The Beauty of Artists in the Workforce

Sept. 28, 2019

Apple transformed personal computing by looking for and finding beauty in the experiences between the end-user and its products.

  • Is the product intuitive?

  • Is it simple and easy to use?

  • Is it visually appealing?

Questions, such as these, which are related to the transcendent qualities of beauty, truth, love, and other ideals, are matters of the heart -- artistic inquiries if you will -- and so they have the ability to empower and inspire people, along with the companies they work for, to transform entire industries.

Therefore, what would happen if we asked similar questions of ourselves when relating to others at work?

  • Am I friendly and supportive?

  • Am I easy to get along with?

  • Do I include and accept others?

In other words, can we find beauty in the experiences between co-workers, just as Apple found beauty in the experiences between devices and its end-users? Could we, in fact, use art, just as Apple used user experience (UX) design methodologies, to transform relationship and team building in the workplace? After all, a company's greatest asset is its people, and the more optimal the experience is between employees, the more inclusive they will be of others, and the more diverse and powerful the workforce becomes.

UX designers take a deep interest in their products and services and how they affect end-users in order to optimize the experience for the end-users. Likewise, I envision artists taking a sincere interest and curiosity in a company's employees, and how they experience the work they do together in order to optimize this experience. For example, if co-workers are unable to get along or struggle to communicate effectively, adversely affecting the quality of their work, artists, in cooperation with a company's HR department, can assign art projects to the employees. The employees are given the permission and space to draw and paint objects of their choice, and ask each other questions unrelated to their normal jobs (which may be points of contention), such as:

  • Why did you choose to draw your object?

  • Why did you choose the colors?

  • How does the painting make you feel?

  • Can I tell you what I like and don't like about it?

Art projects can be compared to the wireframe prototypes used in UX design, which are 3D representations of what the designer is interfacing or interacting with. In this case, the artist designs the art project and corresponding questions as a graphical icebreaker for starting uncomfortable conversations, in order to release the thoughts and emotions that otherwise would remain trapped and unexpressed between employees. That's precisely why people love their hobbies and pastimes. These activities give people the permission and space to speak with others about their work outside of the workplace. We all need this outlet, however by bringing the outlet to the workplace, and finding creative ways to address the people at work we do not like or agree with, problems can be managed and relationships can improve.

Here are a few more ways artists can enhance a workforce and build both monetary and intrinsic value for a business.

  • Collaborate, brainstorm, and think outside the box with researchers, designers. and marketers to sketch, improvise, or storyboard concepts for new products, services, markets, etc.

  • Use pencil and paper, paint, clay, digital, and other mediums to enable software and hardware prototyping and modelling for UX optimization, or for visually explaining products and services to developers, manufacturers, executives, and decision makers.

  • Enhance lectures, workshops, meetings, conferences, panels, focus groups, and similar engagements with visual notes and graphic facilitation.

  • Enhance and improve the aesthetics of products, services, marketing material, technical drawings, web sites, and presentation slides.

  • Develop "artists in residency" programs for a more diverse and inclusive workforce that embraces and values the creativity in all people.

  • Use music, song, and dance to add light physical exercise, playfulness, and social time to each work day, which is important to team cohesiveness and performance.

  • Work closely with all levels within an organization to find deeper purpose and meaning in the work employees do, and discover ways to motivate and inspire them beyond a paycheck or benefits package.

Moreover, the hard skills we use at work such as coding, programming, or data science are primarily intellectual and teachable skills. Art, on the other hand, is mostly a soft skill, and so consists of a vision, message, or inner dialogue that is not easily taught or conveyed with words and formulas. Both skill sets are necessary for employees to be successful and thrive in the modern workplace. Therefore, by hiring artists to create artwork on-site together with employees, or to paint drawings solo from start to finish in front of employees, workers will be exposed to a skill and creative process they would not otherwise experience, if pre-made art is bought and hung in the office. This exposure will benefit employees in all aspects of their work.

Art is relaxing and beneficial, because it stirs the imagination and allows you to think outside the box of limitations that are inherent in the hard skills of our daily work. In fact, I was inspired to write this article thanks to the artists I work with. I believe in the beauty and value they can bring to any group of people.