Last Fall, I added a new application to my toolkit: I began using an application called Processing. The bad news is that it’s a programming language. The good news is that anyone can start drawing shapes on screen in a few minutes, and given an hour or two of attention, you can start inventing and sketching with the code. Did I also mention that it’s free?
Since I started with Processing, I’ve worked it into about half of my projects. Sometimes it’s useful for merely finding the shape of a data set. Other times, I start with an idea of what I’d like to create, and use Processing to get there. My final approach is one I tried this week. I drew the output I was after in Illustrator, then used Processing to make an app that would give me that output … now I can tweak the scale or number of data inputs to recreate a custom graph on the fly without having to redraw the entire composition.
I was also extremely encouraged to see another designer pick up Processing and make some exceptional graphics for Facebook’s F8 conference. Bernard Barry started by drawing icons as a web of nodes and ended up with a little application to render images uses this technique from any SVG file.