November 10th, 2012

The Rise of Artistic Computing

On the horizon, there is a rising wave of a new type of technology. Instagram was a forerunner and Paper by 53 is an indicator of things to come. In conversation I've recently called it "artistic computing".

What is artistic computing?

Artistic computing empowers us - normal people, the artistically challenged laymen - to become artistically expressive in ways we could not be before. What do I mean by this? Let me give two examples: Instagram and Paper by 53.

Instagram lets us take beautiful photographs. Just 5 years ago it would have taken a $1000 camera, a $500 Photoshop license, and 100x more time and skill to create the same photos. Instagram probably sees photos fitĀ for appearance in National Geographic every day (if not every hour)!

Paper by 53 is an iPad app that makes you draw beautifully. It actually makes it difficult to draw ugly pictures! Their secret? Math from the 1960s takes the imperfect lines traced by your finger and transforms them in realtime into mathematically perfect strokes of ink.

Strictly speaking it is not that we couldn't do these things before but that we wouldn't (because of the time and effort it would take). Artistic computing makes it simple for regular people to create beautiful things. So what?

Why is artistic computing important?

I'm going to answer this question from the perspective of a silicon valley guy building consumer products. It is important for 3 reasons:

  1. When we create something beautiful, we feel pride. If a tool helped us create our pride then we get an emotional connection with the tool. Through this tool we become artistic, a self-realization that many desire.
  2. When we have created something beautiful, we want to share it. Sharing naturally follows pride.
  3. When a friend of ours shares something beautiful with us, our natural reaction is "Wow! How did you do that?".

Artistic computing creates an emotional attachment between your customer and your product (aka loyalty). It also generates a natural and powerful viral cycle (aka gold).

Convinced? Let me know in the comments if you're not.

Why is artistic computing happening now?

Your guess is as good as mine, but here is what I think: it's happening now because of the convergence of high resolution displays, touch displays, and mobile computing.

So, what does this mean for our industry?

It remains to be seen. I don't think it will prove nearly as fundamental to product and interaction as social is, but I do know that many products will win in the coming 2 years simply because of excellent execution on artistic computing.

As a corollary to this post, I want to mention that great product designers with strong graphical sensibilities and a deep understanding of digital user interaction are the new unicorns of our industry. They are now harder to find, more valuable, and soon will be more expensive than great engineers are. It follows that we should soon see a surge of design firm talent acquisitions, shortly followed by founding design companies becoming trendy.

In the meantime, I hope to employ artistic computing at its best while building Dogo. It's a messaging product built to let us express ourselves!

Are you a Product Design Unicorn?

If you happen to know a product design unicorn who would consider joining (as a cofounder) a seasoned full stack engineer and product developer who has already implemented the product, incorporated the company, and set up the company bank account (with a balance of $4,000 - wee!), then please let me know. I am