Engineering Aesthetics: Beautifying Practical Solutions

Engineering, we might think, is simply the application of math and science to solve practical problems. However, there exists an intimate connection with aesthetics. Rolf Faste—in his article “The Role of Aesthetics in Engineering“—mentions that the word ‘aesthetics’ has its origins in ancient Greek with the idea of sense perception. To understand the importance, he draws a contrast with its opposite, anaesthetics, where all of our senses are gone. Our senses are what allow us to feel and experience the world. He thinks its obvious that designers of all kinds, but engineers in this article, should be concerned with aesthetics.

Think about how we might describe certain objects as hard or soft, hot or cold, and so on. These are aesthetic distinctions. They conjure up emotions in our minds when we hear them. When someone is described as cold, for example, we do not imagine that person to be friendly. Design and aesthetic elements can also carry these distinctions. The way something looks, feels, and sounds are important considerations for how people will perceive and feel about the final product. Some of the specific applications are certainly conventional, while others might not necessarily be. But the important point is that the aesthetics of an object conveys a message or feeling.

Once aesthetics is properly understood as a perception of quality, then engineers might begin to consider it important to their work. Also, engineering has become more focused on the scientific side of the profession that some fear the aesthetic aspects would take them off course. Additionally, we tend to ignore our bodies and feelings, thinking that is a necessary step to becoming more rational, as if the feelings and reason were wholly disconnected. Faste thinks if we understand aesthetics and the relationship between our body and mind properly, then we will see the importance of aesthetics for engineering and design.

For further reading, please see Rolf Faste’s short article HERE. Please let us know in the comment section what you thought of Faste’s ideas.

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