Course Syllabus

Parsons The New School for Design
School of Art, Media and Technology
Computational Form
PSAM 3060 D, CRN 7496
Spring 2016
Fridays 3:50pm—6:30pm, 63 Fifth Ave Room 300
Justin Bakse

Course Description

Computer programming is a powerful tool for creating and manipulating form and has long been used to by artists, designers, and composers to explore new aesthetics. In this class, students will continue this tradition of experimentation by creating posters, music, animation, video, and 3D forms completely from code. This class will build on existing programming skills by introducing a variety programming languages, tools, and techniques related to procedural generation. Topics will include: scripting Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, audio synthesis in Javascript/p5, and using OpenSCAD to create models for 3D printing.

In short, in this class we will make things that make things.

Course Outline

The following outlines the main topics to be presented in each class. This may be adjusted during the semester.

Week 1Tiled GraphicsPaper
Week 2Generating Randomized ImagesJavascript + P5
Week 3Working With PixelsJavascript + P5
Week 4Turtle GraphicsJavascript + P5
Week 5Creating Vector DataAdobe Scripting
Week 6Generating AnimationsJavascript + P5
Week 7Manipulating Live VideoQuartz Composer
Week 8Visualizing SoundQuartz Composer
Week 9Generating SoundTBD
Week 10Generating TextJavascript
Week 11Generating 3D FormsOpenSCAD
Final Project
Week 12Final Project Work Time, Special Topic Lecture
Week 13Final Project Work Time, Special Topic Lecture
Week 14Final Project Work Time, Special Topic Lecture
Week 15Final Critique


Homework is the most important part of this class. If you do the homework regularly and keep up, you will do well. This course involves a new way of thinking and multiple new tools and languages. To learn any language or tool, you must use it. Homework is where you will apply what we discuss discuss in class.

For the first 11 weeks of the class the homework assignments will involve daily postings of sketches, project progress, and research. You are expected to post at least 4 sketches exploring the weekly topics to the class blog each week. You must make an effort to post work throughout the week, late work will not be accepted.

The last four weeks of the semester you will complete more developed project. The nature of your project is up to you (subject to instrctor approval), but should relate to the core concepts explored in this class. Your final project will be due before the beginning of the last class of the semester.

Learning Outcomes

In this course students should:

Assessable Tasks

Students will complete weekly assignments to demonstrate understanding of course material. These assignments will be evaluated based on technical, conceptual, and aesthetic exploration. In addition a multi-week final project will be assigned. This assignment will require deeper exploration, development, and application of course material.


Assignments will be graded using the following rough guide. Some assignments are more technical in nature, and will be graded with less emphasis on concept development. Please note that work that merely meets all stated requirements is considered “C” work. This is because all assignments are designed to allow (and require) further, self-directed exploration. Higher grades are reserved for work that demonstrates substantial effort and achievement in both technical skills and conceptual development. You are encouraged to think of assignments as starting points, and to build on top of them.

F0Did Not Turn In
C22-3 Posts Per Week, Average Crative/Technical Exploraiton
B33-4 Posts per Week, Good Creative/Technical Exploration
A44-5 Posts per Week, Very Good Creative/Technical Exploration

Undergraduate Grading

A [4.0; 96–100%]
Work of exceptional quality, which often goes beyond the stated goals of the course

A- [3.7; 91 –95%]
Work of very high quality

B+ [3.3; 86–90%]
Work of high quality that indicates substantially higher than average abilities

B [3.0; 81–85%]
Very good work that satisfies the goals of the course

B- [2.7; 76–80%]

Good work

C+ [2.3; 71–75%]
Above-average work C [2.0; 66–70%]
Average work that indicates an understanding of the course material; passable Satisfactory completion of a course is considered to be a grade of C or higher.

C- [1.7; 61–65%]
Passing work but below good academic standing

D [1.0; 46–60%]
Below-average work that indicates a student does not fully understand the assignments; Probation level though passing for credit F [0.0; 0–45%]
Failure, no credit

Grade of W

The grade of W may be issued by the Office of the Registrar to a student who officially withdraws from a course within the applicable deadline. There is no academic penalty, but the grade will appear on the student transcript. A grade of W may also be issued by an instructor to a graduate student (except at Parsons and Mannes) who has not completed course requirements nor arranged for an Incomplete.

