Below is a guest post from Hank Ostholthoff, the CEO of Mabbly, a Chicago-based digital agency that focuses on content marketing and search engine optimization. 

The web may not be a gallery, but some of the beautifully designed websites or perfectly-framed Instagram photos circling the internet would be right at home on the white walls of an art house. So how do we classify digital content? Is it art, technology, or media? The boundaries between what were once wholly separate mediums are quickly fading as the lines between them blur. In our smartphone-, laptop-, and tablet-centric era, our screens are constantly occupied with beautifully-designed images and creatively constructed prose. Our emotional responses to them are deep, affected, and engaged — so it must be art, right?

Yet these masterpieces, whatever the platform, all intersect under the umbrella category that is media. All of our ideas and the creative ways we communicate them are consumed and shared through various media platforms; their function directs their form. When the media that surrounds us is designed by graphic artists and built by tech experts to seamlessly integrate into our lives and aesthetics, it becomes impossible to separate our messages, products, and services from the art, tech, and media elements that help us share them effectively.

All artists today are living in a free-market digital world, where the relationship between their art, technology, and media are bending, crossing, and intersecting. Today, it’s rare to see one exist in isolation of the others, and when they work together, they become the most powerful tool in any industry. Below are the trends we need to understand as artists, technologists, and media contributors, as well as some guidance to help us continue to effectively collaborate.

A Fine Line Between Technology and Art

The line between tech and art is irreparably blurred — in fact, in today’s world, they’re inseparable. Tech creates unique avenues for artists to express themselves, providing unprecedented new mediums and tools for broadening the audience with which they can communicate. Meanwhile, the creative standards set by artists have helped guide the framework for developments the digital world.

Music Dealers

Tech developers are viewed as designers, and must think visually about how they’ll execute any necessary programming function. The resulting dynamic has created a mutually beneficial relationship. Today, the two industries are inextricably codependent. That isn’t a bad thing: it just makes the future of both disciplines harder to predict. There’s no good reason not to see where the relationships goes next – the dynamic between them has brought innumerable benefits and certainly there are more to come. Nathan Michael of BEEF Bureau tells me, “In today’s day and age, vitality is not an option; it’s a requirement. You will have either learned how to further the message of your brand in the digital landscape, or you will simply have a very small existence. Small isn’t bad, but in a world of rapid growth, the expectations for getting into the game of business are scaling as well. Simply put: marketing is king and your product is queen.”

New Tech Tools For Artists and Beyond

As the tech and art worlds become more and more intertwined, we see new artistic platforms and tools evolving exponentially. These advancements, combined with the collaborations between art, tech and media, have had an unprecedented and unexpected impact on all three. Take crowdfunding, for example, a platform that has permanently changed the power balance of entertainment and media. Audiences today have more power than ever not only to consume what they want, but to encourage creative thinkers to keep creating it. This new platform serves as an equalizer: its democratic nature allows pure talent stand out, where previously nepotism, inside connections (or a lack thereof), or other industry barriers prevented the brightest minds from shining.

The continued integration of art, tech and media ultimately empowered their audiences, and will continue to do so. As the three become more intertwined, we can expect awe-inspiring results. “At the heart of all media is the relationship between the storyteller and the audience,” says Eric Sheinkop, Entrepreneur and Founder of Music Dealers. “The simultaneous evolution of the art, technology, and media industries closed the gap between those parties, and while content can satisfy consumer demands better, consumers now require mass amounts of high quality content faster than ever before. This is the premise of the Social Empowerment model: brands and advertisers maximizing the power of art, technology, and media to produce meaningful experiences for consumers by taking the role as the trusted filter of curated content.”

The Yeezy Boost 350

Artists Driving It All

I’m based in Chicago, and — for better or worse — it birthed Kanye, who blurs (or crosses) just about every line that separates visual art from music, tech and media. His Adidas deal with the Yeezy shoe line is a prime example of mainstream art and artistry, media and culture, product and branding, and technology intersecting on every level. As these lines between what were once completely separate worlds continue to evolve, our options for creative outlets change. Technology and media first began to blur the lines that once separated them as news migrated to the online world. As art entered the picture, what was once a cut-and-dry information-focused space developed a renewed interest in design, visual appeal and other forms of more creative thinking.

Technology and media and the side effects of their changing relationship have created an opportunity not just for famous rap artists like Kanye to create — whether they’re executing a vision through products, digital content, wearable art, etc. —  but also provides a potentially viral channel for the masses of artists to have a voice, a chance for their creations to be is noticed, recognized, and hopefully appreciated. If art is beauty, technology and media are a hope for the masses to do beautiful work.

Art is in the Eye of the Creator and Beholder

Artists have come a long way over the past few decades as their value grew in this new media landscape where expression and business intersect. Their effect has been led to changing overall standards for marketing campaigns and products — meaningful change, change that will last. They’ve taken a more artistic approach to branding and product design that has become the standard, for tech companies and audiences alike, enhancing the quality of tech products while elevating the profile of all art as something to be supported and respected.

As such, art has become a necessary aspect when marketing and producing a brand and product — look at Apple or Beats, both brands that hinge on their visual presentation. Would their image be even half as successful without the artistic vision behind the tech, and the aesthetic perspective in their accompanying media platforms? Absolutely not. When art, tech, and media work together in harmony, the emotional impact they create is beautiful, meaningful and impactful — in other words, it is art. Pure art.