Tech and Creativity Go Hand in Hand

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Issue 5, Volume 112

By Vivian Lin, Annie He 

Vivian Lin (’18) is a senior at Parsons School of Design studying Communication Design and Data Visualization. She is interested in brand identity design, digital product research, and 3D modeling. Annie He (’18) is a senior at Pratt Institute studying 3D Animation and has been exploring incorporating coding languages, such as Python, into her work.

We are Stuy alumni (’18) and college seniors studying communication design at Parsons and 3D animation at Pratt Institute. Besides our respective majors, something else we’ve become somewhat skilled at recently is navigating the creative job market. Having spent much time searching for entry-level roles, we’ve realized that the disciplines we are pursuing are at the intersection of design and technology, and that creative problem solving is a skill that is very much in demand.

At Stuyvesant, we’ve separated creativity and technology into two distinct categories. We thought that all creative people had to be lovers of fine arts and that tech was exclusive to code-savvy algorithm enthusiasts interested in either software engineering or machine learning. We were wrong. If only we had learned about technology’s need for creative problem-solvers earlier on in our education, we would have had a much easier time navigating our paths in college.

Firstly, two points:

1. Technology does not encompass only software, but also anything developed to solve specific problems. Many often think of computers, engineering, and prominent American companies, such as Facebook (Meta), Amazon, and Google, when hearing the word technology. However, they fail to acknowledge the designers behind the production of these goods and services—the visual advisors with unique skill sets that allow them to work alongside business managers, developers, engineers, and data scientists.

2. Creativity is the ability to generate ideas and innovate. This concept applies to both art and design, despite many at Stuyvesant equating creativity to simply an aptitude for painting or drawing. Though art and design are both visual fields, they are also vastly different. While many artists look inward for inspiration, designers look outward. While artists may create based on instinct, designers solve problems and make functional products through methodical, data-driven processes.

During our years at Stuyvesant, we were conditioned to think that painting was one of the only creative outlets that existed. Having been fortunate enough to receive formal art training, we fell into the stereotypical persona where being creative means being skilled in fine arts.

For us, it only seemed right to participate in art clubs; because we were the “artsy friends” of our friend groups, we spent our four years and countless hours illustrating articles for the Art Department of The Spectator, painting sets for the Stuyvesant Theater Community, and crafting props for SING!. Learning the elements and principles of art early on helped us tremendously as we ventured into more design-focused fields.

But looking back, many of us painted and drew not because we were passionate about what we were doing, but because Stuyvesant caused us to fear the STEM classes. While many Stuyvesant students could master mathematical and scientific concepts with ease, we, as more visual learners, required more time to comprehend and fully digest the information at hand. Because of our heavy course loads while at Stuyvesant, we could not dedicate as much time as we would have liked to process course information before being tested. In STEM classes, biweekly exams constitute 60 to 80 percent of students’ final grades. As this emphasis on testing caused us to associate all STEM subjects with math and computer science, we developed an unhealthy fear of STEM as a whole and saw technology as something we would also be bad at—something to avoid. Despite scoring above the 98th percentile on the SAT math section, we began to disassociate ourselves from all STEM courses due to our subpar performances in Stuyesant’s STEM classes.

As a result, we found ourselves joining fine arts clubs and staying inside our comfort zones. Despite our affinity for systems thinking, a way of problem-solving through observation of structures and patterns, we saw STEM as an unapproachable field because we were not given time to effectively learn. We’ve realized that Stuyvesant made us choose between its definitions of creativity and technology. Stuyvesant’s failure in not educating students about the possible merge of visual arts and technology and viable careers at the intersection of these fields suppressed our interests and unknowingly widened the gender gap in technology.

Though Stuyvesant offers 5 Tech and 10 Tech classes, we associated woodworking, laser cutting, and 3D modeling with software and believed that we were too innumerate and creative to partake in these classes. For us, because technology was synonymous with computer science and math, to take tech classes would mean we were not being true to our creative identities. This way of thinking made us ignorant of the true purpose of these tech classes: to teach students to think systematically and help them unleash their creativity through the design of different products and services.

Today, technology is highly integrated into artists’ fields of study. 3D modeling is a form of visual communication often used in film, video game production, advertising, and various other STEM-focused fields. Communication designers create products through UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface) design, help organizations establish visual identities through branding, aid in relaying information in accessible ways, and assist with the front-end coding of websites.

Stuyvesant students have the advantage of attending a school with some of the most advanced STEM curriculums in the country. Many Stuyvesant students are number-lovers who have creative sides that they have probably never explored due to Stuyvesant’s forced perception of the polar opposites of technology and creativity. In today’s job market, however, it is an asset to be a creative coder, pattern-loving mathematician, or design-oriented engineer. To separate creativity and technology limits what fields students think they can pursue and holds them back from achieving their full potential, which is why Stuyvesant students should be encouraged to take more technology classes. Coding for a full year might seem like a good way of getting out of a graduation requirement, but creative thinking transcends fields and makes people more flexible thinkers and creators.

Stuyvesant should consider starting classes or extracurriculars that combine both creativity and technology. Popular tech fields such as web and digital product design combine the mechanics behind building a website from scratch with UX/UI. HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are crucial when it comes to front-end web development and would be worthy additions to the mainstream Stuyvesant curriculum.

Another field that integrates both art and tech is that of special effects and advanced video editing, which includes computer-generated imagery, motion capture, and compositing. This field requires not only creative skills, such as modeling and animation, but also programming languages and technological visualization. When you watch a Marvel movie or Netflix show, it is easy to miss the efforts made by creatives who have experience with both coding and model making.

The skillsets required for coding and model making can also be used in game design. With such a video game-loving student body, Stuyvesant should educate students about viable careers within the gaming industry. Many employers look for individuals with not only coding experience, but also hands-on creative modeling experience. If a company were to choose between an applicant with only coding knowledge and another with both coding and modeling/animation knowledge, the latter would likely be picked, even if the former were the better coder.

And recently, as we’ve seen with Microsoft and Facebook’s metaverses, games have been branching out to different modes of play that include virtual reality and augmented reality, which require an even more in-depth computing skillset to make. Dimensional printing and more specifically 3D printing have become increasingly popular methods of fabricating physical objects. The necessary skills needed to go from idea to print also include 3D modeling and basic knowledge of machinery.

Stuyvesant students deserve to get a head start on these valuable skills. Many students, including ourselves, realized later in our education that creativity and technology are deeply interconnected. Had we known that we could be technology-loving creatives and that technology is not synonymous with software, we would’ve taken more of Stuyvesant’s technology courses. We would’ve found out earlier that design and technology are fields that we’d like to pursue.

As a premier STEM school in the heart of New York City, tech advocacy is essential. Stop limiting creatives to fine arts. Stop categorizing creativity and tech into two separate categories. Simply offering tech classes is not enough. For STEM-focused students who have thought of pursuing something creative but brushed it to the back of their minds, or the creatives out there who have always been too afraid to learn about tech, go for it!