Art & Engineering - Create to solve

Visual abilities can help us be more effective and innovative, work and live smarter. Experience reveals that those of us who practice, as amateurs or professionally, one of the visual arts (such as drawing, painting, sculpture, or photography) develop enhanced observational capabilities. Today students are being taught how forces are used in the creation of art. As "paper engineers," students use the associated activities to create their own mobiles and pop-up books, and identify and use the forces (air currents, gravity, hand movement) acting upon them. 

One of the jobs of an engineer is to learn how to use forces to design and create things that benefit the society. Artists also consider these forces when they design decorative or dramatic buildings, landscapes or installations. Some artists pay close attention to forces when they create kinetic sculptures. Learning elements of art, principles of design and styles of art effectively helps engineers to become more innovative and communicative in their profession. When looking at anything, artists, relative to others, tend to see composition, shapes, colors, values, and details. As noted by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” And so it is once we engage in visual arts.  Drawing, which means converting a mental image into a visually-recognizable form, was first employed at least four millennia ago by the predecessors of what are now scientists, engineers, architects, and other similar technical professionals.

From freehand to the more disciplined projection drawing and into today’s computerized drawing, have been largely beneficial, mainly because they increased the efficiency of drawing and the use of drawings in engineering. Practicing art enables engineers to develop two dimensional representations of three dimensional objects, to communicate ideas through sketches, compose better ways of presenting their thoughts and plans and create three dimensional computer models. Students who take art classes are seen to be more patient with decision making, have confidence while risk taking and these qualities are required in becoming a professional technician. 

As we can see, freehand drawing enhances a person’s ability to perform the first two steps, that is, to look and then see, really see at least the physical aspects of issues, problems, and opportunities. Then more “art,” in the form of simple shapes, lines, arrows, stick people, and things, facilitates the remaining imagining and showing steps. The idea is to engage both of the brain’s hemispheres because a whole brain would be better.  The enhanced seeing can enable an engineer to more fully define an issue, problem, or opportunity can also, through continued enhanced visualization, help him or her resolve the issue, solve the problem, or pursue the opportunity. 

Does art benefit other professions too? Let’s hear them in the comments. If you enjoyed this article, share it with your friends!

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