I was one of those kids that couldn’t decide on a major. I was interested in art, in science, in education. I still am interested in all of those things.
I started out in Elementary Education, then added a Graphic Design major. I realized at some point that I would rather teach at the college level than K-12, and dropped the education major. I had more than enough credits to have a minor, but I didn’t have enough in any concentrated area. I’d taken credits in Zoology, Chemistry, Ballet, French. Many of our other design students took a minor in marketing or communications, but I used my free electives as a chance to take whatever classes I found appealing.
I was also in our honors program (oh yes, I was THAT kid). I loved the way that our honors program was set up. There were a few courses you were required to take to graduate in the program (Honors Composition, Honors Orientation, and a Thesis course). Our program really stressed interdisciplinary study, and every spring, we had what was called a centerpiece course. It rotated between science, art, and social science. To take the course, you were required to create an addendum to another class.
At California, you could turn any class into an Honors credit by doing an Honors Addendum – some extra project that you would arrange with the professor. I did an addendum to my Intro to Music class by taking violin lessons, to my Photography class by creating a cyanotype, and to Intro to Earth Science by creating a Flash animation that explained weather patterns. For these centerpiece courses, you’d have to tie in another class you were taking that semester, and write a seminar paper that would apply to both.
When I see agencies that are pulling together design and technology, it’s just a natural way of thinking for me. I’m fascinated with TED, and projects like Deeplocal’s Nike ChalkBot or Nikon’s Small World. Creating connections between different fields, between different ways of thinking, finding new ways to disperse ideas. Design is design, whether you’re talking print, web, or automated chalk-spraying robot.
Combining science with art allows you to get a message across in new ways, but it’s the message that drives the technology. Without purpose, without research, these sort of projects would still be interesting, but they wouldn’t be useful. Infographics are often criticized as making data harder to understand, instead of easier, rendering them useless. I’d agree that this is sometimes the case, but many data visualizations I’ve seen have managed to be both useful and beautiful.
As mobile and interactive media become more pervasive in our society, the intersect of art and science gets larger, and the possibilities for design are nearly infinite.