Time Capsule 4 - Playful code

Send six artefacts and lessons back to 1994

How many smart devices have you interacted with today? Whether you woke up to your smartphones alarm, checked into the train using the digital gates or visited your daily websites chances are you used a digital device. These devices have become so intertwined and ingrained within our culture and society that we do not question their place, yet only a fraction of our society knows how their invisible, code-based language works.

I myself am not a coder. Before I starting at my Masters, I had dipped my toes in the various languages, but they scared and confused me so I never fully immersed myself. However after various workshops, experiments and teaching, I could see a certain logic which transcended the screen and formed the framework holding together the fabrics of the digital world. While I will never posses the mind of a developer, I believe that it is vital for a designer to at least understand the work involved in writing code and what is possible, instead of simply passing a finished design and expecting to see it built. An architect must have some comprehension of structural intensity and material knowledge in order to design good, solid buildings that not only are aesthetically pleasing but also push the boundaries of what is possible.

We live in a digital world, surrounded by technology and devices. How can we design for a world we do not comprehend or understand?

The last couple of years has seen a drive behind making coding more accessible to the average person by making it fun, interesting and approachable.

In the UK, for example, the BBC has been involved in the Microbit Project which involves teaching code to children using simple draggable blocks. Apples iPad has an app called “Playground” which consists of various lessons teaching the Swift language in small interactive puzzles.

“Computational thinking teaches you how to tackle large problems by breaking them down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable problems.” – Dan Crow, CTO of SongKick

‍Lesson 1 - Design code for people, code for designers.

Even in the current form of coding, there is much to be desired.

The spoken language is elastic and dynamic, meanings can interpreted and words can be played, formed and morphed. As a novice, code lacks this fluidity and forgiving nature. Syntax errors are a frequent teeth gritting result of my experimentation and learnings.

To bridge the gap between the world of coding and that of traditional design, I would like to inspire designers and developers of 1994 to play, learn and build new tools together that intuitively empower non-coders.

Lesson 2 - Pixels are dead, code as a tool.

We are nearing the beginning of the end of screen first based design. Technology has advanced to the point of not always needing a screen. The gleaming canvas of pixels, sleek visual interfaces and prodding fingers is now not the only thing that needs a designers attention. Haptics feedback, voice control, ambient technology and more are no longer second class citizens to a designer.

I would like to teach the 1994 designer to not always design for the screen and to do so designers need to create prototypes unlike the classic web or app based brethren. How would a 1994 digital designer start designing the latest version of Apples HomePod or Googles Home device?