Code Craft Series: Beautiful Code

Code Craft is a new monthly series in which our developers share tips and concepts relating to refactoring, code quality and craftsmanship.

When asked to write the first post in our “Code Craft” series I scoured my mind for tips or tricks that could benefit others in a positive way. Instead of handing you a specific mechanical implementation I’d rather present you with a concept that profoundly changed the way I develop software. Marcel Molina’s 2007 Ruby Hoedown keynote address on “What Makes Code Beautiful” is a timeless discourse on modern software design. In this talk Marcel explores different definitions of beauty from classical literature, how they relate to the symmetry of human corporeality and how they might apply to software design.

While moved by the concepts presented I didn’t actively apply them to my work immediately; instead they involuntarily crept into the foreground when I was designing, writing, or refactoring software. Of particular note is the slide on “Checks & Balances” (15:00 in the video, and page 21 in the slides) where he outlines a concept where beauty lies equidistant between proportion, integrity, and clarity. If validated against this triad the object in question likely fulfills its purpose with some degree of beauty; otherwise additional scrutiny may be justified.

Observing the ‘laws’ of beauty affords me the ability to fashion elegant systems and components with less effort and more confidence. I urge you to watch and reflect upon Marcel’s talk and consider how the application of these concepts could improve the aesthetics, function, and comprehension of the software you construct.

Beautiful Code – Marcel Molina
I recommend the high resolution version because the material presented within is deserving.