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Comments (40) Posted 10.16.07 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Jessica Helfand

Science and Design: The Next Wave

Personalities and Individual Differences, Journal of the International Society for the Study of Individual Differences, Vol. 3, 1982, pp. 83-84.

Recently, William Drenttel, Ben Fry and I were invited to participate in a symposium in the UK that paired graphic designers with microbiologists, to look at the intersection of design and science. Fearing that the venn diagram uniting these disciplines might contain, in fact, little in the way of overlap, I set out to do a little research — whereupon I stumbled upon a 25-year-old study showing that male graphic design students were more likely to be psychotic than their female counterparts.

Instantly, I telephoned a friend who happens to be a clinical psychologist: he observed that if you cast a wide enough net, pretty much everything starts to look a little psychotic. He then pointed out that while an initial research study may have targeted graphic design students, not nearly enough research has been done on graphic design faculty.

Calmer now, I persevered: would I find more connections as I probed the boundaries of environmental sustainability, climate change, cell biology? What about the fact that I don't know anything about cell biology? What then?

I soon discovered that the Oxford English Dictionary has published a list of the 250 most famous words in science. As for an equivalent lexicon for designers, it turned out there were several: I conflated them and then looked for words in common. Curiously, I found only one.


Synthesis — that's it? As I sat there in England listening to scientists eloquently explaining their work with protein architecture, I was stunned — for while my scientific aptitude was (is) negligible, I understood perfectly what was going on. They showed molecules magnified through extraordinary microscopy; viruses made visual by light and shadow; forms made visual through science, and made understandable because of how they were visualized.

And I always thought visualization was what designers did.

It's a simplification, but one well worth considering. Contemporary design culture privileges authorship, values entrepreneurship and autonomy. We prize novelty and innovation, reward advancement, and celebrate progress. We look ahead, not behind — and seek enriching collaborative partners with whom to crystallize our collective visions.

Scientists look inside. Backwards. And then they look deep. They ask questions based on what they see, and look again. It's a perspective that combines scrutiny with humility, specificity with open-mindedness — factors not altogether mysterious to designers.

Bacteria exchange signals generated by synthetic circuits to form colorful patterns. The bulls-eye pattern (left) formed around a patch of turquoise cells, which send a chemical message. Surrounding cells turn green near the center, where the message is strong, and red farther away, where the message is weaker. Multiple patches of messenger cells (center and right) create more complex patterns. Similar multi-cell communication circuits could form complex biological structures such as liver or skin.
Photograph by Ron Weiss, Princeton University.

Last week, I found myself in a hospital where I toured a research lab with an immunologist. He explained how scientists look at pathogens and consider better models for treating disease. Such observation, in turn, leads to more targeted clinical trials and more effective pharmaceutical therapies. But it all begins by looking at cells dividing in a petri dish. A few days later at the AIGA National Conference in Denver, biologist, writer and "biomimicry" enthusiast Janine Benyus identified existing forms in nature — from the abstraction of the Fibonacci series to the specificity of a butterfly wing — as a paradigm for rethinking man-made practices and ensuring a more sustainable future. She discussed the finer points of bird migration and showed breathtaking images of life forms, all of them perfected over time — and none of them new-and-improved.

It's a fascinating model for design thinking, seemingly antithetical to the pursuit of innovation, yet stunning precisely because it veers wholeheartedly in the opposite direction. It's the less-is-more of the new age — history as novelty — with scientists the makers, the form-identifiers, the paradigm-shifters. Scientists probe and manipulate and channel and divide; they split and fuse and spike and engineer; but most of all, they look. They are the keen observers of our future because they peer so deeply into our past. They are historians, anthropologists, archaeologists of the body, the mind, the air, the planet, the universe. As a visual maker, to spend any time at all with scientists is to become at once profoundly aware of our similarities and devastated by that which divides us. In an age that is likely to be remembered for its self-absorption, it is an extraordinary thing to witness a lab filled with people devoting themselves passionately to understanding what DNA looks like, or how the immune system behaves, or what infection means for a human being fighting for her life. It's radical. It's humbling. And if we don't begin actively seeking new opportunities to learn, collaborate and contribute to this critical community of thinkers and doers, then we may have good reason to revisit that psychosis study.

