Interactivity / DESMA 28 / UCLA Design Media Arts

Interactivity (DESMA 28)
Summer 2017
UCLA Department of Design Media Arts

Tuesday and Thursday, 9am–12:45pm
Young Research Library, RC Classroom 11630F

Instructor: Kate Hollenbach
(Office Hour: Thursday 1:30–2:30pm, Broad 5240)


This course is an introduction to writing code in the context of visual arts and design. We will look at historical and present day examples of media created with code—art, games, tools—and learn the fundamentals of creating interactive media with code. Concepts and skills covered in this class will prepare students for future upper division classes in the Design Media Arts department about Network Media (161), Game Design (157), and Media Arts (159A, 171).

Software influences the design of architecture, books, video games, movies, and fine art. Learning how to think about software as a medium provides the student an opportunity to examine, question, and even resist existing conventions in digital culture. While this course is only an introduction to creating software in the context of the arts, it aspires to encourage students to pursue further studies and new modes of expression.


There is one exercise and one assignment for each unit, followed by one final project that is an expansion of one of these assignments.

1: Drawing and Systems

How do computers draw? How do you define the parts and rules of a drawing system? You will create a program that allows a user to make marks or draw on a digital canvas.

2: Pattern and Sound

Drawing inspiration from visual patterns in textiles and architecture, we will look at the computer as a means for creating complex visual forms with repetition of geometric elements. We will incorporate animation of patterns as a response to sound.

3: Nonlinearity

How can we build narrative experiences for the computer that take advantage of its unique modes of interaction? You will create an experience where the participant, or user, has agency over their choices.



Grades will be determined with the following % breakdown:

  • Participation: 15%
  • Exercises: 15%
  • Project 1: 15%
  • Project 2: 15%
  • Project 3: 15%
  • Final Project: 25%

Work will be evaluated on how well it demonstrates understanding of the class material, conceptual creativity, aesthetic quality, and technical skill.

Late assignments will be accepted, but points will be deducted from the final score.


Participation in a studio class is key! Please show up to class prepared to work, be ready to discuss your work and your classmates’ work, and stay focused. Ask questions in class and share your thoughts during class discussions. Challenge yourself and be encouraging of others as they do the same. Be attentive and considerate to your classmates.

Please do not use your phone or check personal communications (email, Snapchat, Facebook, etc.) during class.


Each unexcused absence will lower your final grade by one whole unit (for example, A- to B-). Three unexcused absences will result in a failed grade in the class. If there is an emergency and you must miss class, please email me before class. Absences will not be excused after the fact except in extreme circumstances. Illness requires a doctor’s note.

Class starts at 9:00. If you are more than 15 minutes late for class, you will be marked tardy. Three tardies become equivalent to one unexcused absence.

Access to DMA Labs

Though our class meets in the Young Research Library, students also have access to the 4th floor labs in the Design Media Arts department at the Broad Art Center. Please see the lab schedule for more details.

Media and Resources

Required Reading and Viewing

  • Getting Started with p5.js, by Lauren McCarthy, Casey Reas, and Ben Fry. Maker Media, 2015
  • Foundations of Programming in JavaScript videos by Dan Shiffman. (Available free online.)

Suggested Reading

  • Form+Code in Design, Art, and Architecture by Casey Reas and Chandler McWilliams. Princeton Architectural Press, 2010

In the summer, this course has many students from outside of the Design Media Arts major. If you’re looking for further reading on visual design in general, please consider these resources.

  • Interaction of Color by Josef Albers. Yale University, 2006
  • Visual Grammar by Christian Leborg. Princeton Architectural Press, 2006
  • Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton. Princeton Architectural Press, 2010 (Available free online)

Coding Resources

Commitment to Diversity

In this class we make a commitment towards diversity by acknowledging the different identities and backgrounds we inhabit. A collaborative effort between the students and the teacher is needed for creating a supportive learning environment. If a class member says that something you have said or shared with the group is offensive, remember this is a valuable opportunity for everyone present to grow and learn from one another with further discussion. All class members are encouraged to discuss such instances with the instructor so they can be addressed with greater care in the future. [ voidLab / CC SA ]