Using Code and Working Software to Inspire others

Software SketchSuccessful programmers and technical architects are well known for their ability to deliver rock solid applications, however, it’s their ability to inspire that’s most prized at R/GA. Good programmers execute, while great programmers inspire.

In his book, Sketching User Experience, Bill Buxton highlights the importance of sketching as a technique for putting “experience front and centre of design.” He refers mostly to sketches on paper, whiteboards and Photoshop, but code is another perfectly acceptable sketching medium.

Sometimes coding can be faster than explaining with words and pictures; an hour of noodling in a technical framework  is often the best way to express a fresh idea or nugget of inspiration. For example, in Android it only takes a minute to create a new project, another twenty to get feedback from the accelerometer — display some text and that’s probably enough to sketch out an idea for something like a mobile-haiku-rumba-shaker. This is neither a fully baked idea, nor maybe even a good idea, nevertheless a simple thought starter like this might be just what it takes to help inspire a team.

In the typical tumultuous agency creative war-room, inspiration comes from  images, copy, sketches and artifacts pinned to the wall. Strategies and tactics emerge out of a process of trial, error and experimentation. Although it’s not as easy to pin software onto a wall, “software sketches” are an extremely effective way to inspire. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a working software sketch is worth a thousand pictures.