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Comments (40)   |   JUMP TO MOST RECENT COMMENT >>

Science is measurable, and relies on results. How many designers would put their work through the rigors that scientists endure with their research? I had a PhD client, who needed a logo for his company, and I was pleased when he suggested that we create a wealth of logo + type combinations to compare and contrast what worked, and what didn't. In the end, it was an exhaustive exercise that yielded more than 100 different logo + type solutions. Many of them failed, but he wanted to see them fail, not just take my word for it. This could only come from a client with a biology background, who spends day after day looking comparing how one isotope or another will impact an experiment. For various reasons, graphic design has been called the combination of art + science, but what if it was more science and less art? A more rigorous and systematic creative process, with less emotional, subjective, or expressive input? Would we enjoy it as much?
10.16.07 at 04:37

Thanks William, posts like this are a welcome corrective to things like Dmitri Siegel's New New Typography.
John Coulthart
10.16.07 at 05:08

Thanks Jessica, posts like this are a welcome corrective to comments like John's.
10.16.07 at 06:13

Wow. As a design-obsessed biologist-cum-sustainable energy consultant, I very much appreciate of these words. To me, the connections are quite obvious, and I've never been one to lean too heavily on either side.

Cliched as it might be, the Eames' seem to best embody this connection to many non-designers. Some of my first memories from science class, I later learned, were of their twitchy science films. To go home and relax in dad's Eames lounger puts it all in perspective, though I was oblvious of the connection at the time.
10.16.07 at 06:42

Poor very poor. What a strange world you live in--full of fear of the unquantifiable nature of life. Seeking assurances tired old pseudo-modernists reach out in desperation for their staple favourite friend - 'science'. But with all the profound insights and fascinating approaches science cannot begin to approach the very meaning of existence. For that proposition a broader, deeper enquiry is required, one where there is no ground and death looms large. For the present however, a more pressing question now looms-why this post, why now. The smell of post-moderns blood is in the air. The return of the return of the "zombie modernists"...

...we need another blog.
Voodoo Ray
10.16.07 at 09:10

This reminds me of Paul Budnitz's statement at the AIGA conference that "nostalgia is death." I cannot disagree more. I have always believed that design is strongest when it references the greater world outside the formal mediums of design. I have seen that no matter how clever we can get with layout, shape, color, or form, design resonates when it connects with the world and the human experience.

I subscribe to Aurther Koestler's definition of creativity: that it is a connection of two previously unrelated ideas or concepts. Designers, like scientists, aren't recreating the world, but understanding and rearranging.

To me, that idea inspires humility.
Keenan CUmmings / BYU
10.16.07 at 09:33

I've always thought that Process in science and in design is very similar. Look to the past, understand it, repeat it or don't repeat it, modify it, develop a variety of possible tests or solutions to a problem or series of problems, understand the failures, understand the successes, repeat, verify, publish.
A difference is that designers also like things to look good. For the most part, scientist could care less about aesthetics.
10.16.07 at 09:41

to JC

The stars are blazing
like rebel diamonds
cut out of the sun
when you read my mind

some song on the radio
10.16.07 at 10:28

Seeking assurances tired old pseudo-modernists reach out in desperation for their staple favourite friend - 'science'.

