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Creative coding is essential for pushing design boundaries, say UCA experts

As National Coding Week is recognised across the globe this week (19 – 25 September), experts from our School of Architecture have said that it is absolutely essential to blend the disciplines of coding and designing in order to continue to push the boundaries of design thinking. 

Head of School Allan Atlee and lecturer and digital technologist JJ Brophy, who are developing the new BSc (Hons) Creative Coding and Technology degree course, argue that making coding part of the design vocabulary and encouraging coders to think as designers is vital for the future of design because of the impact that new technology is having on the creative industries.

“Coding is becoming integral to design because computer technology is now common place in a whole range of everyday objects and environments,” Allan says. “People are surrounded by smart technology and have an expectation to be able to interact with the world around them. In order for technology and design to completely interact, it is important to develop artists and designers who incorporate coding into their design process, and to create coders who are able to think as designers.

“Traditionally many designers have had great ideas and then tended to look for people with the technical know-how who can make those ideas a reality. In today’s world, the designers who really make a difference are the ones that understand and can work with the technologies themselves. They are able to look at the whole concept and integrate things into the design process. Graduates with these skills will be in huge demand, both in traditional fields such as architecture and exhibition design, but also in areas of coding where spatial thinking is paramount, such as gaming and interaction design.”

JJ adds: “Design is moving in a direction where it needs to be more reactive and dynamic, so blending these skill sets and introducing a generation of designers with technical coding abilities is extremely important to the design industry of the future.  People expect the digital world around them to be more interactive and smarter, for example smart buildings require code to be written so that they can react – coding adds that degree of intelligence to something which may otherwise have been really passive.”

The BSc (Hons) Creative Coding and Technology degree is set to launch next year and will be part of the School of Architecture at our Canterbury campus.

“The University’s School of Architecture has a history of pushing the boundaries of what we might think of as the potentials of design and design thinking,” JJ says. “If you put a coding course in that environment, you allow a rich creative design input to influence how a coder might be developing their projects.”

Students will have access to a huge range of technologies including computer labs, a purpose-built VR suite, spatial tracking technology, laser cutting and 3D printers, as well as more traditional design workshops and materials including metal, plastics, glass and fabrics.

Allan adds: “In addition to these facilities, students are able to immerse themselves at our Canterbury campus in creativity, working alongside architects, artists, graphics and interior designers, to realise the potential of the technology they are working with.”

National Coding Week is recognised throughout the UK, US and Australia and aims to raise awareness of the need to improve digital literacy in order to fill a growing skill gap.