Graphics, as a Function of State / Graphic = fn(state)

Rate this content

Applying the React principle of “UI is a function of state” to SVGs and Graphic Design. We will talk about using systems of componentization and state management to create and manage SVGs. Viewers will leave the session with a firm understanding of creative coding practices and a new viewpoint for building systems in JavaScript.

15 min
14 May, 2021

Video Summary and Transcription

Anil Durman, engineer at the New York Times, discusses the role of graphics in the context of state. He highlights the work done by his team in helping people understand the news through new formats and pages. The team is hiring for various tech roles. By night, Anil is a creative coder exploring the intersection of creativity and code, and his latest project, Good Graphics, focuses on UI as a function of state, React components, and SVGs. He demonstrates how components can be updated based on state, allowing for declarative graphics. Anil also showcases how nested circles and grids can be used to create complex systems in React, enabling dynamic and reactive graphic designs.

Available in Español

1. Introduction to Graphic as a Function of State

Short description:

Anil Durman, engineer at the New York Times, discusses the role of graphics in the context of state. He highlights the work done by his team in helping people understand the news through new formats and pages. The team is hiring for various tech roles.

My name's Anil Durman. I'm an engineer at the New York Times and this is my talk called Graphic as a Function of State. As I said, by day I'm a senior software engineer at the New York Times. At the Times, my team helps people understand the news with new formats and pages. So you may have seen our live blog page where it is a thread of posts, and reported updates on live events as they're developing, or even more information-heavy pages, like our COVID Hub, where people can update information on the pandemic. I work with a lot of great people who are doing work that is highly impactful and highly fulfilling. And as always, we are hiring and looking for not just developers, but designers, product managers, and just anyone who works in tech.

2. Exploring UI, React Components, and SVGs

Short description:

By night, I am a creative coder exploring the intersection of creativity and code. My latest project, Good Graphics, stems from my experiments. We'll cover UI as a function of state, React components, and SVGs. SVGs are more than design assets; they describe 2D graphics using XML-based language. JSX supports SVGs, and their markup resembles React components. We can build and add logic to SVGs, working with graphics in the same context as UIs.

By night, I am a creative coder. I love the web, and a lot of my work has to do with exploring how creativity and code intersect and interact with one another. My Twitter handle is MeloGood. You can see where I post a lot of experiments, especially observable notebooks. And my latest project is called Good Graphics, where I have been doing a lot of experimentation. And this talk kind of naturally arised out of some of my findings.

So, this quick overview of where we're headed. We're going to talk about the principle of UI, the functions, state, talk a little bit about SVGs, talk about them in the context of React components, and then talk about the graphics systems that you can build with them once you kind of have this understanding.

So, when we say UI, the function, state, it's a core React principle. You can render your entire site application as a function of the state that you give it. So, when you give it the first name, last name, it will render out the world. And as that input changes, your UI naturally re-renders and is always up to date with the state that it's giving. And it really just means that JXS allows us to declaratively write in mark-up, especially in the context of updates.

This is a very simple React component. It's called click-text. And really what it does is it assumes that you're going to give it a count and then as your back count updates, the text updates. So, when we have the prop of click equals one, it's just going to say click one time. As it has the prop of two, click two times, and so on and so forth. But really this illustrates that React allows us to really incorporate the state of the data that you were given and rendered on the screen without having to do too much extra.

Let's talk about SVGs. If you were like me before I started learning more about them, they're kind of just this design asset that my designer would give me and that I would just throw into a React component and just use but never really touch ever again. But it turns out they're a lot more than that. It's an XML-based language, they're describing 2D-based graphics which basically just means that there's a bunch of primitives that allow you to describe things like a circle or a rectangle on the screen. This need to be supported by JSX out of the box and the markup looks really similar to React components just with special props. So, in action this is an SVG. You see that we wrap the top level components SVG with a list for height, some details about how to draw lines with a stroke and a fill, and then you can see the circle component has a few props. The circle is x coordinate, the circle is y coordinate, and then r which is the answer radius. This is just the specification for how you would draw a circle using SVGs, and it kind of already follows and looks like a React component, so it lends itself very well to thinking in React. So we can start to build these SVGs out and kind of componentise them. We can add more logic to them and really start to work with graphics in the same context in a way that we already know how to work with our UIs.

3. Exploring Components and Graphics

Short description:

Our components can be updated based on a state, allowing us to declaratively write graphics. For example, the ColorBar component renders a rectangle that updates its color based on the prop passed. We can also create complex graphics using plain HTML and break down the logic into components. The Grid component, for instance, uses a nested for loop to create a grid of child components, enabling us to build complex systems by combining logic in a React-friendly way.