Actually, Ray, it's got nothing to do with modernism — pseudo or otherwise. Nor, for that matter, is their any voodoo involved. Although you're correct in your observation that assurance is key to what many designers seek when they ape the formal conceits of science. Regrettably, this inclination — which William and I long ago dubbed "faux science" — is not at all what I am talking about here. Quite the opposite, actually: it's the real thing we need to understand, not how to appropriate cool-looking periodic tables for our annual reports.
jessica helfand
10.17.07 at 09:21

I'll bet that synthesis is not the only word common to both science and design. Experimentation and observation come immediately to mind as others. As JC wrote, the process of design is similar to the process of science. Both disciplines experiment, observe, and draw conclusions, among other things. Of course, science is striving to objectively add to the general body of knowledge by following carefully defined and widely accepted methods. Design is a little more, shall we say, free spirited. Designers are not all following the same rigorous methods. We don't have to undergo a peer review to get our work out into the public eye. And, though there may be some designers out there who are trying to add to the body of knowledge, we are really mostly trying to communicate ideas or information to particular audiences. I notice that scientists can be incredibly inept at communicating their ideas. They might be great at unraveling the structure of DNA, but they can't explain it clearly to save their lives. The obvious answer here is a collaboration between science and design. Given our similarities, designers ought to be able to help scientists communicate. And isn't that what Charles and Ray Eames were doing when they made Powers of Ten? The thing is that, as designers, the Eames really understood the science, and found a way to make it easy for others to understand. Is this a post modern idea? I don't know. But, I think it is what Jessica is getting at: we ought to be trying to actively understand and collaborate with science. It's a good point! We can help science. That's particularly true since we live in time in which science is being devalued both by an American President who neither understands nor values science, and by religious extremists worldwide (and of many faiths) who view science with superstition and fear.
Rob Henning
10.17.07 at 10:03

It has been reported that a few people who studied this psychosis problem at the same time were suffering a bit from Meddling In Creative Resources Of Some Otherwise Funloving Tribes.

Let it be.

10.17.07 at 10:42

Your position is a retreat into binary oversimplification, a reduction of inquiry into subserviance-do not ask what science can do for you, ask what you can do for science. Why do designers need to apply their skills to this arena? What signals out science for preferential treatment? Why not politics, psychoanlysis, art? When did science become the mandate of all that is true and worthy?

Let us look at one of your examples. The DNA code of which you noted is an intersting discovery, but we should be wary of laying down our critical faculties in awe of such revelations. All knowledge is created within the sphere of social values and thus requires constant assesment of its intent and purpose. Immediately we can see that this information has dramatically shifted the perception we have of ourselves, our expectations and limitations. Our value is increasingly judged on this inherited set of bio-chemical data. In a scene reminiscent of the most horrific book burnings, our socio-historical narratives fade ever faster in the glorification of numerical order. We have been reduced to code. The ramifications on our social realm have yet to fully play out, but already we can see the discussion turn towards categorising, segregation, and elimination.

Indeed a much more profound insight on the decoding of the human genome is the fact that the information itself has been incarcerated in intellectual isolation. This information that builds our physicality has been stolen from us all and turned into a profit potential for a few. We have been infiltrated, examined, calculated and summarised in the good name of science and understanding only to be hoodwinked by the concerns of another. In short our beings have been propertised.

How can designers work against such imposed immaturity? By taking part in the arena which determines all others, namely the political. Not the bounded ham acting of party politics, but the politics of relations between justice and truth-both private and public, local and global. We should therefore ask how and why science, creativity, and thinking in general, are being driven in such directions. What is the motivation? Who is it that is benefiting? Who amongst us is being forgotten, who has been lost? Who decides this is a price worth paying? Why do we accept so much and question so little? Why do we wish to find comfort rather than resistance? When did we lose our sense of the social, the common, and the shared, to become the docile, domestic, easy to manage statistical objects so beloved of commerce?

These are some of the crucial concerns for us today, all of which demand the retrieval of our politicised identities, over and above the concerns of any scientific ones.
10.17.07 at 12:15

As a designer living with a molecular biologist, the ties between science and design are more apparent every day. I periodically peer over her shoulder, looking into a world dense with facts and objectivity. She does the same to me, observing the effort it takes to produce a quality design. Which, usually discourages her to spend any more time than necessary designing her projects. Sometimes she claims that it "wouldn't benefit" her work if it were designed better. "Blasphemy," I say!

