Drawing Parallels With Testing

A not-so-good drawing of a room

Two years ago I was your typical product of public school art class. Which is to say I didn’t draw all that well.

Ten years ago I was your typical taught-myself-programming developer. Which is to say I didn’t test all that well.

A much better drawing of a church

I decided to teach myself to draw because I had all these house designs which I wanted to get out of my head and onto paper. I approached learning to draw the way I approach learning anything: I read gobs of books about drawing, and I practiced and practiced and practiced. My first drawings weren't anything to write home about. Eventually, however, I started creating drawings which I thought were worth saving.

I decided to teach myself to test because I wanted to find problems in the applications I wrote before they reached my customers. I approached learning to test the way I approach learning anything: I read gobs of books about testing, and I practiced and practiced and practiced. My first tests didn’t find many problems. Eventually, however, I started finding issues which mattered.

A drawing of the Nebraska capital building

One day, after completing a drawing I was particularly pleased with, I reflected a bit upon the things I had learned. As I did so I discovered many parallels between what I had learned about drawing and what I had learned about testing. Hence this series of posts.

A drawing of a cafeteria

I do not claim to be a great artist. Nor do I claim to be a great tester. One thing I have learned is that being great is not necessary in order to be effective at drawing , nor at testing.

Over the next several posts I will discuss five points I have learned about drawing, and how each of them applies to testing. As I do, look for ways to draw them in to the way you test.

Much of what I am about to say applies to many other endeavors beyond drawing and testing. I make art, and I test software, and so I am drawing parallels between those two pursuits. If you play basketball, or build bridges, or write code, you may find that the parallels I draw apply to those activities as well.

I do not claim these are the only parallels between drawing and testing, or even the most important. They are simply five I thought of as I wrote these posts.

[See all my art at http://www.freelyoffered.com.]

*** Want a fun job on a great team? I need a tester! Interested? Let's talk: Michael dot J dot Hunter at microsoft dot com. Great testing and coding skills required.

Comments (1)

  1. Jeroen says:

    Hello Micahel,

    Once again, nice posting you made. (and also your drawings) You took two areas together were some people say it is creating art. And others say: it is a occupation.

    I also see some parallels as you do. You start with some actions. Then you noticed that it is fun to do. And you become eager to learn more about the topic. And during the time you become better. Not the best. Just better.

    You discover the borders of your own capabilities and I think that is good. As a beginning painter you don’t start painting in and for the Louvre. Similar perhaps as testing: you don’t start with complex functionality and testing techniques. You use those skills you know and try to execute them to your best knowledge.

    To claim if testers are artists? At least I’m not in the position to say I am. I think the audience gives you that title. And as the audience is changing every time, the title "artist" is not ever lasting.

    I think your drawings supporting this statement. Assuming that the last drawing is created having more experience. I can imagine that some people will say that that is your best one shown here. Personally I liked the 3rd picture better then the last. Will this make you an artist? In relation to my painting skills: Indefinitely yes. Related to others? Perhaps. Related to some painters I claim to be real artists? Sorry to say: no.

    But this will not make me giving you the advice to stop. I don’t have the authority. And I don’t want to. 🙂

    With regards,


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