What is The Relation Between Art and Digital Transformation? a Guest Post By Alberto Barreiro

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We had a great pleasure to know Alberto Barreiro, the Chief Experience Officer of Grupo PRISA, one of the largest media conglomerates in Spanish language. Alberto is an artist who works and operates in a business context which makes him an interesting person to listen to and a source of inspiration.

We are thrilled to have Alberto as a guest writer on TheArtian and even more excited to announce that on Wednesday, April 6, 2016, we will host a conference together with Alberto on the role of art in the business world. For more information click here best site.


I never thought I was able to make that connection, I started my career as an artist and, in what I thought was a divergent path, ended being involved on digital transformation processes.

All of a sudden I find myself rescuing a presentation that I read to art students a few years ago. The title was “Designing on Troubled Times” and it talks about two things: The role of Design in society and some skills that artists and designers unconsciously learn that are quite useful in the business world.

The source of the presentation comes from a shocking finding: when dealing with strategic thinking, someone with a background on Arts, like me, was better prepared to deal with certain business decisions that my MBA-educated peers.

I don´t consider myself any kind of genius, so it might be something related to my education.

These are some of the skills that I listed in the presentation that seem to emerge from a brain wired by years of thinking in art and design terms:

  • Patter recognition
  • Holistic perspective
  • Creativity
  • Storytelling
  • Intuition
  • Humanist mindset
  • Empathy
  • Critical Thinking
  • Visualization skills

… and up to 30 skills that happen to come quite handy when you find yourself dealing with new business paradigms and the complexity of the world we live in.

Alberto Barreiro

Alberto Barreiro

For some reason the topic is starting to appear back in my mind. For years, my effort, as well as the effort of many designers, was to make ourselves worthy of the board rooms. We learnt business jargon, we dressed up our principles with it, we thought in terms of performance and ROI, we based decisions on data and objective research,  and we put our human weaknesses aside just to become smart-looking scientists….that’s by itself, hugely transformational.
Design puts people in the center of the business decision making and that has a quite revolutionary component. I always thought that Design acts as a Trojan Horse, disguised as an inoffensive tool is able to change corporate mindsets by incepting Empathy as a business component.

There’s no debate about this. After many years of very smart people evangelizing about the benefits of putting users at the center, now everyone knows that design is key, more and more designers are playing an strategic role in business, banks spend fortunes buying design studios in order to learn how to survive the digital disruption, every unicorn start-up has a designer founder, user experience, service design and customer experience are the shinny new departments in every single consultancy firm and even the grayest of the middle managers mention design thinking save of sounding like some hippy creative.

In return of all this effort designers are now seen as respectful members of the corporate community.
…which is something that makes me feel unease.
Design has been acting as a negotiator between humans and the psychopathic world of business, and I believe that in this process design may have surrounded some principles in order to be taken seriously in the negotiation table.

And that’s why Art, as a extreme version of human-centric thinking, seems to come back into play. Art can help design to find some new edge, to move itself away from the comfort zone in order to keep innovating and pushing the boundaries (with a purpose). Artists are hackers of meaning, and the key for building future sustainable businesses lives in the capacity of establishing meaningful relations with people. Design must search deeper, by the hand of Art, inside the variables that define the human condition.

This is one of the key links between Art and Digital Transformation. Digital Transformation is not so much about technological changes in the search of more efficient processes, but the capacity of an organization of redefining its value in meaningful terms and materialize it in a totally different medium (the digital one). It has a quite symbolic component, it requires a quite rare skill-set: the leader’s capacity of extracting and formulating the corporate proposition in abstract terms and recreate it, re-interpreted in a digital medium. An intellectual and creative process/game of which artist are very familiar with.

There’s a character trait that great artists have that I didn’t write in my original list: total commitment to life, a strong sense of duty based on principles and beliefs that drives creation and action.

…maybe that is what comes next…


Albero Barreiro will participate in the conference “Why Business Needs Art” in Google Campus Madrid on April 6, 2016. For registration and details click here.

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