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Design by Numbers [Paperback]

J Maeda
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 27.95
Price: 25.94 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

15 Oct 2001
Most art and technology projects pair artists with engineers or scientists: the artist has the conception, and the technical person provides the know-how. John Maeda is an artist and a computer scientist, and he views the computer not as a substitute for brush and paint but as an artistic medium in its own right. Design By Numbers is a reader-friendly tutorial on both the philosophy and nuts-and-bolts techniques of programming for artists.Practicing what he preaches, Maeda composed Design By Numbers using a computational process he developed specifically for the book. He introduces a programming language and development environment, available on the Web, which can be freely downloaded or run directly within any JAVA-enabled Web browser. Appropriately, the new language is called DBN (for "design by numbers"). Designed for "visual" people -- artists, designers, anyone who likes to pick up a pencil and doodle -- DBN has very few commands and consists of elements resembling those of many other languages, such as LISP, LOGO, C/JAVA, and BASIC.Throughout the book, Maeda emphasizes the importance -- and delights -- of understanding the motivation behind computer programming, as well as the many wonders that emerge from well-written programs. Sympathetic to the "mathematically challenged," he places minimal emphasis on mathematics in the first half of the book. Because computation is inherently mathematical, the books second half uses intermediate mathematical concepts that generally do not go beyond high-school algebra. The reader who masters the skills so clearly set out by Maeda will be ready to exploit the true character of digital media design.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; New Ed edition (15 Oct 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262632446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262632447
  • Product Dimensions: 25.3 x 25.3 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 194,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

"John Maeda shows graphic designers how to step back a level and create their own digital tools. His elegant book could change the way we think about graphic design; I hope it will." --William J. Mitchell, Dean, School of Architecture and Planning, MIT