Our components can be updated based on a state, and really the power that it unlocks is that JS sets an SVG that allows us to declaratively write graphics. So let's talk about through an example of what I mean.

This component is called ColorBar. It takes in a prop stock color, and then it renders a rectangle that is 20 pixels high and entire width. If we call the ColorBar component with the color black you can see at the bottom we have a black bar. But because, like I said, JSX allows us to render our components and graphics in a very declarative way, we can pass in a prop of color red and see our bar automatically update and re-render the same way a UI would. Or we can pass it the color green and same thing with the color blue. So this is another way of thinking about working with State and working with React and thinking in a very declarative way about how we write our components, both the output being a graphic instead of a fully functional UI but allowing us to use the same principles.

We can start to really think and add in a lot of complicated logic into these components because like I said they are fully functional components and they have everything that a regular React component would do and have. So in this example we have props.colors and it's also this one is called multibar or multicolored bar to back up a little bit. It takes the prop.colors which is just array of colors and then plots those colors within a gradient. The linear gradient component is a natively supported SVG tag and it just allows you to declare a gradient and then in our rectangle we can apply that gradient as the fill. So the color of the rectangle is going to match the gradient. So in this example we call it is black so it renders a fully black bar the whole time because you don't have to space out the colors are all one color but using the same component you can update a state to be red green blue and you get a fully gradients colored bar of red green blue. So following again that same idea of the state you pass into your graphic is automatically updated and our graphics can become super complex to handle all these different states.

So when I say graphic as a function of state I'm really trying to convey that we can use plain HTML to build these really complex graphic systems and our logic can be broken down in components similar to how we already work with uis and our graphic designs can be rich and reactive and as intuitive to the end user as our uis are. So let's kind of work through and walk through building a graphic together. So this graphic, it again is just a very simple circle graphic. I abstracted out to the circle svg markup into a component that takes the same props I just passed it in. We kind of get a very similar output of a single circle. But if we were to add a little logic and lean on some of the functionality that React can give us, we can do some really cool things. This component is called Grid. And what Grid does is basically a nested for loop of columns and rows. And if you give it the input to five columns, five rows, it takes whatever child components you give it and plots it multiple times in each spot on that grid. So, in practice, using it, it does something like this to where we give that grid a circle component as the child. And it goes and makes a five by five grid of circle components by using a lot of the React native functionality around children and coupling that with the made in the supported group functionality that SVGs give us. So, we can, like I said, take our logic, componentize it down. We really start to combine logic together on top of one another in a React friendly way to build complex systems. So, now that we have this system in place, you can start doing some really cool things right out of the box with it. You could even swap out the circle for a rectangle component and really just leverage the we've already written, similar to how you could reuse logic for a component you've already written.

4. Complex Systems with Nested Circles

Short description:

You can create complex systems with nested circles, allowing for a multiplicity of outputs. By combining nested circles with other code, such as a grid, you can create different outcomes. React allows your UI to represent your state, and SVGs enable dynamic and reactive graphic designs.

Or you could come up with really cool designs and have a bunch of circles nested in place with each other so you don't have to only do one single thing, you can do a bunch of different things. But it still reuses a lot of the same logic we had before, but allows us to do a bit more experimentation around swapping things out and seeing how much our graphic can hold in terms of possibilities.

But I think there's also a step forward, we can even take this, if you look at the ability of componentization. So this is a component called nested circles. And if we were to go back to the last example, it's just the taking of that logic of let's have five circles nested into one another and really building it out to make it a little bit more robust and a little bit more determinable and reusable. So what nested circle does is that same for loop logic of an empty array, and it just plots the number of circles congruent to the first circle taking up all the space. And then if there's two circles, the second circle taking up half the space. And if there's 10 circles spreading that space out even further amongst those 10 circles.

