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When coding and design collide

A lot of people would not think of code and design as complementary except for a designer and lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney’s School of Design. For him, they most certainly are.

According to a recent report, the designer’s most recently curated exhibition, called “Hello World: Code and Design”, examined how code is escaping the black box of the computer and being materialised in the world in different ways.

Usually, people envision someone who is sitting in front of a computer in a little office cubicle, writing a software program, when they think of coding.

There is a lot of rhetoric around how coding is an essential literacy of the 21st century. But for many, the image they conjure of what that might mean in the future is limited to being a professional software engineer.

This is where the Hello World exhibition comes in.

The exhibition examined the role of code in contemporary design, considering the ways in which designers are integrating computation into their practice.

It showed twenty-two designers printing, sewing, assembling and hacking in order to free code from the computer’s dark interior.

In the process of prising open the lid on modern technology, these designers have experimented with new ways of being digital.

Low cost electronic components, and the physical computing and maker cultures they have created, now see code at work in everything from simple household items and toys to weapons and wearables.

Each of the 22 works displayed in the exhibition showcase objects and technologies from across design, in fashion, textiles, moving images, graphics and the handmade.

Additive manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing meant that once invisible and immaterial processes are emerging into the tangible world of objects.

At the same time, industrial processes have moved from the factory to the home.

There is a dress constructed entirely from laser cut acrylic and a 3D printed gun. Each display reveals the social, political, and economic impact of code in the world.

During the whole duration of the exhibition, which was held at the University’s Gallery, there was a strong public program of events.

Among the events were 21 curator talks and two panel discussions. There were also weekly high school workshops, which were held for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds and young women interested in STEM.

The students toured the exhibition before undertaking a 3D modelling and printing workshop in ProtoSpace, the University’s new state-of-the-art digital fabrication facility.

These workshops have given the students a “taste” of the possibilities of design.

It is really important for people to realise that technology is not something that is bestowed upon them from on high.

It is actually something that they can work with, that they can rework and have some agency over.

Moreover, it is about engaging with young people and switching them onto the creative and critical possibilities of how they can take technological systems and make them their own.

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