If I'm lucky, I get the opportunity to critique her work, aiding her attempts to better the visual design of her project. I feel that in those moments I am helping the scientific community one scientist at a time.

Slowly over the years, I've exposed her to things like typography and the grid. She always admits, in the end, that it communicates much better with some attention to design.

Teach scientists to value great design, and they'll teach science better.
Jason Robb
10.17.07 at 01:12

whatever this means, but this guy studied physicism and not some kind of quackery. IF I may be so bold.

Richard Feynman suggested, in his "Cargo Cult Science" speech, that scientists may fall prey to a form of magical thinking as well as laypeople. When experiments are poorly controlled and not repeated, or reporting bias dominates, scientists may "fool themselves" into believing insignificant results significant. If enough flawed work is done in a field — Feynman singles out sloppy psychology — then further experiments may devolve into a set of unfounded rituals.[2] In short, methods that seem scientific may be used to generate results that merely seem scientific.

10.17.07 at 01:49

for an interesting other side, check out Joseph Dumit's work here. He teaches a course at UC Davis called 'Visualizing Science,' which asks how scientists know things by looking at them, and the limitations of what they can know through relying on visuals (the limitations of looking, how light or dyes change what they observe, the accuracy of computer simulations, etc). His dissertation on PET scans is super interesting. Being a designer and taking this class with scientists and geographers turned everyone a bit sideways.
10.17.07 at 02:29

In my experience, all scientists seek beauty -- whether it be beauty of concept ... or beauty in the mechanics of an idea. Designers and artists strive for similar ideals, but with different tools and systems of thought. The endpoint, however, is often the same. Advancement in understanding ourselves, our world, and our challenges as a society looking forward. We all win, all the time. Thanks for the great post, Jessica.
John Maeda
10.17.07 at 06:53

As a student of molecular biology who is also obsessed with graphic design, I myself have straining to connect the two - or at least finding an excuse too. At first, I thought there also was none - but I've come to realize that the both (science and design) need each other more than ever.
Biology, from the human genome project and on, has become a treasure trove of information - but it is unacessible as much badly designed information is. Biology always yearns for new and more efficient ways to represent and access information.
But the relationship could be mutually benificial. My problem mainly with some of the graphic design classes I have taken as a scientist is how unacademic they are. Some things are well thought out - we know that paragraphs are easier to read as serifs; the recent article about Clearview in NYTimes recently. But so many other things are based on feeling. We have a sense of why somethings work better than others, but we don't know why. And the only reason, I feel, is that we have not decided to "look" hard enough.
10.17.07 at 11:43

To echo previous comment ...

When people ask me, "What do you do?"

Find myself (initially) saying, "Lover of beauty."

Science is beautiful. So is design. Different but similar. Design is in everything, no?



Joe Moran
10.18.07 at 01:27

As a student of molecular biology who is also obsessed with graphic design, I myself have straining to connect the two - or at least finding an excuse too. At first, I thought there also was none - but I've come to realize that the both (science and design) need each other more than ever.
Biology, from the human genome project and on, has become a treasure trove of information - but it is unacessible as much badly designed information is. Biology always yearns for new and more efficient ways to represent and access information.
But the relationship could be mutually benificial. My problem mainly with some of the graphic design classes I have taken as a scientist is how unacademic they are. I think people tend to forget that design is "design" first and art second. In other words, design should be made to work - that's were the science needs to come in. Some things are well thought out - we know that paragraphs are easier to read as serifs; the recent article about Clearview in NYTimes recently. But so many other things are based on feeling. We have a sense of why somethings work better than others, but we don't know why. And the only reason, I feel, is that we have not decided to look hard enough.
10.18.07 at 02:06

wonderful article, jess.

another word in common might be imagination.

debbie millman
10.18.07 at 08:45

@nancy - I take this article to mean that this ideal of science Jessica discusses - the humble, rigourous observation - is a lesson many designers can learn from. The fact that some scientists are sloppy in their methods doesn't mean we can't learn something from the good ones.
10.18.07 at 08:56


The crux of the matter is that when i wan't sloppy as a designer many people did learn from me. When students asked for concepts, I gave them to them. The person I knew best told me I was stupid for doing my best work and for helping others. In a way he was right. Working in design isn't about christianity at all. Nor is it about the golden rule.

