Joan Shogren
Computer Art Pioneer

When one thinks about the pioneers of the computer industry the name Joan Shogren never comes up. But, if you know the true history of computer art you very well may have run across Joan's name on the Internet. Joan was the primary pioneer to two very important and long-lasting areas of computer art.

In the Spring of 1963, just before Easter break, Joan was discussing computer potential with graduate student Jim Larson, and suggested that computers should be able to "design a picture." They presented the idea to Dr. Ralph Fessenden, assistant professor of chemistry, and they began work on the project immediately. Joan provided the "rules" of art and Ralph and Jim translated them into computer lingo.

"It was Mrs. Shogren who thought up the whole idea in the first place." (Chemists Turn "Electronic Artisits" at SJS, Spartan Daily, May 3, 1963)

"The idea came from Mrs. Joan Shogren, secretary in the Chemistry Department, who persuaded a graduate student and computer programmer named Jim Larson to work up a way to instruct the computer in art. (Art by the Numbers, San Jose Mercury News, May 4, 1963)

On April 17, 1966 the San Jose Mercury News did a followup article, "Computer's Invading Art World," by Vicki Reed, featuring Joan and her contributions to computer art. In the article Vicki provides more information concerning the critical nature of Joan's contribution to the project. "Cybernation broke through into the world of artistic revelation with flying colors, based on Mrs. Shogren's outlining 'laws' of art, and Dr. Fessenden with Larson translating them into computer linguistics."

Ms. Reed then went on to quote Joan, " 'Our first results were very crude, primitive. Now the computer is much more sophisticated,' she says, proud and happy.

"With a pixie smile she continues her argument that indeed Computer Art is art, 'what the computer produces comes out on a sheet of paper to be artistiscally and individually interpreted by the technician.' ...

"With science and math as the subjects, she has produced (in addition to the art) a number of collages, assemblages and sculptures."

Joan's intial concept and following efforts resulted in the world's first public showing of computer art.

To date Wikipedia has refused to allow an article on Joan and her efforts with both Computer Art and T/Maker ClickArt. My comments regarding this situation can be found in Note 1.

World's First Public Showing of Computer Art

On May 6, 1963 Joan had the very first showing of computer art at the San Jose State (San Jose, California) Spartan Book Store. Spartan Daily article (May 3, 1963) announcing the showing is below; click here to see the article online.


Articles annoucing the showing were also published in the San Jose Mercury News on Friday, May 3 and Saturday, May 4, 1963.




This is the April 17, 1966 San Jose Mercury News article that featured Joan and her continuing efforts to improve the artwork being generated by the computer.



Joan's accomplishment is also mentioned in the scholarly work, Computational Creativity Research: Towards Creative Machines (Atlantis Thinking Machines) 2015th Edition.



The IBM Corporation had Joan create a computer art that they could use on a new office they were building in San Jose. We believe the picture below is the building but we have no way of verifying that. If someone from IBM knows for a fact that this is the building, please contact Brad Fregger.



While a couple of others had experimented with Computer Art at about the same time, there's no doubt that Joan was responsible for the very first public showing of Computer Art in the world.

Other references to Joan include:

The Full Wiki and the Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedia


In 1963 Joan Shogren (born July5, 1932) created a computer program (she conceived of the project and lead the development) that provided the computer with the basic artistic principles needed to create computer generated art. The first public showing of Computer Art was held in San Jose, California at San Jose State University on May 6, 1963 (San Jose Mercury News). In 1984, Shogren and her associates (Mike Mathis and Dennis Fregger) were contracted by T/Maker to produce the first "serious" clip art images for the computer, to be used in business/organization applications. T/Maker marketed these initial black and white, bitmapped images through retail distribution as "ClickArt Publications."

From Compart

British computer artist Paul Brown discovered that a show of computer-generated images had been arranged for one day on May 6, 1963, at San Jose State University in San Jose, California, U.S.A. Joan Shogren had written the program for those images. (Actually, the computer programs were written by Larson and Dr. Fessenden with Joan leading the project and defining the "laws" of art.) Up to this point in time, very little is known about Shogren, her work, and this exhibition.


Creating the World's First Computer Clip Art (ClickArt)

In 1984, T/Maker (a Mountain View, California computer software company) asked Joan and her associates, Mike Mathis and Dennis Fregger, to create the very first computer clip art, branded as ClickArt. Clip art had been used by the publishing industry for many years, but T/Maker was the first to market and ship a line of products focused on computer clip art images for commercial and personal use. Joan's team was the first in the world to create these clip art images (ClickArt). T/Maker's ClickArt products have survived the test of time and are still being produced 33 years later.

