Creativity’s Brainchild: Engineering

A guest post by Holly Priestley

I believe that all children are born creative. How we nurture that creativity determines how we choose to use it as adults. Some see scientifically-oriented people as strangers to creativity, but artists, crafters and poets aren’t the only imaginative people around.

After having attended an Engineering based school for 3 years, I’ll be out (read: graduated!) next May, I have seen how creative these individuals can be. Creativity is not reserved for people who tend to use the right sides of their brains more frequently. Let’s take a look at engineers, for example.

Getting a bachelors degree in engineering is basically getting a Bachelors in Scientific Creativity (a BSC, if you will). Because people are naturally creative, they want to find new and unique ways to live and, when engineers do this, it’s called being innovative. Innovation is, by definition, the introduction of something new or different, the introduction of new things or methods.

Innovation is a manifestation of creativity.

When innovation is refined, focused and evolved, you get the various disciplines of engineering; Electrical Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, Materials, Civil, and so on. Engineering was essentially born out of necessity to be able to provide innovative solutions to practical problems. This implies that engineering was the natural result of man’s creativity.

Engineering is the toolbox of innovation. The engineers are the tool wielders and, without creativity or innovation, their tools (the different types of knowledge) are useless. For example, an Engineer may need to create a program to control a robot. In order to do this he/she needs knowledge of trigonometry, calculus, circuit theory, and programming among others. However, it is the creativity of the engineer that really allows them to utilize these tools in a combined manner to master a solution. Much like a sculptor, painter or knitter uses different tools to create a piece of art, these pockets of knowledge stored in the engineer’s brain (or bookshelf) act as tools, but the user has to bring the creativity and innovation to the table to accomplish their goal.

Without creativity in science, we wouldn’t have all of the ‘right brained’ creative outlets we have today; there wouldn’t be graphic designers using programs like Photoshop or Gimp, playing with light and sound would be considerably more primitive. Remember that it took just as much creativity for a software engineer to design Photoshop as it takes a photographer to edit a photo using it. Engineers and artists aren’t as polar opposite as they may seem.

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Holly Priestley is a college senior and sells her knitwear and patterns in her Etsy shop. She also blogs about some of her favorite things and her adventures. Someday, she hopes to be a knitwear designer full time.

11 thoughts on “Creativity’s Brainchild: Engineering

  1. Great post and very insightful! I have an industrial engineering undergrad and I’m getting my masters in interior design. So often, people are surprised and think that the two have nothing in common. I actually think that they have everything in common. I feel like my engineering undergrad is the perfect complement to the more creative career I hope to pursue. Just as engineers need to be creative, creative people can very often use the problem solving techniques common to engineers.

  2. I started out in college as an engineering major, eventually moving on to advertising/public relations and then into ceramics. I truly appreciate what you are expressing here. The act of creating does not come from “Right-Brained” or “Left-Brained,” we need our entire brain to create. Many people are shocked by the amount of chemistry and physics I was taught as a ceramic artist, and continue to use everyday to make art, just as I am in awe at the amount of creativity it takes to build the next tallest skyscraper or develop the next version of alternative energy.

  3. Aboslutely! Creativity can be found in any field and it’s an absolute shame that “stability” is so often touted as preferable and totally divided from creativity.

  4. This is so true! Just about any profession benefits from creativity. I’m an auditor in my day job, and I do a lot of data analysis. Taking raw data and turning into useful, relevant information doesn’t require the same kind of creativity that designing jewelry does, but it requires creativity nonetheless. Same goes for my job as a reference librarian. When someone comes up to the desk looking for a specific book, but they can’t remember the title OR the author’s name, it takes one *heck* of a lot of creative thinking to track down the book they’re looking for. (Yes, people actually do that, and I’m proud to say I’ve accomplished that feat on more than one occasion!)

    1. hey stephanie! i totally believe you on the librarian thing – and i know that feat takes creativity. in my previous life, i was a manager at a big box bookstore. often, my clues were “it had a greenish cover and it was on the front table.” and ya know? 9 times out of ten, i could come up with the answer.

      they’d just keep talking and i would put puzzle pieces together and combine them with other data stored in my brain. it was quite creative 😉

  5. Absolutely! Scientific discoveries, mathematical advances, leaps in astronomical discovery, brilliant architecture & yes, even working in a bookstore (I was, until not too long ago, a supervisor in a big box bookstore & have worked at a smaller, independent comic/book store) all require creativity in order to be effective. Thanks for the great insights.

  6. Very insightful post. I wish I had to foresight to combine creativity and career. I lost my own childhood creativity for a long time. I only found it later when I had my daughter and saw through her what I had been missing.

  7. Great engineering is an intensely creative effort. It’s also usually a team effort, and there’s a lot of not-very-accessible math and physics driving it.

    So the creative effort in engineering can be hard to relate to.

  8. What is creativity? In a nutshell, abstractive problem-solving. There are many different approaches problem solving, but it all boils down to the approach you’re most inclined to take.

  9. I really appreciate this post, Holly! I have a physicist/electrical engineering boyfriend and he is such a creative, free thinker. Scientists are some of the most creative people we have.

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