Generative Design: Creative Coding on the Web with P5.JS

A book about discovering design through creative coding.


In 2009, Generative Gestaltung: Entwerfen. Programmieren. Visualisieren. was published in German by Schmidt Hermann Verlag. The book was developed out of the Bachelor Thesis, Generative Systeme by Benedikt and Julia, which aimed to: 1. help designers see code as a material and tool to expand their design practice and 2. suggest a new way of teaching coding through contextual highlighting of key coding concepts in a progressive manner - true to the foundational principles of the Processing coding environment and community. This came at a time when coding was still considered a tool for “programmers and engineers” and not artists and designers.

In 2012, Princeton Architectural Press published the book in English with the title Generative Design: Visualize, Program, and Create with Processing. Since its release, the Generative Design book has become something of a household name in the design and creative coding community; I’ve often times heard artists and designers refer to it “the reason” why they started making visuals programmatically. Casey Reas, one of the founders of Processing said, “In my opinion, Generative Gestaltung is by far the most exciting book that uses Processing published to date. The book is an extraordinary achievement…”.

Now in 2018, Generative Design: Visualize, Program, and Create with P5.js serves as a modern update and interpretation of the motivation, concepts and aesthetics put forth by Benedikt Groß, Hartmut Bohnacker, and Julia Laub over 8 years ago. With the release of P5.js, the JavaScript interpretation of Processing, there are now infinite more possibilities to create new forms and interactions. While people no longer need to be convinced of the value of coding, the Generative Design book continues to make programming more accessible. The contributions of this work continue to expand the possibility of what can be done when artists, designers, and others begin to build their own tools to make their ideas tangible. All other things aside, the book is also just beautifully designed and produced.