Anti-gravity Office. Acrylic on canvas 2016. By Artist in Residence, LIvien Yin.
AUTHOR PROFILE Forest Stearns
Curious Planeteer working to make the Earth's changes visible, accessible and actionable.

An Artful Planet

From our earliest days as a company, Planet has integrated the arts into many aspects of what we do. Original artwork covers our satellites, radomes and launch vehicles. It adorns our walls. It is produced by outside artists who are invited to participate in our Artists-in-Residence program. It’s made together by our employees and, with our help, by external communities with whom we work.

It may all seem a bit unconventional, but there are good reasons why a technology-driven company like ours makes such a significant investment in the arts. Here are three, which we share in the hopes that other organizations might be similarly inspired. 

The arts humanize our mission

Our company exists to use space to help life on Earth. We do that by using satellites to make global change visible, accessible, and actionable, with the goal of fostering more inclusive stewardship of the planet.

This is an ambitious plan, to say the least, and to some people it can feel daunting. After all, up until recently ‘space’ has been the sole province of engineers and scientists – not a domain most people have much experience thinking out.

Art has the ability close this gap, to draw society closer to our mission and spur our collective imagination. The works of our Artists-in-Residence, for instance, are often profoundly beautiful, and invite viewers into conversation about our changing planet, about the nature of our company’s work and the principles behind it. Art puts people ‘back in the picture’ of technology and global change and inspires them to imagine with us.

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Watercolors of human-altered geography. Watercolor on paper. By Artist in Residence, Meredith Scheff-King.

The arts enhance our company’s culture

Our commitment to art-making cuts through our whole organization. We’ve found that making art about the planet, and, especially, making art together about the planet, is a powerful way to build a common bond between our employees, so we convene collaborative art-making nights in our offices around the world — and occasionally, with outside groups as well. The creativity that is unlocked in these experiences infuses the rest of our company culture, and that culture is a big part of why some of the world’s most talented people decide to work at Planet.

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At one of our regular Art nights, employees sketch designs destined for orbit.

This program also amplifies our culture. It places external artists from traditional and emerging fields shoulder-to-shoulder with scientists and technologists doing some of the most innovative aerospace work in the world today. This stimulates a deep creative exchange that enriches both the artist and engineer with new ways of seeing the world, new questions, and new ways of asking them.

It is also manifested in countless other creative expressions, large and small – for instance, in the way we commemorate important technical milestones with ‘mission patches’:

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In short, we use art to elevate, commemorate and celebrate our work, and to dream and have fun. We believe this communicates something important about who we are and what we value in the human experience – namely, that a commitment to creativity, imagination and beauty are not just how we survive, but why.

The arts position us for the future

We believe our commitment to the arts creates real enterprise value today, and positions us for the the economy of tomorrow.

It is not surprising that many of the world’s most creative companies have begun to embrace the arts: research shows that companies that embrace creativity outperform their peers and competitors on key business performance indicators, including revenue growth, market share, and talent acquisition and retention. We believe that the economy of the future will not simply reward this kind of creativity, but will demand it.

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Oceanographer, Marie Tharp. By Artist in Residence, Josh Ellingson.

Today, there is a significant push to support great STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Like many others, we think that the most successful future workers will be STEAMed – exposed to those disciplines, and the arts. We’re building a culture that is ready and attractive for them.

Engaging with Art @ Planet

Meanwhile, we’re doing many things to advance the role of the arts and creativity in organizations. We’re enhancing our Artists-in-Residence program to engage with artists who work in a wider array of media, geographies and genres. We’ve recently begun to build a network of companies building similar programs, called the Creative Exchange, so that we can learn from each other. We’re expanding our public art engagement efforts, to reach a wider circle of participants. And we’re bringing our approach and hard-earned lessons to other organizations, to help them jump start their own efforts.

If you’re interested in participating in any of the above, please review the recently-relaunched Art at Planet page, and be in touch.