From Heidi Roizen, Co-Founder and CEO of T/Maker for a decade

"I always loved working with Joan, she was always upbeat and so talented. People don't realize that in those early days, there were no real drawing tools, scanners, etc., everything was hand done pixel by pixel, almost like needlepoint! For the first product, we could not even buy Macs (because they had not yet been shipped, nor even introduced) so we had to borrow Macs for Apple and Joan had to sign a nondisclosure agreement and promise not to show the Mac to anyone."

Currently the ClickArt brand is owned and distributed by Broderbund.

Below is an image of the first ClickArt product shipped, ClickArt Publications. This product and all the initial products were shipped in small packages (4.25" x 4").


Front (Large Size)bbbbbbbbbbbbbBack (Large Size)

In 1987 T/Maker changed to 7.5" x 6" box for all of its products. Here is the ClickArt Holidays box.


Front Cover (Back Cover)

Joan and her associates designed and produced all of the initial ClickArt products from T/Maker, they include:

  • Publications
  • Holidays
  • Personal Graphics (Front - Back)
  • Letters (Front - Back)
  • Christian Images
  • EPS Illustrations
  • Effects

Sample ClickArt Images




Sample ClickArt Manuals

Tips Manual

Front Cover - Back Cover - Interior 1 - Interior 2


Business Images

Front Cover - Interior 1 - Interior 2


Joan Shogren - Computer Art Pioneer

Note 1: My response to Wikepedia's refusal to allow an article about Joan and her contributions to Computer Art.

I originally posted a Wikipedia article about Joan but it was taken down because, according to Wikipedia, as her nephew, I was too biased in her favor. This appears to be a Wikipedia rule: individuals who have strong opinions on a subject are not allowed to post articles on that subject. (Does anyone really believe this is true? It's obvious that people with a strong bais are working on numerous articles.)

They recommended I find a non-biased Wikipedia editor to do the necessary research and then post an updated article. It took a couple of years to find someone who agreed to take on this project, at no cost, but I finally succeeded and he did post a more complete, better researched article.

However, Wikipedia also took down the new, better researched article. This time they essentially said that there was no proof that Joan was a significant player in creating the first public showing of computer art in the world. “... the point is that there are insufficient sources currently found that establish that Joan is a notable person in her own right.”

In other words, there’s no way that a secretary, housewife could conceive of such an original use of the computer and then lead a team to implement the concept and ultimately produce such a wide variety of artistic projects. It’s obvious, in their minds, that she was only a minor player in the production of this art.

How many times have individuals, especially women, been robbed of the recognition they deserved for the discoveries they made, for problems they solved? Here we are in the year 2018 and Wikipedia and others are determined that Joan will not receive credit for this accomplishment.

To add insult to injury, it is a young women executive at Wikipedia that is determined that Joan will remain an unknown in the history of computer art. Here is my final message from Wikipedia’s Rayna West:

“ ... it will be unfortunate if she stays unknown but it's not Wikipedia's role to "right great wrongs" and change history.  If her achievements haven't been recognised and documented by others first then Wikipedia isn't going to solve that problem.  Wikipedia isn't a research organisation, our volunteers take material already published and work from that.”

What she, of course, refuses to acknowledge is that the research was done, and Joan’s contribution was clarified. They’ve chosen to ignore the facts because Joan’s contribution wasn’t referenced in a sufficient number of "reliable sources." In effect, Wikipedia, through their refusal to accept the truth of Joan’s contribution, is changing history.

I’ve lost complete faith in Wikipedia. How much more of true history is being lost? How many more women and others are not receiving the credit they deserve?

Update, 11/26/2018: Even after showing Wikipedia this website, updated with even more information, the Wikipedia police refused to allow our Wikipedia Editor to create an article on Joan.

Note 2: Full discolsure

I want to be clear, Joan Shogren is my aunt and I am committed to making sure that her contributions to the history of Computer Art are not lost. In addition, I was not quite 23 when the first computer art showing in the world took place. I remember when Joan shared her concept and art with me; I remember attending the showing at the Spartan Bookstore; I remember thinking that she had accomplished something extraordinary. There's no doubt that she made a significant contribution to computer art and she should be recognized for that effort. The idea that her contribution was insignificant is ridiculous, she was the team leader in both the Computer Art project and showing, and ClickArt.

Website created by Brad Fregger
Updated, November 2018