Good Technologists Need Art


I’m writing this quick note as a response and an addition to a short article put out by Marshall Moutenot on his site here. Its about choosing to work on projects that have a valuable and positive effect on the wider world.

I wanted to add a dimension of art to Marshall’s discussion.

Although I studied computer science, I am not a technologist. I’m somewhere in that grey area between technology and art. These days it feels like art is less and less important to the world. I know many artists who are simply ready to give up, they feel their work is unwanted.

This is not true! Artists; your work is not just wanted, its vital. Without art, we cannot solve the issues of today, like climate change and education. The job of an artist is to convey ideas. Ideas about humanity, society and all the other aspects of life we encounter on a daily basis. Technologists can make great technology, but without art to convey the vision and value of that technology, it will fall on deaf ears.

Technologists, you need art. You need to employ artists as much as you need UI designers, and programmers. An artist can express your passion and ideas in a way that no spreadsheet, stock value or TED talk ever can. Art broadcasts through time. Not only can art help convey what you’re doing today, it will create a lasting legacy that will define your work tomorrow.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Just look at the examples around the world. Shinto temples in Japan. Michelangelo’s works in Italy. The Statue of Liberty in the US. Art defines and describes our cultures, our values and the ideas we wish to broadcast.

So what can you do?

If you’re an artist, think about what you are saying with your work. Don’t just make art about yourself or draw people with cat ears, don’t just make pretty pictures for Instagram. Make art that says something that’s important, that needs to be said. You have a voice, you’ll find value and pride in using it.

If you’re a technologist, or business owner. Hire artists, painters, poets, musicians, landscape artists, video artists, sculptors, game designers and people who make weird 90s style websites like this one. Employ them fulltime, and pay them like you’d pay any other person working with you. Let them create works that embody the vision of the work you’re doing, give them venues to broadcast that work.

If you’re just an individual. You can still support good art. Buy a painting once in a while, don’t just get your decorations at Ikea. Support indie musicians, Indie game designers. Support organisations that invest in art, and if you do know a technology company that’s employing artists, support them.

We cannot afford to ignore the challenges of the world today, but we cannot solve those challenges without art.