In an old issue of PAPER, Kanye West writes about art school and music:
“I’d have an assignment to do an ink drawing that took me two weeks, three weeks, and I’d show it to my friends and they’d say, ‘Cool. My friend can draw. Now let’s go play ball. Let’s go downtown and talk to some girls.’ But when I’d work on a track, I’d work on it for just that afternoon — chop up a sample, put some drums to it. And if my friends liked it, we’d make a tape of it and play it all the way downtown. We’d listen to it all night, keep rewinding it. I made a decision at that point to focus on painting with sound instead of painting visually.”
The point, for those of us that make tools, is that every time you make something a little bit easier to do, the number of people who do it explodes. Then a bunch of really amazing things happen…
People use this new nicer thing to express themselves in new ways. People from diverse backgrounds see this as something interesting worth trying out. These people are young, hungry to leave a mark and innately cool. So now this newly accessible thing is cool, and soon after, it’s officially art.
Pay attention to the awkwardly held smiles of normals at a party where software design or development is being passionately discussed. I’ve been bored to tears at these things myself.
It’s not that designing and writing software isn’t inherently interesting, it’s that our tools are still so opaque and inaccessible to outsiders we’re pushed to consider the challenges and puzzles (languages, frameworks, etc.), before the cool things we could be expressing and sharing with them. Kanye doesn’t talk about how empowering it is to mix multi-track sessions in Logic Pro – he talks about how satisfying it is to be able to quickly make a thing that your friends think is cool.
Here’s to a future with great tools in it. 🌌
“I believe awesome is possible and I believe that beauty is important.” – Kanye West