Programming is an Art

  • March 15, 2013
  • Scott

It has always bothered me that people think programming is a “rote” exercise. “Hand me the requirements and the code practically writes itself.”  We’re all willing to accept that writing a short story, a novella, or a novel is an art.  And that journalism (done well) is an art.  Product design?  Yep.

Lots of professions are accepted as being both skill and art. But most people (who don’t write code) have no appreciate for the art of it because they don’t read and write it every day.  As if two programmers who write a solution to the same problem will write essentially the same code.  Hardly ever true.  A great programmer will write something that other coders will consider artistic-  simple, clean, elegant.  An average programmer will write something that every other coder would look at and see opportunities for improvement.

Programming is an art, as well as a skill, or discipline.  Jack Dorsey of Square put it this way:

“A lot of people think about programming and engineering as this really mechanical thing. But it’s an art form, as well. It’s another language.”

Precisely.  Since when is use of language not art?


Related Posts
  • July 16, 2018
  • Ariana

Driven 2018 is coming up quick and we wanted to share some of our most anticipated sessions with you. You can ...

  • July 15, 2018
  • Scott

From nearly the first year I began writing this blog on behalf of BP3, pundits and commentators have predicted...

  • July 9, 2018
  • Ariana

We are excited to announce Automation Anywhere will be sponsoring Driven 2018. Automation Anywhere will be...

  • Scott, This is an excellent post. And I feel every visitor to this post who has found that passion in coding will involuntarily smile and have a quiet reminiscent moment of all the joy from the past. Here is something I wrote in one such moment…

  • Gary Samuelson

    In reading this I desperately wanted to decompose the idea into raw form. Maybe hiding is the fact that we really are just skilled ‘bots – though reflecting just enough humanity to render painful self-denial of our own existence.

    Truth: we are bots’ for sale and “this” is not art.

    Making light against shadows is no less a skill than a mater of existence. We are what we cannot see and I can no more call myself an artist then display my creations in a New York gallery.


    Today I’ll be hand-drawing my designs (preferring humanity).


    • “art” might imply something a bit too lofty – but too often we try to reduce it to “bots” 🙂 and that doesn’t work either. I think craft is probably more accurate. When you’re, say, carving a chair, you have decisions to make. Those decisions require judgment. Programming does too- at a level that is hard for non-programmers to appreciate. That chair may never show up in an art gallery but a solid hand-built chair is the one that will be worth something in 100 years.