The Importance of Adding an “A” for Art + Design to the Famous Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Acronym
Leonardo DaVinci once wrote, “To develop a complete mind, study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses — especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” It is likely that Leo would agree with the latest realization that we must add “A” for Art & Design to STEM — and instead call it STEAM.
Science creates the function, and art gives shape to the form. After all, why build a sophisticated instrument like a smartphone, yet make it difficult to use or unpleasant to look at? This realization is what drove Steve Jobs to transform the smartphone industry, thru marrying form and function, or art and science.
My company — Spellbinders Creative Arts — was one of only a few that had a booth at this year’s SX Create Show dedicated to showcasing how technology can be used in service of art. Demonstrations were given, to hundreds of delighted schoolchildren and their parents, showing how a die-cutting and embossing machine, with its precise assembly of rollers and gears, is able to create amazing art with the simple turn of the handle. The smiles of all the onlookers were priceless as they cut a piece of leather and then embossed it with their initials.
Interestingly, while some were fascinated by how easy it was to make an art project, others were curious to know about the tool that enabled their art. In other words, it appears that many were first drawn to our booth because of the art, but then further captivated by the science that enabled the art – i.e. by the marriage of form and function. The question is, how often do these students get to explore art in depth?
What is concerning is the risk of overly focusing on science and engineering in today’s education system; for instance, art classes are some of the first to be cut from schools during financial cutbacks. That’s too bad. Art education is crucial to exercising a child’s creative muscle – and creativity is an essential component of innovation. In fact, it’s worth it to ask how America’s innovation in the twenty-first century can be propelled if its children grow up lacking creative muscle – surely, there is a case to be made for a balance between art and science.
A case in point: in the world of digital marketing, you must balance both the front-end and back-end of the online user experience. In other words, when creating a great digital experience for online shoppers, it would be inconceivable to focus solely on the technical back-end of a website. Certainly, a website can simply execute the proper functions. But if it lacks the aspect of aesthetics and fails to consider how elegantly it responds to the user, then it will feel sterile — and customers may not return. Thus, technology is what underpins digital marketing, but art is what underpins a great user experience. Both must go hand-in-hand.
Just as at SX Create, which started five years ago, all across the country “maker spaces” and shows are now popping up. These are spaces where local communities are given access to cutting-edge technologies like 3-D printers, robotics, laser cutters, and engravers. What is possibly most appealing about these spaces is that they give particular attention to empowering young women in their STEAM explorations.
Here is a list of the more notable maker spaces and shows:
- Boston Arts Academy, where students and teachers are embracing together the marriage of Arts and STEM. Students not only design and produce electronic textiles, they create prototypes using 3-D printers, and digitally render visual murals shared and experienced on smart TVs and mobile devices.
- ProtoMX in the Houston area is a collaborative space where people of all ages can explore, teach, and incubate new and older technologies.
- Make Faire is a consumer show that is part science fair, part county fair, and part of the maker movement that gathers together a diverse melting pot consisting of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, and students.
- STEAM Carnival is the latest on the scene. It’s a consumer show with the goal to “inspire the next generation of doers, dreamers, innovators and inventors. It shows kids of all ages what it means to get hands on, play and have fun with the coolest gadgets, gizmos and games that science, art and technology have to offer. STEAM Carnival is a playground for those who want to experiment, explore and engage with the world around them…”
The main point behind all these maker spaces and shows like SX Create is to engage people, especially children, in a very hands-on, real-world way. By showing the next generation the creative output of science, it is possible (indeed, vital) to capture their imaginations and in return draw them into the science behind the tools that enable and further their creativity. As Leo said hundreds of years ago: “Everything connects to everything else.” It’s true: you can’t have science that truly means something to the mass of humanity if it lacks art, or art without some aspect of science.
Written by: Mary Busch, VP of Marketing, Spellbinders Creative Arts, Phoenix, AZ8