Inviting Programmers Into Creative Teams

Episode 59 of the 99% Invisible Podcast explores what happened when artists were brought on board to work with architects on a project in New York City. Some of the architects didn’t like this much, being used to owning the creative talent and having the artistic sway, but the project manager told them to like it or lump it. Artist input did result in a creation quite different.

This made me wonder how things would be if programmers were given more creative sway in publishing houses, especially as big publishers move tentatively into the digital world. Programmers are not known for their creative bones, instead for their attention to detail and methodical mindsets. Yet the programmer in this house counts photography among his hobbies. Creativity and attention to detail go very well together, if only creative streaks are let loose.

On the one hand I can’t understand why we’re not seeing far more creative storybook apps coming out of the largest publishing houses, who I presume have much bigger budgets than ours, and who could really push the boat out if they wanted to. On the other hand, I can see that if programmers are not adequately invested in a project — if they’re paid by the hour, say, and told what to do by the designated creatives — the acquisitions team (and author illustrator teams) may not have the foggiest idea of all that is possible. It takes an experienced programmer to know that.

Header illustration: One of the illustrations by Mike Wilks from ‘Pile- Petals from St Klaed’s Computer’ by Brian Aldiss (1979)