Why Engineering Art?

Engineers are artistic.

Now if you’re an engineer you may have immediately though no way, not me. But take a step back and think of the relationships. 

Engineering and art were not always such separate disciplines. Leonardo da Vinci effortlessly combined them in his work, as well as most famous Renaissance men. Additionally in nature engineering principles are readily observed in beautiful artistic ways. Hundreds of years ago engineering didn’t exist with art, but as education has become more and more specialized, engineering has drifted far away from art. Collaboration between engineers and artists is rare and those seeking to bridge the gap often find themselves as architects in today’s world.

Growing up I enjoyed art, math, science and recess. (But what kid doesn’t enjoy some wind is their hair.) As I started to grow up my math and science skills were nurtured and fostered while my artistic skills peaked at 12 years only because “Artists don’t make good money”. Years later in college, I was lucky enough to encounter art in my education. Through a honors class about Revolutions I was reintroduced to creativity though poetry and art. Our teachers challenged a class of engineers to be creative .The results were astounding and left me longing for more. Suddenly being just a traditional engineer was never going to be enough for me. At heart I’m a creative person. Being good at math and science doesn’t make an engineer. Creativity and visualization are just as important, and creativity and visualization are learned through art. Society undervalues artists, but art is an important aspect of engineering- arguably, even the most important.
 
Engineers are taught to collect and analyze data, but actual problem solving requires creativity. That is where art comes in. Art education teaches creativity which can be applied to any discipline. Additionally, visualization is an art skill only taught to engineers through CAD programs because math and science is the main focus. In engineering you’ve got to be able to visualize. Being able to quickly draw something out can been the easiest way to communicate an idea.  
 
The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) spearheaded a movement to incorporate art and design in STEM education. It’s called STEM to STEAM, standing for science, technology, engineering, art, and math. John Maeda championed STEM to STEAM as president of RISD, and he wrote the following about the synergy between art and science in a guest blog for Scientific American:
 
“Art and science. To those who practice neither, they seem like polar opposites, one data-driven, the other driven by emotion. One dominated by technical introverts, the other by expressive eccentrics. For those of us involved in either field today (and many of us have a hand in both), we know that the similarities between how artists and scientists work far outweigh their stereotypical differences. Both are dedicated to asking the big questions placed before us: “What is true? Why does it matter? How can we move society forward?” Both search deeply, and often wanderingly, for these answers. We know that the scientist’s laboratory and the artist’s studio are two of the last places reserved for open-ended inquiry, for failure to be a welcome part of the process, for learning to occur by a continuous feedback loop between thinking and doing.”
 
So next time before you’re working a problem think about it as an engineer would and as an artist would. You’ll be surprised about the forward thinking nature of your answers.
 
Did you find this article interesting? Read more about STEM to STEAM here:

Kate RooneyComment