Grade of Z

The grade of Z is issued by an instructor to a student who has not attended or not completed all required work in a course but did not officially withdraw before the withdrawal deadline. It differs from an “F,” which would indicate that the student technically completed requirements but that the level of work did not qualify for a passing grade.

Grades of Incomplete

The grade of I, or temporary incomplete, may be granted to a student under unusual and extenuating circumstances, such as when the student’s academic life is interrupted by a medical or personal emergency. This mark is not given automatically but only upon the student’s request and at the discretion of the instructor. A Request for Incomplete form must be completed and signed by student and instructor. The time allowed for completion of the work and removal of the “I” mark will be set by the instructor with the following limitations:

Undergraduate students: Work must be completed no later than the seventh week of the following fall semester for spring or summer term incompletes and no later than the seventh week of the following spring semester for fall term incompletes. Grades of “I” not revised in the prescribed time will be recorded as a final grade of “F” by the Registrar’s Office.

Resubmitting Work

Because this class is structured around daily exploration, I will not be accepting resubmitted assignments.

Extra Credit

Extra Credit will be given for formal contributions to the class. One way to contribute is to provide corrections, enhancements, or additions to the class materials and website. For example, spelling and grammar corrections submitted through a pull request will earn a small amount of credit. More credit can be earned by adding content to class notes or resource pages, authoring small tutorials that benefit the class, etc.


Each student must have a Github account. We will use Github to turn in and host assignments.


Each student must have a Tumblr account. We will use Tumblr to share daily exercises.

Office Hours

By appointment. Email to arrange.

Required Reading

There is no required reading for this class. Links to online articles of interest to class topics will occasionally be provided.

Textbook and Materials

There is no required textbook for this course. Please bring your laptop, a notebook, a sketchbook, and some pens and pencils to each class.


We only meet once per week, and new material will be introduced each week. I strongly discourage missing any classes. In accordance with Parson’s attendance policy, if you miss three classes you will likely be asked to withdraw from the class. Two late arrivals or early departures will count as one absence. Inappropriate use of a laptop (e.g. browsing social media during critiques or lectures) may result in being marked as an absence.

Laptop Policy

We will spend a good amount of class time working together on coding projects. During work time, computers will be used. However, during a lecture, discussion or critique, computers must be closed or set to sleep. Note-taking can be done on paper. Nothing kills a conversation like a room full of people staring at screens.

Plagiarism and Open-Source

Code reuse is a complex issue in computer programming. Looking at existing code is a key part of the programming process, especially while learning. You often learn best by modifying working examples rather than starting from scratch. We stand on the shoulders of giants; that is the essence of the open-source philosophy.

Copy/paste makes it easy to use other’s code without fully understanding it. It is important when using example code that you take the time to read, study, and understand it. In many cases this process can be improved by retyping code.

In a professional environment, the best practice is often to reuse existing code as much as possible. When learning however, it is often best to do as much as possible from scratch.

With that in mind, you may use limited amounts of existing code in your homework. However, there is a very important caveat: any code you use, borrow, and/or modify must be labeled as such. If you study code closely but do not directly use any of it, you should still cite the code you studied in your own source. You must include the name of the author (even if it is me or a student in this class), the source URL, and you must make clear which lines of code are not yours. If you fail to do this, you will fail the class. It is very, very easy to get this right, though, so if you take a moment’s time to label your work correctly, you will not have a problem. Be diligent and honest.

Divisional, Program and Class Policies


Students are responsible for all assignments, even if they are absent. Late assignments, failure to complete the assignments for class discussion and/or critique, and lack of preparedness for in-class discussions, presentations and/or critiques will jeopardize your successful completion of this course.


Class participation is an essential part of class and includes: keeping up with reading, assignments, projects, contributing meaningfully to class discussions, active participation in group work, and coming to class regularly and on time.


