Programming is Art

Programming is ArtAn argumentative piece proposing programming as an art formJacob BergdahlBlockedUnblockFollowFollowingJul 9I strongly consider myself to be a creative person.

It’s one of my key strengths.

I equally enjoy the process of creating new concepts, as I do building the implementation.

It could be anything from writing a song on my trusty guitar to creating a new design in Adobe Illustrator.

From drafting a business model to building a level in Super Mario Maker 2.

From cooking up a new dish with ingredients to me unknown, to establishing an AI strategy.

Sometimes I just create things without any real purpose — sometimes the joy is in is the creation, not the result.

Not all art must be shared, sometimes the beauty comes just from the peace of mind of creating something.

Art has a way of showing itself in all sorts of strangely ordinary places.

Before enjoying a meal, I like to take a moment to appreciate its features.

When sitting at a café, I enjoy observing my surroundings, with art being found in every human expression, in every corner of any room.

Sometimes when I listen to music, I close my eyes, and let my creativity run wild to the sound of the melody.

I truly believe art is everywhere.

When I share this viewpoint with others, many appear to agree with me.

But then there is programming.

There is a strange stigma surrounding programming, one that states that it isn’t a form of creativity, but exclusively a form of logic.

But more severely: a notion that programming isn’t art.

As you can probably guess based on the title of this article, I will propose arguments suggesting the opposite.

Programming is art.

Photo by Ilya Pavlov.

Please allow me to start with the least interesting, but often requested, bit: the definition.

If we are to discuss whether something classifies as art or not, it is only natural and expected to first examine its definition, however I do not intend to spend much time here.

Should we go to the roots of the term, the Oxford dictionary provides an array of definitions for one to enjoy, and for now we shall look no further than this widespread dictionary.

1 [mass noun] The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

The first definition, unlike all of the following definitions presented in the dictionary, argues that the primary product of art is emotional power or beauty.

I find this rather odd.

How can that be, when the primary purpose of a finely crafted throne is to seat powerful people, the primary purpose of a vast castle to house humans, and the primary purpose of a most delicate dish to be eaten?.Are these works not to be considered art if their primary purpose is to be used in a functional manner?.Surely, whoever wrote such a definition cannot have strolled the inner streets of Vienna, where every building is a majestic piece, for otherwise they could not have come up with such a narrow definition.


1 Works produced by human creative skill and imagination.

Thankfully, one mustn’t move their eyes further than a handful of pixels to budge the dictionary, for the second definition, and all that follow, are rather wide.

One could argue that every work produced by humans involve creative skill and imagination, thus every pencil, phone charger, and toilet roll is also a potential work of art.

Everything created by a person requires some amount of creativity when it is first created.

Subsequent creations of the same item may not, however, if they follow a strict formula with clearly defined rules.

Thus only the first pencil, phone charger, and toilet roll may be a work of art, as every subsequently made item from the same manufacturer is probably created in a factory, following strict instructions.

For programming, however, every product requires unique instructions, as no two features are exactly the same.

I could go on with the definitions, but I will leave the rest for you, for I think you will find that Oxford’s three following definitions do not allow for any surprises, instead repeating the same thoughts with different words, all of which allow for programming to be interpreted as art.

What is art?.Perhaps, much like its creation and subsequent meaning is up for a subjective interpretation, so too is its definition?.Photo by Chris Barbalis.

Why, then, do some not consider programming to be a form of art?.Perhaps it is indeed due to the lack of natural beauty in lines of code?.But how beautiful is a rock on the side of the road until a sculptor turns it into a statue?.How beautiful is a collection of notes until a musician puts it to play?.And how beautiful is a tuna fish until a chef turns it into a dish?.So I ask you: how beautiful are lines of code until they have formed an application?.Individual elements do not always present a natural beauty, but the sum of the elements put together into a thoughtful collective piece of work do.

Thus, beauty in the parts cannot be the answer.

Logic, then?.Programming is made of logic, and logic isn’t art, right?. More details

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