanted to create something that could further students’ experience and knowledge of coding so they created a creative coding platform JavaScript includes subcategories of tools such as D3.jS and the more popular, P5.js.

P5.js is a database or library that is mainly used for creative coding. This database contains code that has already been written to allow users a more seamless process. P5.js also has a canvas feature with drawing tools so you can transfer the drawing into a coding language. Another unique feature that P5.js has is a coordinate function to plot lines and shapes, and even to generate colors.

a graphic representation of the x-y axis and the height and width of an ellipse made with code.

JavaScript does have a larger learning curve than block programming, but the end results include much more detail for more advanced programmers.

You can find some of the simulations from our own Code Savvy program on P5.js to see some of these things in action. And be sure to stay tuned this month as we dig into creative coding even more, including an interview with one of the folks at P5.js for this month's Code Savvy Presents podcast!


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