What is DBN?

Design By Numbers was created for visual designers and artists as an introduction to computational design. It is the result of a continuing endeavor by Professor John Maeda to teach the “idea” of computation to designers and artists. It is his belief that the quality of media art and design can only improve through establishing educational infrastructure in arts and technology schools that create strong, cross-disciplinary individuals.

DBN is both a programming environment and language. The environment provides a unified space for writing and running programs and the language introduces the basic ideas of computer programming within the context of drawing. Visual elements such as dot, line, and field are combined with the computational ideas of variables and conditional statements to generate images.

Programs are written in the right half of the environment and displayed in the left.

  A sample program and its result.

DBN is not a general purpose programming language like C or Java, but was designed to familiarize people with the basic concepts of computational media. Studying DBN is a first step to take–not a final step. Its advantages are:

  1. free to use and multiplatform
  2. easy to understand syntax designed for beginners
  3. immediately accessible on the web

There are three primary components to the Design By Numbers System:
  1. Design By Numbers core software
    This software contains the complete DBN environment and can be viewed from the web or downloaded to an individual's computer.
  2. Design By Numbers book published by MIT Press
    Takes readers step by step through the DBN language with explanation of examples.
  3. Design By Numbers Courseware
    A flexibly designed website generator built for educators who want to use DBN to teach computational design.



Design By Numbers is Copyright 1999-2001, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
DBN was developed by the Aesthetics and Computation Group at the MIT Media Laboratory.