Other things got in the way. I guess that design doessn't really happen in a lab when it is a livlihood. LIke I learned from the social science, economics, not all other things remain a constant.
10.18.07 at 09:24


also why i am trying to figure out the mathematic formula for kharma, another religious design concept. Its just a lottery, too. You can better your odds to some extent but with billions of people playing and getting in the way, it's also a roll of the dice. Or crap shot.
10.18.07 at 09:59

MIT professor, Victor Weisskopf, wrote in an essay entitled Teaching Science that, "In science we must always begin by asking questions, not giving answers. In this way we contribute to the joy of insight. For science is the opposite of knowledge. Science is curiosity."

I am a paper engineer/designer/artist currently enlisted as a visiting research scholar in the Material Science Department at the University of Michigan. We have found a way for a single coated thread to harness and emit solar light. As a photovoltaic cell it can distribute energy as light or heat, the challenge now is of integrating this technology into its structure. It is a question of design. We hypothesize that solar cells woven into textiles can become flexible, and using paper engineering techniques we can better understand the issues of "micro-origami" and the problems inherent in scaling our folds to a nanoscale.

I have found remarkable results occur when different approaches are allowed to collide. A few years ago I was designing pop up books, the idea of the fold has expanded and now the work exists in the realms of science. The work is made because I we cannot visualize its final realization; we come to understanding through making. The pursuit of curiosity is the same.
m shlian
10.18.07 at 02:43

"Every time that I see a little bit more, it tells me there are worlds and worlds more to see, deeper yet. The pleasure I get when I see a little tells me that all pleasure, all happiness, lies in seeing more. Whenever I manage to see some tiny bit, I always say to myself again, yes, that's the way I wish I lived: seeing these things."

John Jerome,
Stone Work: Reflections on Serious Play and Other Aspects of Country Life (1989)

"All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight."

Aristotle, Metaphysics
Gideon Strauss
10.18.07 at 05:34

Funny, but for years I've assumed that the thing all heuristic activities have in common is discovery. Scientists and philosophers of science aren't afraid to criticize their approaches either. See Against Method by Paul Feyerabend.

Recently my students have been doing a good deal of work for the College of Science and Technology at my university. The design students have exposure to a range of research in disciplines such as biology, materials science, DNA sequencing, and science education. I was showing students Roman Vishniac's Building Blocks of Life (out of print) and Felice Frankel's Envisioning Science and was struck by how amazing science has become in the area of visualization. In this respect, designers have both alot to offer and alot to learn.

Are various disciplines returning to a pre-New Atlantis state? Could E.O. Wilson's Consilience be correct? Stay tuned.
david stairs
10.18.07 at 06:16

Wonderful read (especially conclusion!) during my redundant 3d lighting lecture, thank you for delivering this paradigm shift through your column.
James Steffens
10.19.07 at 10:17

Every congratulations, Jessica ... well done! I am a scientific illustrator and grahic designer in the Natural Sciences and I so appreciate your article. My career is based on this one topic and all of it's machinations, paths, struggles, failures and triumphs. It's exciting to see so much dialogue created out of this post, both in support and to the contrary.

Wishing you all the best. Keep exploring and sharing ... we're the better for it.
Kristina Schlegel
10.19.07 at 11:57

Max Perutz, founder of the Laboratory of Molecular Biology Cambridge wrote, "The glaring sunlight of certain knowledge is dull, and one feels most exhilarated by the twilight and expectancy of dawn"

Francis Crick who unravelled the structure of DNA," The whole process seemed so utterly mysterious that one hardly knew how to begin. In research the frontline is almost always in a fog."

