Presentation Open Access

Computational Literacy for Graphic Design

Dario Rodighiero

Late years have seen growing debates about artificial intelligence. Such a spread depends on the positive results in applying recent technologies to face and voice recognition. This so-called second generation of artificial intelligence is affected by three factors: 1) the availability of large amounts of data, 2) the increase of computational power, and 3) new statistical algorithms.

Although what we call artificial intelligence appears like an autonomous entity, we often forget that there is always a human presence behind the machine. It’s up to humans to shape artificial intelligence, even if such intelligence disappears later in a black box.

Artificial intelligence, and more generally all the objects crafted with a computer, is always related to a design process. Design is therefore a discipline that is not formally limited to graphic design, especially when we see that the boundaries of disciplines are intertwined.

Graphic design is a form of design, as such it cannot be isolated by forming boundaries with other disciplines including artificial intelligence or computing. Many graphic designers draw using algorithms, using computer programming as a way to foster creativity. For example, John Maeda had this idea in mind when he supported Ben Fry and Casey Reas to develop Processing, a programming language for computational graphic design. Proving that the MIT Medialab is famous for anticipating new tendencies, after twenty years Processing is still maintained and employed.

Some disciplines such as the digital humanities support scholars in developing technical skills to change their daily practice, and some schools teach computer programming from a young age. Today designers can learn computer programming without being afraid. The benefits in terms of creativity and job opportunities are obvious.

Artificial intelligence is among the tools that a designer can use. The distance in front of artificial intelligence can be filled up by studying and practicing at home and school. The point is not discussing what artificial intelligence is, but rather inviting the largest number of people to be familiar with programming. The demystification of computer programming should begin in youth, and designers cannot be unready for the data age. Graphic design cannot be distinct from data and algorithmic design, they should go side by side. Society as well as designers need updated education programs, they need a computational literacy.

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