Parsons’ attendance guidelines were developed to encourage students’ success in all aspects of their academic programs. Full participation is essential to the successful completion of coursework and enhances the quality of the educational experience for all, particularly in courses where group work is integral; thus, Parsons promotes high levels of attendance. Students are expected to attend classes regularly and promptly and in compliance with the standards stated in the course syllabus.

While attendance is just one aspect of active participation, absence from a significant portion of class time may prevent the successful attainment of course objectives. A significant portion of class time is generally defined as the equivalent of three weeks, or 20%, of class time. Lateness or early departure from class may be recorded by the instructor as one full absence. Students may be asked to withdraw from a course if habitual absenteeism or tardiness has a negative impact on the class environment. Members of the faculty are expected to provide syllabi in which course objectives and assessment criteria are described, in writing, at the beginning of the term. The syllabus should also articulate how attendance is assessed with respect to active participation.

At Parsons, attendance and lateness are assessed as of the first day of classes. Students who register after a class has begun are responsible for any missed assignments and coursework. Students who must miss a class session should notify the instructor and arrange to make up any missed work as soon as possible. A student who anticipates an extended absence should immediately inform the faculty and his or her program advisor. Advance approval for an extended absence is required to ensure successful completion of the course. Withdrawal from the course may be recommended if the proposed absence would compromise a student’s ability to meet course objectives.

Finally, faculty are asked to notify the student’s advisor for any student who misses two consecutive class sessions without explanation or who otherwise miss a significant portion of class time. Following two absences, students may be asked to speak with their advisor to review any impediments to their successful performance in class and, if so, to provide confirmation to the faculty member that such a conversation took place.

Religious Absences and Equivalent Opportunity Pursuant to Section 224-a of the New York State Education Laws, any student who is absent from school because of his or her religious beliefs will be given an equivalent opportunity to register for classes or make up any examination, study, or work requirements which he or she may have missed because of such absence on any particular day or days. The student must inform the instructor at the beginning of the course of any anticipated absences due to religious observance.


Use of Canvas may be an important resource for this class. Students should check it for announcements before coming to class each week.


In rare instances, I may be delayed arriving to class. If I have not arrived by the time class is scheduled to start, you must wait a minimum of thirty minutes for my arrival. In the event that I will miss class entirely, a sign will be posted at the classroom indicating your assignment for the next class meeting.

Electronic Devices

The use of electronic devices (phones, tablets, laptops, cameras, etc.) is permitted when the device is being used in relation to the course’s work. All other uses are prohibited in the classroom and devices should be turned off before class starts.

Academic Honesty and Integrity

The New School views “academic honesty and integrity” as the duty of every member of an academic community to claim authorship for his or her own work and only for that work, and to recognize the contributions of others accurately and completely. This obligation is fundamental to the integrity of intellectual debate, and creative and academic pursuits. Academic honesty and integrity includes accurate use of quotations, as well as appropriate and explicit citation of sources in instances of paraphrasing and describing ideas, or reporting on research findings or any aspect of the work of others (including that of faculty members and other students). Academic dishonesty results from infractions of this “accurate use”. The standards of academic honesty and integrity, and citation of sources, apply to all forms of academic work, including submissions of drafts of final papers or projects. All members of the University community are expected to conduct themselves in accord with the standards of academic honesty and integrity. Please see the complete policy in the Parsons Catalog.

It is the responsibility of students to learn the procedures specific to their discipline for correctly and appropriately differentiating their own work from that of others. Compromising your academic integrity may lead to serious consequences, including (but not limited to) one or more of the following: failure of the assignment, failure of the course, academic warning, disciplinary probation, suspension from the university, or dismissal from the university.

Student Disability Services (SDS)

In keeping with the University’s policy of providing equal access for students with disabilities, any student with a disability who needs academic accommodations is welcome to meet with me privately. All conversations will be kept confidential. Students requesting any accommodations will also need to meet with Jason Luchs in the Office of Student Disability Services, who will conduct an intake, and if appropriate, provide an academic accommodation notification letter to you to bring to me. SDS assists students with disabilities in need of academic and programmatic accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.