Ellen Lupton "Think more, design less."

There is so much for designers to learn from exploring the visual culture of science and we need to learn how to collaborate meaningfully with scientists. Design and science students should see this collaboration in action from day one of their education. Designers do not need to appropriate science, or the formal conceits of science but share different models and ways of thinking. Striving for a much bigger picture of ourselves and the world we live in or design for.
Shirley Wheeler
10.19.07 at 01:05

I have been asking my design students this semester to frame their projects in the language of scientific method: problem statement, hypothesis, investigative method.

It's a fun exercise and it helps them communicate design concepts to non-designers.
10.24.07 at 07:01

I remember taking engineering chemistry while at IIT and the grad student assistant asking the only American in the class why I was taking the class. Sadly, most designers aren't as interested in those other activities in life, as they are trying to get people to appreciate design.

There are sides of design that align more closely with science than with what we may consider design, and we usually don't have to deal with psychosis.
Nicholas Paredes
10.24.07 at 11:32

Nice post! The word I was thinking would be more in common between science and graphic design would just be 'design' considering the goal of science is to study and understand the design of everything that naturally occurs.

Your last paragraph brings up a point of the most importance I feel, which is necessity for science literacy for our society.

As Carl Sagan said:

"We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces."
10.25.07 at 10:17

So why is this magical sphere of connection exclusive to design and science?

[Scientists] are historians, anthropologists, archaeologists of the body, the mind, the air, the planet, the universe.

So what are historians historians of? What do actual anthropologists study, if not the body, the mind, the air, the planet, the universe?

Scientists look inside. Backwards. And then they look deep. They ask questions based on what they see, and look again. It's a perspective that combines scrutiny with humility, specificity with open-mindedness — factors not altogether mysterious to designers.

Those factors are not altogether mysterious to anybody who practices any form of inquiry, I don't see why this description applies to designers or scientists in particular. Jessica, your flattering descriptions of designers and scientists (e.g. We look ahead, not behind — and seek enriching collaborative partners with whom to crystallize our collective visions) are so vague they could apply to anybody.
10.25.07 at 08:10

A great post, Jessica. The Ulm School of Design would approve as they have long expressed the opinion that design is a science. My father is a retired microbiologist and I am a graphic designer. It's strange that I hadn't noticed the influence of his science on my aesthetics until I went to a talk by NY designer Scott Santoro who showed the osmotic influence of a family of plumbers on his design visuals. The terms 'media, communication and culture' are central to both the design discipline and that of microbiology but mean quite different things, or at least they did until the term 'viral marketing' came into common useage ...
stuart medley
10.26.07 at 03:13

I worked as a graphic designer for 5 years and then decided to get my PhD in genetics, which I am currently doing. The leap has been difficult because of the different type of people I am encountering in science, not because the thought processes or practice is all that different.

The main lesson that I have learned is that everyone is the same, they just think they are different. One of the other big lessons has been that the uncertainty and subjectivity that irked me in design, is practically the same in science. Nothing is as hard and fast as anyone outside of science thinks it is.

There are perhaps a greater number of people in science who subscribe to a more structured way of thinking about a problem than in design. I think some designers could probably benefit from learning to think about a problem in a more structured way. This is not to say that creativity is always linear and neat, because clearly it is not, but sometimes constraints help distill the solution and do not hinder.

PhD to be
11.11.07 at 11:32

A propos Jessica Helfand's "Science and Design: The Next Wave," readers might like to discover the very recent book "Design and Science: the life and work of Will Burtin." Burtin frequently paired scientists with designers to create a number of large-scale biomedical and nuclear models.

