Art and Computer Science

Last year I heard an executive from a video game talking about hiring developers. One of the things he said (roughly paraphrased) is that they find a lot of good graphic artists and a lot of good software developers but it is rare to find someone who is great at both. Game companies don’t expect software people to create the outstanding graphics that today’s gamers expect. They hire artists for that. But there is something to be said for software people to know something about art.

Daniel Rasmus, Director of Business Insights at Microsoft – basically a futurist, said recently in a blog post titled The ART of Software that “If you want to code for the web, design for the web, or do any software work that touches people, then take an art class first.” To me it is pretty obvious that customer facing software has to look better and be better designed for appearance than ever before. Not all of us are artists though. I’m sure not. That is why some of us need help now and again. But some basic understanding of art can still go a long way.

But art doesn’t always lend itself to data driven analysis. Dan’s post also links to an article (Google's top designer quits, blames engineers) about a designer leaving Google because of an insistence on pure data driven selection of designs. While I would argue that some data analysis is helpful – I am an engineer by nature after all – I can understand that some things just do not lend themselves to that sort of analysis. Someone with an eye for how things work and and instinct for how people see things can do a lot with a lot less data. In other words, I think sometimes the best thing is to trust an artist.

Yet an other reason that we all need to support art education in schools I think.

BTW I only recently discovered Dan’s Future of Work blog but I really like it. I recommend it to you for a regular read.

Comments (6)

  1. Shwany says:

    In some senses I agree with you, but I tend to think that instead of taking art classes developers should be required to take at least one course in interface design. A class in interface design seems to me to be more logical to taking traditional art courses.

  2. AlfredTh says:

    I tend to think art in addition to a UI course not in place of one. I think both are important. Art is also something that was wide applicability in live – quality of life and appreciation for things.

  3. MSDNArchive says:

    And without mentioning that Software Development is as much an art in itself as it is science (and maybe even more).

    Still a lot is left to the developer’s creativity which can be good when one is a good developer and… well… not so good when one is not!

  4. I have thought about taking some sort of class to help develop graphic artist skills. I would love to be able to create beautiful applications. Mine tend to look very plain. I appreciate a well-designed and beautiful application, and would love to be able to create one (on my own).

  5. Rob Miles says:

    You can always hire an artist to make something look nice. If I’m broading Computer Scientists I’m going to make them into good communicators before I give them anything to draw with.

  6. Garth says:

    I can picture a whole new job title – "Interface Ergonomic Artist", or some such.  They would design interfaces that are pleasing to the eye (golden rectangle type stuff with relaxing colors), ergonimically efficient (faster mouse and keyboard moves)that are practical to program.  The course work would require Art, Math, a study of human ergonomics, and a little programming for a cherry on top of the ice cream.  

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