So a component like this, you're able to build a system that doesn't just have one single output, but can have a multiplicity of outputs. So using our components, in the first top left corner you see it's a nested circle with a certain number of circles, prop equals to one, whereas in the bottom right corner, with number of circles, prop is equal to 10 or 15. So you can start to see how our systems can be more complex once we have this componentization down, and once we can start building onto it and playing around with our state a little bit more. So like I said in previous examples, we can even take nested circle and combine it with other pieces of code in our codebase to do something really cool. So this is nested circle loop grid, and it looks very similar to the very first example of grid I showed you, but because we have nested circles and that component can handle so many different stateful options, you can see how this system, this same system, depending on the props and state you give it, could render a single circle or render these two outputs either or as well by playing around with the number of circles nested circle has to render. Or even if you wanted to play around with the number of grids as well, you could even render a bunch of massive circles, but in a two by two grid. And that really highlights the fact that this system isn't really about combining our isn't really about creating one single graphic, but it's more about creating a system that can hold a bunch of different outputs and multiplicity of outcomes.

So, to summarize, in React your UI is a representation of your state. You can use SVUs to apply React principles to graphic design. When we think of our state, we can contain infinite possibilities and there isn't one single design you can pass a design for. You can design for a wide array of things and outcomes. And our graphic designs can be dynamic and reactive.

Check out more articles and videos

We constantly think of articles and videos that might spark Git people interest / skill us up or help building a stellar career

React Advanced Conference 2022React Advanced Conference 2022
25 min
A Guide to React Rendering Behavior
Top Content
React is a library for "rendering" UI from components, but many users find themselves confused about how React rendering actually works. What do terms like "rendering", "reconciliation", "Fibers", and "committing" actually mean? When do renders happen? How does Context affect rendering, and how do libraries like Redux cause updates? In this talk, we'll clear up the confusion and provide a solid foundation for understanding when, why, and how React renders. We'll look at: - What "rendering" actually is - How React queues renders and the standard rendering behavior - How keys and component types are used in rendering - Techniques for optimizing render performance - How context usage affects rendering behavior| - How external libraries tie into React rendering
React Summit Remote Edition 2021React Summit Remote Edition 2021
33 min
Building Better Websites with Remix
Top Content
Remix is a new web framework from the creators of React Router that helps you build better, faster websites through a solid understanding of web fundamentals. Remix takes care of the heavy lifting like server rendering, code splitting, prefetching, and navigation and leaves you with the fun part: building something awesome!
React Advanced Conference 2023React Advanced Conference 2023
33 min
React Compiler - Understanding Idiomatic React (React Forget)
React provides a contract to developers- uphold certain rules, and React can efficiently and correctly update the UI. In this talk we'll explore these rules in depth, understanding the reasoning behind them and how they unlock new directions such as automatic memoization. 
React Advanced Conference 2022React Advanced Conference 2022
30 min
Using useEffect Effectively
Top Content
Can useEffect affect your codebase negatively? From fetching data to fighting with imperative APIs, side effects are one of the biggest sources of frustration in web app development. And let’s be honest, putting everything in useEffect hooks doesn’t help much. In this talk, we'll demystify the useEffect hook and get a better understanding of when (and when not) to use it, as well as discover how declarative effects can make effect management more maintainable in even the most complex React apps.
React Summit 2022React Summit 2022
20 min
Routing in React 18 and Beyond
Top Content
Concurrent React and Server Components are changing the way we think about routing, rendering, and fetching in web applications. Next.js recently shared part of its vision to help developers adopt these new React features and take advantage of the benefits they unlock.In this talk, we’ll explore the past, present and future of routing in front-end applications and discuss how new features in React and Next.js can help us architect more performant and feature-rich applications.
React Advanced Conference 2021React Advanced Conference 2021
27 min
(Easier) Interactive Data Visualization in React
Top Content
If you’re building a dashboard, analytics platform, or any web app where you need to give your users insight into their data, you need beautiful, custom, interactive data visualizations in your React app. But building visualizations hand with a low-level library like D3 can be a huge headache, involving lots of wheel-reinventing. In this talk, we’ll see how data viz development can get so much easier thanks to tools like Plot, a high-level dataviz library for quick & easy charting, and Observable, a reactive dataviz prototyping environment, both from the creator of D3. Through live coding examples we’ll explore how React refs let us delegate DOM manipulation for our data visualizations, and how Observable’s embedding functionality lets us easily repurpose community-built visualizations for our own data & use cases. By the end of this talk we’ll know how to get a beautiful, customized, interactive data visualization into our apps with a fraction of the time & effort!