Ours is not the first age to seek pairing between design and science. Burtin spent his career pairing specialists, notably in cytology (1956-'58), brain function (1957-'60), and many other disciplines, including nuclear energy.

The blog by "Derekh" (Oct. 25) quotes Carl Sagan: "We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster..."

That conclusion is not new.

As co-program chairmen, Burtin and film maker Saul Bass placed this dilemma high on the agenda for the International Design Conference at Aspen (IDCA) in 1956.

Burtin posed it again at Vision '65, held on Buckminster Fuller's home campus, Southern Illinois University. To put things in historical context, Vision '65 took place while the world was watching "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," prompting Marshall McLuhan to open his keynote address with "Greetings from Canada, the country of the DEW line, or early warning system."

So, demanding that designers relieve public anxiety by teaming with scientists to explain science is nothing new. Whether in 1956, 1965 or 2007, thinking minds have a lot of respect for the notion that scientists and designers must collaborate to insure public understanding.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am the co-author of "Design and Science: the life and work of Will Burtin," and also Burtin's son-in-law. Rick Poynor, who is much better known to readers of Design Observer, will give a more objective view of the book: I believe he is writing a review.
Robert Fripp
11.12.07 at 04:50

Of course this is not new. These people of the 50s were the ones doing testing on poor(?), unsuspecting children of 60s and 70s with quite accurate results. While they noted various high score potential based on reading, riting, and rithmetic, they would excuse lower ones such as mechanical aptitude, 85 percentile not being genius, because someone was a girl in the wrong space and time or even because they went to poor ethnic Catholic schools where much of grammar school science was planting a seed and praying.

If only we had been a communistic regime, we could have channeled people into proper careers and advanced society.
11.12.07 at 05:10

Late to this a practicing scientist (nanotechnology) I find that the 'design' comes into play largely when I am planning and conducting the experiment. This is often a highly creative process involving iteration of techniques and constant adjustments to achieve the best outcome; I have always felt that this process is similar in format, if not final expression, to the work of a designer in the arts. But outside of that, my scientific concern must be the DATA. And that is where I think science differs from design. There is quantifiable and reproducible information that I must obtain, understand, interpret, and disseminate, or I have wasted my time.
12.21.07 at 11:59

This article highlights why Science and Technology and Graphic designers should coincide with each other.
Kevin Simon
08.08.08 at 02:48

After reading this post, i totally agree with the idea of science oriented thinkers collaborating with designer thinkers. I chose this post because i am a visual communications major at the University of Arizona, but beforehand i was a chem/bio major. And i always was interested in the idea of science as a form of art, and this article was great; combining the ideologies of science and design thinking.
Kellen Asai
11.02.08 at 06:02

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Jessica Helfand, a founding editor of Design Observer, is an award-winning graphic designer and writer and a former contributing editor and columnist for Print, Communications Arts and Eye magazines. A member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and a recent laureate of the Art Director's Hall of Fame, Helfand received her B.A. and her M.F.A. from Yale University where she has taught since 1994.
More Bio >>


BOOKS BY Jessica Helfand

Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture
Winterhouse Editions, 2001

Scrapbooks: An American History
Yale University Press, 2008

Reinventing the Wheel
Winterhouse Editions, 2002

Paul Rand: American Modernist
winterhouse Editions, 1998

Looking Closer 3
Allworth Press, 1999

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Cranbrook Commencement Address
"I come to you, like all commencement speakers, as an emissary from the future." The commencement address delivered by Julie Lasky at the Cranbrook Academy of Art on May 9, 2008.

Greening the Grocery Store
It turns out that the "recycling symbol" at the bottom of my yogurt container had nothing to do with its recyclability. So why was it there? My curiosity led to findings around which I built a design class.

O.H.W. Hadank
Paul Rand held Hadank in the highest esteem because he practiced modernist formal principles even though he did not follow its dogma or style. And most important, as Rand said “Hadank was then and always an original. A profile of O.H.W. Hadank by Steven Heller...