Why transition from product to code?

I love things. Shoes, nerf guns, cloths, furniture, electronics, the Marc Newson LV luggage, Apple products, everything. I’d love to have a 3D printed Curta computer designed by Curt Herzstark while he was in a concentration camp! I studied product design because I wanted to make things, I wanted to be the critical eye that produced lightweight, durable, well considered, and elegant products. But all these wonderful objects come with a substantial burden. I can’t afford it, I don’t have the space for it, and I move so frequently that they become an substantial pain in the ass to pick up and move. Even the tools required for me to prototype and produce and prototype ideas are a substantial burden.

From the supply side, logistic challenges of sourcing materials, manufacturing products, and distributing them are substantial. Not to mention the burden our planet. Despite my sincere effort, everything I make will become landfill. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I’m not turning my back on product design forever. I will come back to it for pleasure when I have more money, space, and time. (The same conditions others have for owning a horse.)

If not products, then code?

I was always envious of communication designers, they had all the tools on their MacBook pros so they could work anywhere, and they could go straight from their screen to a final output with an Epson 9900 printer. With all that capability, CD students could be a nimble and effective one person operation. Meanwhile, I needed days to fabricate my final model, and if I wanted another, the time commitment would scale linearly. I tried to minimize this disadvantage using 3d printers and CNC machines, but no matter the approach, making things was slow.

With code, I can build a tool by myself, and share it through the web just as quickly as a Communication Design student. It doesn’t cost me extra time or money to share it five, fifty, or 500 times. I can bring the tools with me wherever I go. Right now I’m at a retail job with plenty of downtime, perfect moments to fit in coding.

From a more general perspective, code is the medium of our time, and the a solid foundation for whatever medium is next. Computation will likely cannibalize many other art forms as digital tools become more usable and capable. I imagine it will bring another dimension to everything from sculpture, to storytelling in video games and film. They will likely merge together. A particular dream of mine is for a theater director to cast, and direct a theater performance composed of sentient AI actors performing alongside human actors. The idea of a director critiquing an AI’s delivery or movement by demonstrating the same way one would with another human excites me. (yep, westworld)

Code itself is a medium, not an end product. No user is looking for a great api(duh?). What people do care about are the services and experiences enabled by code. This delightful filter is a fantastic example. It’s everything I love; Utilizes the inherent form principle, Demonstrates excellent craft, and distributed widely for “free”. It’s also elegantly simple.

I’m a three dimensional thinker at heart. I can choose to learn how to code, and pick up some visual communication skills, but it’s all support material for me. My dream is that the future of VR/MR/AR, will allow me to combine my 3d knowhow, with all the benefits of a medium that scales and distributes effortlessly.


Temple Rea is a new designer in NYC

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