Workshops on related topic

React Summit 2023React Summit 2023
170 min
React Performance Debugging Masterclass
Featured WorkshopFree
Ivan’s first attempts at performance debugging were chaotic. He would see a slow interaction, try a random optimization, see that it didn't help, and keep trying other optimizations until he found the right one (or gave up).
Back then, Ivan didn’t know how to use performance devtools well. He would do a recording in Chrome DevTools or React Profiler, poke around it, try clicking random things, and then close it in frustration a few minutes later. Now, Ivan knows exactly where and what to look for. And in this workshop, Ivan will teach you that too.
Here’s how this is going to work. We’ll take a slow app → debug it (using tools like Chrome DevTools, React Profiler, and why-did-you-render) → pinpoint the bottleneck → and then repeat, several times more. We won’t talk about the solutions (in 90% of the cases, it’s just the ol’ regular useMemo() or memo()). But we’ll talk about everything that comes before – and learn how to analyze any React performance problem, step by step.
(Note: This workshop is best suited for engineers who are already familiar with how useMemo() and memo() work – but want to get better at using the performance tools around React. Also, we’ll be covering interaction performance, not load speed, so you won’t hear a word about Lighthouse 🤐)
React Advanced Conference 2021React Advanced Conference 2021
132 min
Concurrent Rendering Adventures in React 18
Top Content
Featured WorkshopFree
With the release of React 18 we finally get the long awaited concurrent rendering. But how is that going to affect your application? What are the benefits of concurrent rendering in React? What do you need to do to switch to concurrent rendering when you upgrade to React 18? And what if you don’t want or can’t use concurrent rendering yet?

There are some behavior changes you need to be aware of! In this workshop we will cover all of those subjects and more.

Join me with your laptop in this interactive workshop. You will see how easy it is to switch to concurrent rendering in your React application. You will learn all about concurrent rendering, SuspenseList, the startTransition API and more.
React Summit Remote Edition 2021React Summit Remote Edition 2021
177 min
React Hooks Tips Only the Pros Know
Top Content
Featured Workshop
The addition of the hooks API to React was quite a major change. Before hooks most components had to be class based. Now, with hooks, these are often much simpler functional components. Hooks can be really simple to use. Almost deceptively simple. Because there are still plenty of ways you can mess up with hooks. And it often turns out there are many ways where you can improve your components a better understanding of how each React hook can be used.You will learn all about the pros and cons of the various hooks. You will learn when to use useState() versus useReducer(). We will look at using useContext() efficiently. You will see when to use useLayoutEffect() and when useEffect() is better.
React Advanced Conference 2021React Advanced Conference 2021
174 min
React, TypeScript, and TDD
Top Content
Featured WorkshopFree
ReactJS is wildly popular and thus wildly supported. TypeScript is increasingly popular, and thus increasingly supported.

The two together? Not as much. Given that they both change quickly, it's hard to find accurate learning materials.

React+TypeScript, with JetBrains IDEs? That three-part combination is the topic of this series. We'll show a little about a lot. Meaning, the key steps to getting productive, in the IDE, for React projects using TypeScript. Along the way we'll show test-driven development and emphasize tips-and-tricks in the IDE.
React Advanced Conference 2021React Advanced Conference 2021
145 min
Web3 Workshop - Building Your First Dapp
Top Content
Featured WorkshopFree
In this workshop, you'll learn how to build your first full stack dapp on the Ethereum blockchain, reading and writing data to the network, and connecting a front end application to the contract you've deployed. By the end of the workshop, you'll understand how to set up a full stack development environment, run a local node, and interact with any smart contract using React, HardHat, and Ethers.js.
React Summit 2023React Summit 2023
151 min
Designing Effective Tests With React Testing Library
Featured Workshop
React Testing Library is a great framework for React component tests because there are a lot of questions it answers for you, so you don’t need to worry about those questions. But that doesn’t mean testing is easy. There are still a lot of questions you have to figure out for yourself: How many component tests should you write vs end-to-end tests or lower-level unit tests? How can you test a certain line of code that is tricky to test? And what in the world are you supposed to do about that persistent act() warning?
In this three-hour workshop we’ll introduce React Testing Library along with a mental model for how to think about designing your component tests. This mental model will help you see how to test each bit of logic, whether or not to mock dependencies, and will help improve the design of your components. You’ll walk away with the tools, techniques, and principles you need to implement low-cost, high-value component tests.
Table of contents- The different kinds of React application tests, and where component tests fit in- A mental model for thinking about the inputs and outputs of the components you test- Options for selecting DOM elements to verify and interact with them- The value of mocks and why they shouldn’t be avoided- The challenges with asynchrony in RTL tests and how to handle them
Prerequisites- Familiarity with building applications with React- Basic experience writing automated tests with Jest or another unit testing framework- You do not need any experience with React Testing Library- Machine setup: Node LTS, Yarn