Digital art: from images in ASCII code to fractals and Flash animation



Digital art is a label that’s in vogue again, alongside phenomena such as crypto art, which we’ll discuss later on. Though it’s primarily used today as an umbrella term when referencing the entire computer art galaxy, up until a few years ago digital art was a label used in relation to more specific creative experiences, ones that perhaps most importantly were different than phenomena like net art and software art, considered too purist (because they focused exclusively on code).

In reality, a precise classification of all the styles, trends and manifestations that have traditionally been categorized as digital art isn’t possible, exactly because we’re talking about experiences that are varied both in their expressive and technological mediums. But a few overarching categories can be identified nonetheless:


One of the first forms of digital art is ASCII art. ASCII code (256 symbols which include alphanumeric characters and punctuation marks) is the standard for encoding characters on a computer. Through these “signs,” artists loved to create recognizable images such as human faces, landscapes, etc. It’s a type of expression that seems naïve today, but which had its place 20 or 30 years ago.


One of the most common digital art experiences, at least among the general public, is probably that of fractals, the unique geometric objects made by computers through sophisticated mathematical algorithms. Using these procedures, a computer can autonomously generate a series of images at arbitrarily small scales, each one different from the other. The result is imagery that most humans find quite hypnotic.

Flash animation

Another important innovation in the field of digital art was the widespread use of Flash from around 2000 to 2020. Initially launched as software with which to create compelling vector animation and online games, Flash (originally Macromedia Flash then Adobe Flash) has now practically disappeared, well on its way to the digital graveyard. At its peak, the software owed its power and its versatility mainly to its effective internal programming language, called ActionScript. Nevertheless, we have Flash to thank for introducing the interactive use of sound and moving images applied to web graphics.

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