Why Art is Important for Software
In today’s crowded software market, businesses need to know how to differentiate themselves from their competitors. How can we pull consumer attention to our product? How can we create the best user experience possible?
In the words of Israel’s startup father figure, Dr. Yossi Vardi: “It’s the arts that create the user experience.” Vardi is an accomplished Israeli investor, and has seen how important merging the disciplines of art and business are during his more than 47 years involved in startups across varying fields. One of his most notable investment projects was Mirabilis, the company responsible for developing the ICQ instant internet messaging software. He has also been highlighted as a top tech investor in publications such as the Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch.
Vardi understands that art, by principle, is an expression of the human experience, and understanding how humanity functions on a deeper level. He explained, “you can’t reduce user experience to an algorithm…it’s like trying to explain why a flower is beautiful.” This echoes the thoughts of John Dewey, in his book, Art and Experience, which relays the importance of understanding art as an experience and not merely a physical object.
And why is this difference important? Because experiences personally affect people, and reach into the core of who they are. This is exactly how user experience should function, and something that Vardi has seen succeed throughout his years. Given his long list of accomplishments, companies can learn from Vardi’s insights that he developed through his years working in the internet and technology sector, where he saw the benefits of utilizing creative thinking firsthand.
One of the main keys to success in both the creative (a field Vardi has often advocated for) and technology sectors is originality: creating something that no one else can do. However, being original with new technology can be challenging since technical innovations are always attainable. Although you may have been the first, others can also create similar innovations.
“Look at the old, traditional meccas of design,” Vardi said. General Electric, General Motors and Xerox were great companies with vision and empowered, capable employees. However, they ended up losing their large influence because, “they didn’t adapt to the fact that one hundred million guys can come and do innovation…the internet democratized innovation.”
Essentially Vardi noticed that, through increased accessibility to knowledge due to the rise of the internet, more people had the capability to innovate on the same level as big corporations. This allowed people to innovate independently of these corporations, and ultimately compete with them successfully. The democratization of innovation had highlighted the need for originality in a large way. Since there is greater access to information, innovation can happen across all levels of education and background, creating a need for creative mindsets to increase originality.
Art, as we always claim at The Artian, is about originality and novelty, not only beauty, which Vardi recognized after the success of ICQ. He realized creating an algorithm alone was not enough. A different ingredient is needed: art.
Art, as Vardi described, “is from your brain or your heart, or a combination of them,” which allows you to create something completely new and unique from your perspective. This is exactly what ICQ managed to accomplish at the time: a completely new software that connected people by allowing them to communicate with each other despite large distances.
Humanistic Approach to Software
Mirabilis’ example also goes to show a key way to maintain differentiation from the competition: grabbing your customers’ attention by learning how to tug on their heartstrings. Ultimately Vardi believes that, “software takes care of functionality, and art takes care of user experience.”
Art has the innate ability to allow us to see beyond the data and into human experience, an integral part to creating an engaging user experience. For ICQ, they were able to tap into humanity’s desire for connection and communication, leading to their software going viral within months of its launch. He discussed examples of tech giants like Apple and Amazon that understand the value of building on the user experience. They aren’t innovative just by their software alone, but because they added user design elements that subtly drew in the customer. Steve Jobs said, “it’s in Apple’s DNA that that technology alone is not enough…it’s technology married with liberal arts…the humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing,” during Apple’s 2011 iPad launch. They understood that they needed to develop a connection with their customers on a more emotional level, ultimately creating a loyal consumer base that has supported them throughout generations of software and phone designs.
These innovations went beyond technological advancements and recognized the needs of the people who would be using the software they developed. By looking deeper, these companies were able to stand out from the crowd. This knowledge, as proven by companies like Mirabilis and Apple can lead to success, as when companies personify and adapt to their customer, they become an integral part of their lives.
To listen to his experiences in fostering young entrepreneurs, tune into The Artian podcast!