AMES, Iowa — How is the creative process captured or cultivated with a computer program? How is coding transforming the created product?

Researchers, scientists, designers and artists from a spectrum of disciplines will come together March 7-9 at Iowa State University to address these questions during “Coding Design / Designing Code,” the 2018 Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities (CEAH) Symposium.

Organized by College of Design assistant professors Caroline Westort, landscape architecture, and Alex Braidwood, graphic design, the free symposium will highlight innovative creative programs, products and experiences produced through computer programming and approaches to coding that enhance the creative process.

“Coding is transforming the way we work and express ourselves. In creative disciplines in particular, coding empowers us to be our own toolmakers, no longer mere end users of software,” Westort said. “Parametrics, scripting and customization enable us now to express ourselves in very new ways and to create our own digital future.”

Symposium participants will share and collaboratively create work through computational thinking and computer programming, culminating in development of a conceptual framework for creative coding, she said. “The cross-disciplinary energy that can result from being in the same space together to make cool code is conceptually and technically fertile ground for invention.”

The three-day event will include a keynote panel discussion with the symposium’s five featured speakers, presentations, performances, exhibitions and interactive workshops. See the complete schedule.

Keynote panel

Panelists include:

  • Bradley Cantrell, professor and chair of the University of Virginia Department of Landscape Architecture, whose work focuses on the role of computation and media in environmental and ecological design.
  • Stephen Ervin, director of computer resources, assistant dean for information technology and lecturer in landscape architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. His research and teaching focus on design, computing, media and technology with special interest in landscape modeling and visualization and the integration of CAD and GIS.
  • Rodney Hoinkes, “chief disruption officer” for the Food and Drink Innovation Network in London and a serial entrepreneur, landscape architect and algorithmist who has authored some of the most innovative and powerful landscape modeling and visualization software.
  • Taekyeom Lee, an assistant professor of graphic design at Appalachian State University and an interdisciplinary designer who specializes in digital fabrication, creating his own 3D printers and advancing the technology’s capabilities in ceramic printing.
  • Brett Renfer, the creative director of Bluecadet, a company working at the intersection of art and technology, who is also an adjunct faculty member in the New School’s design and technology program and New York University’s interactive telecommunications program. His work ranges from large-scale, interactive installations to digital media.

Each speaker will give a brief presentation addressing the two core questions posed by the symposium, Braidwood said, and he and Westort will facilitate an interactive conversation among the speakers and the audience. They look forward to pulling people from a variety of disciplines together into “an active, deliberate space where we can learn from each other,” he said.

“What we’re doing really does feel like new territory, where it’s about artists and designers coming together and looking at things that are in common — for instance, everyone works with technology and everyone works with people in some way — and then the differences start to be really interesting,” Braidwood said. “You have people who deal with communication and information, people who deal with spaces and environments, and a lot of fascinating areas for potential overlap.”

For those who believe coding is too technical or doesn’t apply to what they do, Westort said, “I think they would be surprised to find how accessible, powerful and fun it is. This symposium is one way to explore the potential of coding in design and other fields.”


All symposium events are free and open to those who register online.

The symposium is funded by a CEAH symposium grant with additional support from the College of Design, Department of Graphic Design, Department of Landscape Architecture and Department of Art and Visual Culture.


Alex Braidwood, Graphic Design & Sustainable Environments, (313) 595-3155 (text is best), abr@iastate.edu
Caroline Westort, Landscape Architecture, (515) 294-7011, cwestort@iastate.edu
Sadie Lewman, Design Communications, smlewman@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289, hsauer@iastate.edu