• 07.19.11

VOID, An iPad Mag That Aims To Teach The Art Of Coding

Natalie Hanke’s mag-app doesn’t exist in the iTunes Store yet, but it should.

VOID, An iPad Mag That Aims To Teach The Art Of Coding

The visual programming language Processing is one of the coolest design tools out there, and I write about it all the time. But have I learned the language myself? No: because I have yet to stumble across the perfect “onboarding” experience, something that makes me forget about how difficult learning to program seems, while still building up the necessary “101-level” skills. A new iPad magazine called VOID would seem to be just what I’m looking for: it’s gorgeous, immersive, and instructive, dedicated to the practice of creative coding, but aimed at non-coders. I can haz plz?


Just one problem: it doesn’t exist. It’s only a concept, created by a designer named Natalie Hanke. “I think learning code should be made an essential part of a designer’s education, especially nowadays,” Hanke tells Co.Design. “Not because I think that every designer should be able to code complex programs, but because the nature of code is an analytical one: It’s the nature of looking at a problem and figuring out a solution. Coding can help us to think in more abstract ways which can be of great help in a lot of situations — and also not always necessarily related to the digital realm.”

Hanke became enamored with creative coding (and Processing in particular) as a student designer, and VOID is her attempt at visualizing “the current state of available magazine apps for tablets and ways and possibilities to involve the user more into the magazine content.” She decided to make VOID all about visual programming itself, since “it’s giving immediate visual feedback, thus encouraging interaction and the game-play character, which is essential to the iPad as a medium. Also, the basics of the Processing environment are very easy to learn, which is another reason why I got interested in coding back then.” (The name VOID is a reference to the “void setup {}” and “void draw {}” commands in Processing, which Hanke says “are the essential building blocks of each program.”)


[The app would include dossiers on all-stars of creative coding such as Ben Fry, complete with major works.]


[Features on visual techniques walk the reader through the code behind them.]


The first “issue” of VOID contains collections of works by data-viz demigods like Aaron Koblin as well as tons of examples of generative art, which the user (if the app were real) would be able to tweak and manipulate visually, and then see the corresponding lines of Processing code highlighted in turn. “Interaction with the visual outcome of the source code will fuel their motivation to carry on coding, thus exploring more and more of the environment,” Hanke explains. “Although VOID is still a concept, I would love to turn it into a real app. So if there are any programmers who would like to work with me on a non-commercial app, please feel free to contact me.” Won’t someone please take her up on this offer? VOID looks like so much more fun than buying a Processing textbook.

[Top image: The New York Talk Exchange, a visualization of IP traffic created by the MIT Senseable City Lab]

About the author

John Pavlus is a writer and filmmaker focusing on science, tech, and design topics. His writing has appeared in Wired, New York, Scientific American, Technology Review, BBC Future, and other outlets.