Week 3: conditionals & iteration

Dr Charles Martin

Semester 2, 2020


  • recap of last week’s lecture
  • code theory conditionals & Booleans, iteration (loops)
  • assignment 1 example


assignment 1 due this coming Monday (question time at the end)

Remember that the git process you follow for the labs is exactly the same as the process you’ll follow to submit assignment 1!

complete your pledge of integrity

remember the Git help videos

Course reps

Your course reps are now listed on the Getting Help page.

These fine folks are here to listen to your concerns or issues confidentially, you can contact them over email, Teams, or on the forum.


p5 uses a setup, draw, draw, draw… “draw loop”

variables are a way to give names to values (e.g. numbers, strings, etc.) which might change


the “path” the running program takes through the code

jump around, then jump back (but it’s predictable)


mostly numbers so far: numeric literals (e.g. 42) and number variables (e.g. height, mouseY, frameCount)

but there are other types (as we’ll see)

code theory

two new concepts:




if I run, I can make it to the tram stop in time”

if I have a spare month I’ll read War and Peace

“I’ll start assignment 1 when I’ve finishd watching Netflix”

representing truth

Boolean type

there’s a special data type for representing truth values called Boolean

unlike Number (which can take any numeric value, e.g. 54 or 2.55) or String (which are collections of characters e.g. "lorem ipsum"), Boolean variables must be either true or false

// here are some boolean variables
let the_sky_is_blue = true;
let the_sea_is_red = false;

Boolean logic

you can also get a Boolean from the result of a logical expression (MDN docs)

  • < (less than)
  • <= (less than or equal to)
  • > (greater than)
  • >= (greater than or equal to)
  • == (equal to, note the double equals sign)
  • != not equal to

Boolean logic

all these variables are also Boolean

let x_is_small = mouseX < 100;
let y_is_big = mouseY >= 500;
let jan_is_happy = !true;

combining Boolean expressions

we can use logic to check multiple things at once:

  • && (and)
  • || (or)
  • ! (not)

combining Boolean expressions

this allows us to do things like

(the_sky_is_blue && the_sea_is_red)
(the_sky_is_blue || the_sea_is_red)

note: each whole line above evaluates to true or false depending on whether the parts are true or false

function setup() {
    createCanvas(windowWidth, windowHeight);
    fill(240, 50, 10);

// unconditional love
function draw() {
    arc(width/2-100, height/2-100, 250, 250, PI, TWO_PI);
    arc(width/2+100, height/2-100, 250, 250, PI, TWO_PI);
    triangle(width/2-225, height/2-100, 
             width/2+225, height/2-100, 
             width/2, height/2+200);

but unconditional love is hard to find!

what if you want your sketch to do one thing some of the time, and another thing the rest of the time?

javascript has an if statement:

if (condition) {
  // do something
} else {
  // do something else

this also has a human-language intuition

if (the_sky_is_blue) {
} else {

conditional love


Boolean madness!

there’s a whole course on this: http://programsandcourses.anu.edu.au/2019/course/PHIL1005

the take-home message is that javascript has a special place in its heart for true/false logic stuff, and that place is the Boolean type

and I guess that if you want to take a course about love, maybe try https://programsandcourses.anu.edu.au/2020/course/PSYC1003?

what could Boolean variables be used for?

monitoring some aspect of a program which is either true or false:

  • has something been clicked?
  • is something finished?
  • enhancing readability of your code (e.g. if you create variables called isFinished, gameStarted, etc.)

a note about the docs

here we come up against the javascript vs p5 thing—I’ll try not to make things more complicated than they need to be, but it’s also important not to lie to you (and there is a bit of trickyness here)

language features like if statements (and while/for loops later) are part of the javascript programming language (which is what p5 is written in)

the best javascript docs are on the Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) (p5 reference is no good here)

I’ll point you to the reference material which is most appropriate


i.e. loops

you’ve already seen a loop—the draw loop

but sometimes you want to do multiple things in a loop within a frame (i.e. a single flow through the draw function)

while loop

the first type of loop we’ll look at is the while loop:

  // do some things while "condition" evaluates to true

does this look familiar?

while loop intuition

a human-language intuition:


a working example

let count = 0;

// count < 5 is a logical comparison
// (with a true/false answer)
while(count < 5){
    random(width), random(height), // x and y
    10*count, 10*count             // width and height
  count = count + 1;
function setup() {
  createCanvas(windowWidth, windowHeight);

function draw() {

  let x = 0;
  while (x < width) {
    fill(x/2, random(255), 255);
    rect(x, 0, random(10), random(height));
    x += random(10);

looping tips

make sure the Boolean expression will evaluate to false at some stage—otherwise you’ll loop forever!

you probably want to have some variable which you modify in the loop, and then when the modifications are “done” the expression in the while loop should be false

when writing a loop, look at your code: be the computer (think about types & flow)

for loop

the other type of loop in javascript is the for loop

it’s like a while loop, but it has the “modify the loop variable” (e.g. count = count + 1;) part built-in

for (let i = 0; i < 10; i=i+1) {
  // loop code goes here

in this example we called the loop variable i (although you can give it whatever name you like)

differences between for and while loops

let i = 0; 
while (i < 10) {
  // loop code goes here 
for (let i = 0; i < 10; i=i+1) {
  // loop code goes here

code theory recap

Boolean expressions (e.g. mouseX < 500) and if statements let us control the flow: do this or that

loops (for, while) allow us to control the flow: do this over and over again

you’ll get lots of practice in the labs

further reading/watching

Shiffman videos:


while and for loops

MDN javascript docs (have a look at the Tutorials & References menus in the sidebar)

ass1 artist statement

what are you trying to achieve with your name tag as a work of art?

  • what is the inspiration for your design?
  • what concepts are you trying to explore (e.g. shape, colour, etc.)?
  • how have you tried to balance the goals of interestingness and readability?

example artist statement

My nametag is inspired by one of the earliest examples of popular generative art. 10 PRINT CHR$(205.5+RND(1)); : GOTO 10 is a one line program for the Commodore 64 computer that would randomly pick between two characters / and \ to generate a maze on the screen. This program is an incredible example of the power of a simple generative process to produce complex imagery.

My sketch uses the same basic mechanic (a random choice between two alternatives) to produce the background of my nametag. Because the forward and backslash look very different on modern computers, I used p5 functions to create the classic shape of those characters. The blue colour is inspired by the screen colour of the C64 but I’ve brightened it for visual effect.

For my name I’ve chosen a font which has a similar “computery” style to match with the background and aligned it as closely as possible with the rows and columns of the maze. I’ve used a red outline to contrast with the background to ensure that my nametag is easily readable and also to create a focal point for the image.

artist statement tips

don’t explain your code line-by-line—instead, think about the overall goals and effect you’re trying to achieve

talk about what inspired you to come up with your design

short & sweet is ok (but make sure you say something)

don’t explain your code line-by-line

read the website