How is coding creative?

Coding is more creative than you might think

Richard TurnerRichard Turner
9 days ago | 5 min read

colourful paintsplash lightbulb

Coming from a creative background, people often look quite puzzled when I tell them I’m a Full Stack Developer. It seems the stigma of the maths-obsessed programmer is still fairly prominent in most social circles. However, when I explain that coding is actually… quite creative, puzzled expressions turn into intrigue.

It’s no wonder why the world of programming is full of closeted-creatives (ask around any development team - I’m sure you’ll be surprised at the number of hobbyist musicians/writers/artists). Below are some of the reasons I believe why creativity is so rife, not to mention vital, to the world of programming.

🔮 Coding enables you to see (and create) the big picture

Ever thought of a killer app idea that could change the world? Coding empowers anyone, not just those with prior knowledge or programming experience to realise their most lofty ambitions by putting the tools firmly in their hands. The bare minimum requirement being just a simple computer. They needn’t cost much and yes, even a phone will do (although an internet connection certainly helps).

As with anyone learning to paint,

all you need to recreate the vision in your head on the blank canvas is to master the necessary tools.

Programming is no different, except instead of paintbrushes, it’s hard earned computer wizardry. Yes, it can take many years to learn all the programming concepts and skills required to achieve your goals (not to mention a hell of a lot of patience), but over time your potential to create anything will become limitless. After all, even the almighty Amazon (no link required!), started its life in Jeff Bezos’ rented garage.

👩‍🔬 It encourages experimentation

It’s safe to say that most engineering, or even creative jobs, must be error-averse in order to avoid catastrophic financial consequences. However, coding is incredibly forgiving when it comes to making mistakes. Thanks to version control systems like Git, most coding errors can be undone without too much hassle. Spare a thought for anyone working at SpaceX for instance, where every single calculation needs to be scrutinised to avoid total disaster. And whilst being a software developer requires an eye for detail, it also allows for a wide margin of error that is not always possible in other disciplines. Something doesn’t work? No worries, try again. Is there a better way to solve a problem? Probably - which leads me onto my next point…

🤔 There’s thousands of solutions to every problem

You could be forgiven for thinking of the world of coding as very binary and definitive. And you’d be right, in the sense there are often right answers and wrong answers to problems (more often than not it’s the latter). However, the route you take and the logic behind those solutions is largely up to the individual or company. There is no perfect or sole solution to any problem - mostly it's down to personal or professional preference. Here at JDLT, critical thinking is very much encouraged, making it a fantastic place to discover new habits and new ways of working. If we see a process or strategy that doesn’t ring true, we change it. And much like any artistic movement, trends come and go - there’s always a newer and better framework just around the corner.

Being flexible and open-minded is the key to writing better computer programs.

👥 It’s collaborative

Gone are the days of the solitary coder working in a dingy office block. At JDLT, there’s a big emphasis on pair coding. The reason being is that it stirs up creative problem solving and allows for different perspectives on coding. As skills and knowledge bases’ become more and more specialised, the need for creative collaboration is more important than ever. And whilst there is a romanticised view of the sole creator, the old saying ‘2 brains are better than 1’ is definitely true when it comes to coding.

😍 Beautiful code is real

Ever caught the sunset on a beautiful sandy beach in the middle of the mediterranean? That’s pretty much how I view some code now. Whilst coding is very much subjective, there are some uses of code that defy traditional techniques and transcend the very obvious plains of ‘the code works’. Thanks to some of the later iterations of JavaScript, like ES6, we are privy to some of the more pleasingly elegant coding features (my personal favourite being the spread syntax, oo yes!). By boiling down code to simple and yet readable components we are demonstrating that it doesn’t just need to work - but that code can be functional and readable to even the least-techie individual. That is beautiful code.

With the advancement of AI in the workplace, soft skills like creativity and critical thinking are going to become even more essential in software engineering. Harvesting those skills will determine which businesses succeed and which fall to the inevitable automation wheel. And whilst your code might not be winning any Turner prizes soon (although creating an original, creative, computer art masterpiece isn't out of the question), don’t be surprised if your next work social is a trip to the local art gallery.

Give it a try, you’ll soon see how creative coding really is!

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