Tarot Code

An exercise in learning to code through creativity.
This project uses the 78 cards of a tarot deck as the framework for self-teaching >78 new skills over 7 months from true beginner to publication.

See the full animated set at tarotcode.xyz, including an interactive reader


Tarot Code is a deck of animated cards, offering advice for the terrible 2020s. Original animated cards are lovingly designed and coded in p5.js. They explore the layered meanings and life instructions of 78 tarot cards, and the process and themes of learning how to code.

The four suits relate to themes of labour and resources (Coins), intellect (Swords), emotions and the subconscious (Cups), and creativity and enterprise (Wands). These themes are reflected in imagery and movement (the cyclical Coins, directional Swords, psychedelic Cups, and colourful and interactive wands). Each card has an upright meaning and a reversed counterpoint, and their relevance lies in the tension between.

There is a story across each suit - from a new start (Ace) to a point of hardship or conflict (Five) to a culmination (Ten) - like moving through a life. The royals have their own focus: from tools (Page), to action (Knight), to assets (Queen) and realm (King).

The Major Arcanas are a sequence of cooked characters, on their path towards enlightenment from Fool (0) to all-connected World (21). Major Arcanas are each inspired by or use other digital artwork, including CC0 collections, adulation of three great projects (Exodus 2, Unix Days, NUXUI), and inclusion of two friends’ work for the most transformative cards (Death and Tower) - thank you Errorgardener and gsrvnt.

The cards reveal a learning process and beginner’s exploration of creative coding in p5js. The coins cards were created in the early ‘pig in the sandpit’ phase, full of trial and errors, manual brute force, making up for lack of intelligent coding with hours and hours of labour. The swords took a more methodical approach, following along with Daniel Shifman’s Coding Train (a foundation of processing education). The cups phase is learning by wandering through, using intuition more by now. Finally, the wands bring in replication and cultural association.

The cards and their code are a kind of Code Brut, raw code or naive code. The structure of code (trial, error, error, revelation) opens up space for creative expression and exploration, generating outcomes somewhere between unmet plans, random surprise, and incremental control.