About the Author

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
1 BEGIN Our forefathers at the Bauhaus, Ulm, and many other key centers for design education around the world labored to create a sense of order and method to their teaching. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Way to Teach (and Learn) 18 May 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I am an artist who became a programmer many years ago. While it is a difficult transition, it is not quite as uncommon as I thought. If this book had existed back then, it'd have been much easier and more fun.
I occasionally train people in how to program, I bought Design by Numbers because it starts at the beginning. Instead of going the "Hello, World!" route, it teaches how to use programming to get visual results instead of textural results. This book has been designed for visual people to learn the basics of programming logic, in my mind, that means it will work for just about everybody.
When I'm teaching, I tell my students that the biggest hump is learning the programming logic, not the language. Once you've got the understanding of the logic, each new language you learn becomes easier to pick up. This book does a great job at assuming nothing and explaining everything.
Lastly, it is very attractively designed, so it will appeal to the artist.
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Was this review helpful to you?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
how do you teach a child to play an instrument? how do you instill a sense of rhythm and tone -- expressiveness? maeda's instrument is the computer, and he is a viruoso. in "design by numbers," maeda introduces us to his instrument the same way a piano teacher teaches a student to play -- through a series of exercises and drills designed to both build skill and reveal the awesome power of the medium.
jimi hendrix once said that he and keith emerson played the same instrument -- the speakers. they just used a different "axe." for digital artists, maeda's techniques are as revolutionary as the electric guitar or synthesizer.
parents often feel compelled to teach their children certain skills - to swim, to ride a bike, throw a ball, to play an instrument. with "numbers" maeda adds a new skill that list - true computer literacy for artists who otherwise see the computer as an intimidating means to an end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good even if you already know programming 2 July 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
If you're already a programmer, be warned that much of this book covers elementary programming concepts. I nonetheless found the author's explanations of these refreshingly innocent.
Much of the book will also give you insight into computational art. Many nice example programs are given from which variations are easily created, and the author offers some glimpses into his own philosophy.
The computer language used for the programs, dbn, seems designed to impose very pure, minimalist art. It uses a tiny screen space (101x101 pixels), no colours (only 101 shades of grey), has a small set of keywords (there's no "else" construct!) and has no built-in support for graphical primitives beyond points and lines. What's more, it is an interpreted language, and the interpreter is written in Java, which makes it pretty slow when run from a browser. You can however make some very attractive little programs with it, and it has the ease-of-use of a scripting language.
The book is a quick read, having sparse text spread out over 256 pages :P but you really have to type out and try the programs to get the most out of it. Overall it's quite cool.
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Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars inventive and original achievement 6 July 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Not meant to teach a useful programming language, as the last reviewer seems to have expected, but a critical innovation in the way design is taught. Design by Numbers is meant to teach digital designers the language their tools already speak, but which students rarely learn. There's compromises for both programmers and deisgners here--and that it's slow in your browser is certainly not an important one--but this book offers insights for both camps. It's also quite attractive and contains more information than you'd expect on a quick flip through.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Design and Programming Tutorial 1 Aug 1999
By Simulacrum - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is both a book and an interactive tutorial in computer programming for artists and designers. While it is now common for printed books to include CD-ROMs, this one has instead its own website where free software, called DBN (Design By Numbers), can be accessed, downloaded, and used by anyone with a JAVA-enabled browser. Using the book and website in combination, it is the intention of the author (who heads the Aesthetics and Computation group at MIT) that designers, even those who are "mathematically challenged," might quickly acquire "the skills necessary to write computer programs that are themselves visual expressions," and, as a consequence, "come to appreciate the computer's unique role in the future of the arts and design." Unfortunately, the layout of the book is so unexceptional (particularly the dust jacket, which might have been used in a powerful way) that it is unlikely to convert any graphic designers, who create far more complex forms intuitively, with little or no knowledge of programming. As a result, it may only reach those who need it least, meaning those who are already straddling the line between art and mathematics, between graphic design and computer programming. (Copyright by Roy R. Behrens from Ballast Quarterly Review, Vol. 14, No. 4, Summer 1999.)
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You know, it's strange.... 29 Nov 2000
By Rick Mullarky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I like this book a lot, but the thing I like best has nothing to do with programming --- It's the attention to typographic detail.
Beautiful grey/black combinations, meticulous rags, tiny illustrations and a very interesting grid make this the best looking book with sample code I've ever seen.
It's a book about method, so if it's Maeda's work you want to see, I assume his next book is the one you want.
It is a beautifully made basic primer which articulates the virtues of a new technology for design-- it has a proud place on my shelf next to 'Grid Systems' by Josef Mueller-Brockmann and 'Typography' by Emil Ruder.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Way to Teach (and Learn) 18 May 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I am an artist who became a programmer many years ago. While it is a difficult transition, it is not quite as uncommon as I thought. If this book had existed back then, it'd have been much easier and more fun.
I occasionally train people in how to program, I bought Design by Numbers because it starts at the beginning. Instead of going the "Hello, World!" route, it teaches how to use programming to get visual results instead of textural results. This book has been designed for visual people to learn the basics of programming logic, in my mind, that means it will work for just about everybody.
When I'm teaching, I tell my students that the biggest hump is learning the programming logic, not the language. Once you've got the understanding of the logic, each new language you learn becomes easier to pick up. This book does a great job at assuming nothing and explaining everything.
Lastly, it is very attractively designed, so it will appeal to the artist.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars inventive and original achievement 6 July 1999
By Andrew Otwell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Not meant to teach a useful programming language, as the last reviewer seems to have expected, but a critical innovation in the way design is taught. Design by Numbers is meant to teach digital designers the language their tools already speak, but which students rarely learn. There's compromises for both programmers and deisgners here--and that it's slow in your browser is certainly not an important one--but this book offers insights for both camps. It's also quite attractive and contains more information than you'd expect on a quick flip through.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good even if you already know programming 2 July 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
If you're already a programmer, be warned that much of this book covers elementary programming concepts. I nonetheless found the author's explanations of these refreshingly innocent.
Much of the book will also give you insight into computational art. Many nice example programs are given from which variations are easily created, and the author offers some glimpses into his own philosophy.
The computer language used for the programs, dbn, seems designed to impose very pure, minimalist art. It uses a tiny screen space (101x101 pixels), no colours (only 101 shades of grey), has a small set of keywords (there's no "else" construct!) and has no built-in support for graphical primitives beyond points and lines. What's more, it is an interpreted language, and the interpreter is written in Java, which makes it pretty slow when run from a browser. You can however make some very attractive little programs with it, and it has the ease-of-use of a scripting language.
The book is a quick read, having sparse text spread out over 256 pages :P but you really have to type out and try the programs to get the most out of it. Overall it's quite cool.
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