Art versus science?

Pinky-and-BrainHave you heard the MediaCom Connected Podcast yet? One of the issues that ceo Josh Krichefski highlights is diversity.  This time not diversity of gender or ethnicity or socio-economic background, though all of this is close to his heart and on his agenda.  This time he talked about head versus heart, art versus science: “There are increasingly polarised specialists coming into the business. On the one hand art based creative content driven people.  On the other hand very scientific, mathematic data driven people.” Josh called for an environment where everybody thrives and is challenged and nurtured in the most positive way to get the best from each individual.

The idea that art and science are polarised is very widespread, and actually relatively new.  Look back a bit and there was not such a distinction.  One of the western world’s most famous artists is Leonardo da Vinci, as prolific for his inventions as for his portraits.  He is widely considered one of the greatest artists of all time.  He is also credited with the invention of the helicopter, the tank and the parachute – all of which would belong to the discipline of engineering these days not of drawing.

Isaac Newton is equally widely recognised as one of the greatest scientists of all time.  He was a master of cold logic and rational thought.  His theory of gravity (remember the apple), revolutionised thinking and dominated scientific thought for 3 centuries.  He also believed absolutely in alchemy (the transformation of base metals into gold) and was obsessed with biblical prophecy, souls burning in lakes of fire, based on the apocalyptic biblical book Revelation (also the source of much of The Omen).

It’s our education system that has driven the idea of a schism between art and science, until recently anyway.  Once specialisation in study at school is allowed, ie at A Level in sixth form, tradition and the limited capacity for schools to organise complicated time tables, meant that most people had to choose between art and science subjects.  This played to most students preferences perhaps, but it is much less widespread than it used to be.  Now there are computer programmes to design efficient timetables for sixth formers so the possibility of studying English and Mathematics, Chemistry and Theology is both easier to arrange and a more frequent occurrence.

The best media practitioners have capabilities across art and data and across creativity and mathematics.

There’s a divergence in language for certain, and the specialists may need to make some effort to explain themselves to each other clearly, but we are operating in a communications industry so the ability to explain things simply is a sine qua non of success. (That’s meant to be a joke, because I’ve explained myself in latin!).

Josh is right.  Art and science do not have to be enemies.  Some of the most creative people I know in the industry have titles that describe them as traders, programmers or tech heads – this is the source of much true inventiveness.  The best creative directors and originators of content and ideas are often ruled by a ruthless logic that any coder, programmer or developer would be proud to acknowledge.   The godfather of advertising, Sir John Hegarty, says selling is an art not a science.  It is the combination of art and science working together that drives the best results.


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