The Fusion of Art and Technology: Sept 2016

My son Harrison was always a bright kid, but just didn’t like school. But he knew what he liked and he liked a lot of different things. Because he had a knack for playing guitar, he formed his own band in the 6th grade. They played at a few pool parties around the neighborhood. He liked to paint as well. In fact we let him to spray paint our garage walls (why not!).

But over time, his passion turned to games. Games like Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer 40000, fake swordfights with his friends, and…video games! He taught himself programming languages and then he learned how to build them.

And although we put him in every sport available (football, basketball, baseball, hockey, figure skating, dancing) none of them stuck because they didn’t appeal to his true nature, which is to create things.

Things built on technology and art.

So he packed everything in his car and moved to a place where they do build them: Los Angeles. He was quickly hired by a company that creates special effects for movies (8 academy awards so far) where he builds applications for virtual reality headsets. He achieved his dream at 20 years of age because he know who he was and what he wanted.

I can’t help but see a parallel with technology, design and art. Consider:

  • Apple fused thoughtful industrial design with technology to create the iPhone (the most important product that I own, by far).
  • The movie industry combined digital imaging with cinematography to create experiences that have never been possible before.
  • Netflix combined television with broadband internet to create a new world of on-demand content.
  • With the release of Toy Story, Pixar transformed animation into essentially a new art form, with richer images and more sophisticated movement.
  • Powerful Computer Aided Design tools have enabled the creation of buildings, like the “Gherkin” in London, that could not have been done with slide rules and drafting tables.
  • Google has transformed the map into a powerful navigation and search tool.
  • Ducati motorcycles…well they’re just cool.

When you interact with any of these art forms, you know that they are “right”. They are easy, pleasurable, engaging, helpful, and enriching.

The skills required to fuse these two ways of thinking, technical and artistic, are not really taught at any school or university that I am aware of. They tend to focus on science and technology or the arts, but never a balanced approach.

My background is purely technical. I may have had some artistic ability when I was young, but the demands of an engineering career have probably diminished any artistic abilities that I may have had. This is not really a bad thing; it just so happened that my technical aptitude was stronger than my artistic.

Virtually every business attempts to further its effectiveness through computing power, data management and digital communications. If done correctly, everyone’s job becomes easier and thus productivity increases. Profits rise which can then be channeled back into growth. This is how it should be.

However technology is inherently complex and risky.

Managing risk is not that difficult but is often neglected. Staying away from the “bleeding edge” and fad technologies, and instead relying on solutions what are widely used is one way to reduce risk. Another way is to reduce the amount and frequency of changes. If possible, do not make more than one change at a time and that change should be tried in a test environment beforehand.v

Reducing complexity is a more difficult problem. Well-designed products that are both powerful and easy to use is a good approach but finding them requires time and knowledge. This is where a good IT firm (like BCS) can be helpful. We spend a lot of time and money to seek out the best products for our clients. Trade shows, webinars, articles, and networking with other IT firms to learn about their experiences has allowed us to develop partnerships with companies that we consider best-of-breed. Companies like Hewlett Packard Enterprise for servers, Lenovo for laptops, Fortinet for firewalls, ESET and Hitman for security, and Allworx for telephones are the result of hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars invested to find the very best products for our clients.

It has been well worth the effort. We rarely (and I mean rarely) change our product lineup. We know them cold.

The purpose of technology is to help people (including companies) to perform tasks. A well designed technology portfolio improves our personal and professional lives. A poorly designed one is a never-ending source of frustration. And it frustrates me when I see it.