design systems :: making technologies and processes accesible and usable through the construction of inexpensive and elegant programming environments and hardware systems. the underlying goal is to expand the computational design community.
My research group (aesthetics + computation) is in the process of developing a series of computational design systems and programming environments.
There are three major systems thus far, DBN, Proce55ing, and Nylon. In addition, there are a variety of smaller, less comprehensive environments that have been experimented with in classes or for research, such as Pert. Our design systems are intended to be used for educational reasons, as they teach basic programming or hardware concepts. However, we also use the systems for the design and development of interactive/dynamic computer graphics, digital art/design, information visualization, etc.
The first of these systems is DBN (Design By Numbers), and is the brainchild of our advisor, John Maeda. It is an enviroment for designing 100x100 pixel grayscale dynamic/reactive graphics applications. John wrote a book about DBN and it has been used in many of his undergraduate courses at M.I.T.
The second of these environments, Proce55ing, is still being built. It is the predecessor to DBN, and is being developed by Ben Fry and Casey Reas. It is a more robust and useful iteration of DBN, allowing for better handling of complex code. It has greater graphics functionalities, yet maintains the elegance and simplicity of the DBN language. The intent of Proce55ing was to build a prototyping/sketching language for computational designers. Proce55ing has been used in various workshops and in John Maeda's graduate course during the fall of 2001.
The third and more recent system is the Nylon environment, born in March 2002. Nylon floats between DBN and Proce55ing in its graphics capabilities. However, Nylon allows code to be written for and uploaded to a Nylon protoyping board, which contains a basicX microprocesssor, and access to 8 digital output pins, 4 digital inputs, and 4 a/d inputs. Code is loaded to the board through a serial connection with your PC. In addition, the board can send graphics code to a display unit, known as HotPants, which is a 10x17 LED matrix display, developed as part of the Nylon system.
The Nylon programming environment can simulate the hardware as code runs on the Nylon board and HotPants display. Nylon is being developed by Simon Greenwold, Justin Manor, and Megan Galbraith. It has been used for John Maeda's spring 2002 undergraduate course and will be used in a workshop at the end of August.
For more information about Pert, please email Jared Schiffman.