My profession lacks inspiring leaders, exemplary figures who function as role models. I found my sources of inspiration outside the IT sector, in the form of a geography teacher, a children's book illustrator and an architect; men who maintained simple principles and had a huge impact.Bos - “Nur leer scheinende Karten prägen sich dem Gedächtnisse ein.”
Bos, a geography teacher, is the man behind a product with which many generations are familiar: the Bosatlas. In the first edition, he wrote: "Only maps that seem empty become imprinted on the mind." Before the Bosatlas, maps were full of names of places, provinces, rivers and canals, but Bos realised that it would be better to limit the information presented per map and to produce multiple, specific maps.
The map at the top of this article, which shows the average wind speed in the Netherlands, illustrates the effect achieved by this approach. You do not need to be able to read this map's legend in order to understand where the best place is to fly a kite.
Every solution architect could stand to learn something from this bit of history. Think deeply about the aspect of the solution that you wish to communicate. Less is more; produce a series of diagrams instead of trying to cover everything in a single overview.
Bruna – “I throw drawing after drawing into the trash before I really feel satisfied with what I've drawn.”
Dick Bruna has become world famous thanks to his children's books. Everyone knows Miffy the bunny. An important aspect of Bruna's work is the simplicity of his illustrations. He uses black lines, a limited number of primary and secondary colours, and black, white and grey. It seems simple, but each illustration is carefully considered.
Thanks to the limited number of lines and the targeted use of colour, the expressive power of Bruna's visualisations is increased. This is at odds with the approach taken with many architectural drawings, which are a whirlwind of mysterious arrows and an inconsistent use of colour. The same can be said about many 3D representations, which may be visually appealing, but that overshoot the mark. It sometimes seems as though architects are paid to visualise chaos, instead of to reduce matters to their essence. It may sound childish, but take a page from Bruna and Miffy, and consider simplification and the limited use of lines and colour as an art.
Berlage - 'Gesamtkunstwerk'
My last source of inspiration is nevertheless an architect: Berlage. An important aspect of Berlage's work is the idea of a Gesamtkunstwerk, or universal artwork. Berlage collaborated with a range of other artists on the different parts of his designs, such as the murals, stained glass windows, the lighting or the furniture. This resulted in a consistent experience for the end user and a comprehensive system.
You could say that men such as Berlage and Steve Jobs share the same vision: they both want to create nothing less than a Gesamtkunstwerk. In the IT sector, projects such as these are known as isolated, expensive systems. In practice, they are solutions that exude high quality throughout the chain and which revolve around the end user experience. To summarise, my message is work together with "artists," and the best people/services the profession has to offer, and ensure coherence without sacrificing the end user experience.