This is a controversial statement I often like to make: Programming is really a form of art.

Why? Consider architecture:

  • The client commissions a work from you
  • The client has certain needs for the building, be it a concert hall or whatever.
  • The needs bring in certain requirements (must fit 1000 people)
  • You design using mockups, standard components, etc.
  • You still have freedom to create within the limits the client has given
  • When client accepts, you make the final version, which then gets sent to the builders
  • But often you still have to be on-hand, making final tweaks when things go wrong in unexpected ways.

Architecture is an art. Why wouldn't programming be? You can see all the same components in programming...

Though not all programming is art. No more than the flowers you doodle when you are bored in a meeting, not all of the "Hello Worlds" or Web pages can be considered art. In fact, those programmers who know better, shun away from them and call them crap. The same way programmers can speak of "beautiful" code, or a "cute" program.

The beauty of a program is in the eye of the programmer, so it may be hard for a non-programmer to see this. But it is there.

Other comments#

DaveWiner thinks that programmers are philosophers, using the scientific method to chip away at the truth.

I think according to this example, it would be more accurate to say that "software design is an art." After all, if programmers are artists, then what are the "builders"? I think it is more accurate to say that Programming is a craft, like furniture-making is a craft. -- KenLiu

I don't think 'art' and 'craft' are mutually exclusive terms; neither are 'programming' and 'software engineering' (which incorporates design). Some people do feel that there is a difference, where "programming" means the grunt work of laying out code blocks after the other, and "software engineering" is a difficult art, mastered only by few.

But the thing is, in order to be a master in your art, you must also be skilled in the craft. And vice versa: the best craftsmen are the best artists in their area. It all depends on your view on what "art" is, I guess.


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« This page (revision-8) was last changed on 10-Jun-2004 22:07 by MichaelGentry