This article was written in 2013. It might or it might not be outdated. And it could be that the layout breaks. If that’s the case please let me know.
Last week the incredible Bret Victor released a video of a presentation he gave in which he shows what computer art should look and behave like. He thinks computer art should be more like a computer game than like a painting: the thing that makes a computer unique is the fact that you can actually interact with it. The computer can react to what the artist, or the viewer, does. In his own words:
Without behaviour, it’s not native
In the beginning of this talk he explains that the programs mostly used for computer art are not good enough. With Photoshop you can make beautiful images, but they are static, it’s an emulation of what we had before: paper. Programs like After Effects are great for making animations, but this too is an emulation of what we had before: TV. You can look at it, but it won’t react to what you do. So he proposes a different tool which enables the artist to create stuff that reacts to input. It gives the artist the possibility to react to input from the public. If people laugh, you can repeat a certain joke, for instance. This is of course not possible with tools like Photoshop and After Effects.
I was surprised to see that different fields of work have issues with Adobe products too, for similar reasons. Somehow Adobe is very good at selling products that are not really innovative, and somehow people keep using them, and thus are limited in their creativity. It’s easy to make a comparison between computer arts and the web by changing Bret’s quote to this:
Without adaptation, it’s not the Web
Unfortunately, there are no good all purpose web design tools yet. There are micro tools like the International Measure Slider that help you in defining breakpoints for your grid. There are tools like Gridset that help you with creating grids for different screen sizes. There are excellent tools that help you define typography. And there are new graphics editors like Acorn. For a fraction of the price of Photoshop you can design better websites with the use of these tools. Especially when you get rid of your fear of code.