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A Fool with a Computer: Technology Tools and Artistic Tradition in the 21st Century

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With the software used in computer design today, it's tempting to think that sophisticated tools can compensate for a lack of artistic ability or design principles. As art director and industrial designer Duane Loose points out in this article, though, nothing could be farther from the truth. The most important tool in design remains the artist himself.
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I graduated from the Industrial Design program at Brigham Young University in 1979 just as computer tools for product design were coming into their adolescent years. In the interim 22 years, computer-based tools for design have revolutionized design and the creative process. Or have they?

Dangerous Fools

In 1980, as I sat at a $150,000 CAD workstation, it was easy to be impressed with the power of the machine. It also was seductively easy to embrace that machine as an instrument of automated design and creativity. Some professionals were not so easily impressed, of course. And many were vociferously and prophetically cautious, such as industrial designer and educator Del Coates, who coined the phrase, "A fool with a computer is a more dangerous fool!"

At that time, Del observed that the designers and design educators of his day thought that the powerful computers and software tools just coming into existence could compensate for a lack of artistic ability or inadequate knowledge of design principles and processes. His fear was that the process, craft, and art of design—indeed, the designer's very way of life—would be lost in the feeding frenzy of fools with a new tool.

Twenty years later, Del's prescient observation has, unfortunately, been proven all too true; there are far too many dangerous fools with computers in the world. However, the loss of the foundation of principles and elements of design and art has not come to pass as Del feared, for one simple reason: the artist's soul.

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