So, what does a Creative Coder do?

Job profiles at Serviceplan

We´ll admit it right away: agencies tend to post job openings with peculiar titles and print even more eccentric job titles on business cards. People from outside of our industry shake their heads at what is printed before the junior/senior or director on our cards. And that is exactly the reason why, we have decided to bring light into the dark. So, in the next few weeks, we will enlighten you on some of the more ambiguous job titles. We will write about what these people really do for a living.

Let’s get started with the creative coder. Hopefully Ret Lauterbach, technical director at Plan.Net Technology and Stephan Enders, head of innovation studio in the Plan.Net Group, can help us figure out, what creative coders do for a living.

Ret Lauterbach & Stephan Enders

Our first question is: on how many of our Serviceplan business cards will we find the job title creative coder?

“To be honest, there are not many. For us, the creative coder is more of a skill set than a function”, Ret admits. “We tend to speak of a creative coder, when one person has programming-, design- and conceptual skills”, Stephan adds.

While the technical definition from the University of Bayreuth is a different one: “Creative coding describes the use of programming languages and code as design means for medial production. It does not encompass software-development as a discipline, but combines methods that are described as bricolage, tinkering or hacking in the original sense (source: After that, the University of Bayreuth swerves into details about art production in programming, which kind of makes sense if you listen to Joshua Davis (and please ignore the swearwords in the lyrics):

But, let´s get back to the reality of agency life: both, Ret and Stephan agree on the fact, that the roots of creative coding lie somewhere between design and IT. Creative coding was also boosted by the app hype in the late 2000s, when interfaces between iOS and other systems became possible. The infrastructural base was built to tackle new types of projects. Concept, code and design were no longer incompatible trades. Working with iterative and agile processes, ignoring previous disciplinary boundaries and having a start-up mindset, suddenly made the realization of many great projects possible. “Back in the day, at some point or the other, you would always hit the limits of animation possibilities and after effects. Instead of using thousands of layers and millions of vector points, I just started applying flash and coding instead. You basically learn while you’re at it. Code, rules, boundaries, SVG, processing – these are a creative coder´s tools. Just the way others use pen and paper. They are means of expression and toolkit in one” – Ret summarizes for us.

Problem-solving instead of technical specifications

„You have to have a great amount of intrinsic motivation to reach the limits of what is possible”, Stephan emphasizes. “Design skills and basics in usability are important, but you also need the skill of conceptual thinking. In the essence, iterative processes and a strong will to source out all possibilities are key factors for reaching maximum quality.”
“An IT specialist will still offer the best code” Ret adds. “But to reach quick and great results, it is enough to be able to produce an implementable and variable code.”

Being able to reach first results quickly and demonstrate the variety of technical possibilities, are key characteristics of a creative coder. Agile processes, design thinking and permanent-bet are keywords that we cannot neglect in our conversation about creative coding. “Creative coding is something you do not find in any technical specification document. It has something to do with the ability to solve problems with a fairly small team”, Stephan adds with a smirk. And indeed, many times, solitary freelancers with an IT or design background show us what is possible and how to do it.

But also within our agency context, the boundaries are cracking and multidisciplinary teams are coming up with surprisingly efficient, creative and practical solutions:

Expert-knowledge and the right mindset are much more important than a specific type of education – such as multimedia designer. You need to be open for a variety of disciplines and be enthusiastic towards anything digital. “People are sharing and spreading their knowledge. They use Open Source and publish their codes. This open exchange of information and data is what dominates the scene now. Creative coders are willing to learn from one other, so they can each reach their goals faster and more efficiently. Inspiration comes from merging disciplines. Automotive design for example, can be the inspiration for an interface. And even if you visit developer conferences, you still might be inspired by flipping through an illustrated hard cover.”

Stephan adds, “we use multidisciplinary teams to work on product evolution and advertising-as-a-service projects”. It is no longer about having important roles, but rather about mixing the right people and skills from a variety of disciplines. People that manage to think outside of the box will form the future with us. Such as creative coders.

Tune in and watch these two projects on how creative coders can make icebergs cry and recreate vintage computer art:

Becoming fluent

Stephan declares for the future, that „programming will soon become what writing is today – at least in a basic version. For us to be able to comprehend our digital world”.
The educational system also feels the need to offer programs to „not just read, but write the digital world “, conducting coding classes and e-Learning programs for elementary schoolers.

“Digital competency already is a basic prerequisite for people to add value in companies. And, it is the only kind of expertise that will help us be able to handle technology in a responsible and sustainable manner”. Ret also adds: “Just look at what IBM is doing with Watson regarding artificial intelligence and how BMW is progressing in means of autonomous driving. For us to live an active and self-determined life in the future, we will have to be able to do a lot more than program our VCR. “

Creative Coder

  • Profile

    The creative coder is a design-talented nerd, that has enough social skill to be able to efficiently solve complex projects in multidisciplinary and changing teams.

  • Education

    Anything to do with design/media/IT; career changers are welcome!

  • Commitment

    Quality above quantity! Our standard 40-hour week will give you plenty of time to get your work done, if you work in concentrated and disciplined manner.

  • Superpower

    You can generate an infinite number of aesthetic pattern with one SVG-file and just a few lines of code.

Did we spark your appetite to solve problems with us instead of pegging away at technical specifications? Then go ahead and apply for an internship at Plan.Net and breathe some agency air!

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