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Science and Design

by Allison Connell

I grew up in a family of engineers. Math and science were always stressed as a really important part of my education, and it often came easily to me. However, I went into college for design, and this concept always seemed to be a bit difficult for my parents. It wasn’t until almost the end of my first year in the design program that they seemed to completely accept it.

I recently watched Gary Hustwit’s documentary “Helvetica” with my parents, hoping it would help them better understand what I do. It sparked an interesting conversation in the differences in our fields. My dad remarked how with the sciences, there is a search for a “universal truth,” some ultimate goal, whereas that was not so with design. Design, it seemed, was quite cyclic and constantly changing based on the spirit of the times.

Growing up in a science-oriented family has definitely left its mark, though. I still tend to be more inclined to make judgments objectively, based on facts and figures. I like to schedule and plan. On the other hand, though, design is subjective, with no clear right and wrong way. There is no formula or concrete way to do things, and sometimes I struggle with trusting my feelings.

In the end, however, I believe this very logical way of thinking helps me with design. It gives me different ways to think about solutions, and reminds me to focus on the fact that form must follow function. I ended up adding a math minor to my plan for college to balance things out a little more. Having a really structured class appealed to the part of me that is, after all, the daughter of engineers.