Students used city data to visualize movements and transportation methods of different socioeconomic statuses around the Chicago.Students used city data to visualize movements and transportation methods of different socioeconomic statuses around the Chicago.

Engineering + Art

While the outcomes of art and science are fundamentally different, there are significant benefits to bringing more visual, more artistic thinking into science and engineering.

At Northwestern Engineering, we continue to collide these fields to explore their commonality and differences, with the hopes of educating students with new ways of thinking.

How the Other Side Thinks: What art and engineering can learn from each other


Data as Art

Using school, census, and transit data, a Data as Art team wrote code to create a series of temporal maps showing how difficult it is for transit users to reach other parts of the city.Led by faculty based at both the School of the Art Institute Chicago (SAIC) and Northwestern University, engineering and art students are put into groups to establish a critical dialogue about information visualization across multiple disciplines, and engage in collaborative research on information visualization using existing data sets.

Example Projects:

Courses Offered With the Department of Art Theory and Practice

  • Risk (ART 390, DSGN 395): This class brought together artists and engineers to do innovative work designed for impact. The theme was risk. Humans are exposed to countless dangers on a daily basis and many calls to action, yet we so often fail to act. How can invisible risk be made visible enough for people to take action? At the heart of this class is the hope that students will develop an ethical program as individual artists and designers.
  • Water (ART 390, DSGN 395): This course was a merger of two approaches: scientific and artistic. The goal of the class was for groups of engineering and art students to work together on collaborative projects that merge pragmatic and poetic approaches to water. Students engaged with the subject on a physical, aesthetic, metaphorical, political, and practical levels.


Block Museum

Northwestern Engineering collaborates with the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art to bring speakers who discuss the intersection of art and technology to the Northwestern community.

Artist-at-Large Program

This spring, we will collaborate with the Block Museum of Art to host the artist Dario Robleto as part of the launch of a new Artist-at-Large Program. The goals are to expose faculty and students to the artistic process, develop new approaches to teaching, inspire creativity in both artists and researchers through the inter-mingling of art and scientific research, and to facilitate collaborations university wide.

Learn more about the Artist-at-Large Program

Past Projects:

Art Institute of Chicago

A collaborative project between Northwestern and the Art Institute of Chicago used a simple light bulb, an SLR camera, and computational power to uncover new details of Gauguin’s experimental printmaking process.The Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS) is a collaborative endeavor in conservation science that pursues objects-based and objects-inspired scientific research to advance the role of science within art history, curatorial scholarship, archaeology, and conservation.


Conversations at the Intersection

Saul Morson and Bill Baker discuss the nature and facets of creativity.A speaker series that aimed to provide a broad audience with a glimpse of the creative process from across different fields. Speakers discuss several facets of creativity, including ways to overcome a creative block, the concept of a “lone genius,” and the underlying process of creative works.