Technical Writing and Other Proof that Art and Science are Yin and Yang
Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on February 20, 2015
As a technical writer and editor, I am asked often, “What does that mean?” “What exactly do you do?” “How do you know what they’re saying?”
I think of my role as a translator between the technical professional and their reader. As the lead technical writer for Layer Cake Creative, I work with experts in a variety of sectors from transportation and infrastructure, to design, construction, law, finances, or medical research. My expertise is in writing and specifically, in writing so that technical information is clear without being oversimplified (or, of course, inaccurate). As someone who took calculus and chemistry as part of my coursework toward a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art – this suits me perfectly. The thrill of continually learning, of meeting people who think creatively in different ways, and of connecting with them so that together, we can connect their ideas to the reader. . . . I enjoy it so much that I lose track of time. (Don’t worry: I do actually track my time for invoicing clients!)
Recently, I have enjoyed two different cultural experiences that marry art + science. Both are worthy diversions.
The Imitation Game – No doubt you’ve heard about this film, about Alan Turing and other British mathematicians that cracked the Nazi’s “enigma” code. Alan Turing, of course, is now known as “the father computer science,” and this movie centers on his unorthodox determination to build a machine to crack this code, rather than relying on manual computations. The title of the film is taken from a paper Turing wrote in 1951 that delves into artificial versus human intelligence. The Imitation Game marries art and science on many levels, from the work of Turing to the presentation of the film itself. I went with my computer scientist husband, and we both thought it wonderful. In the spirit of this blog entry, here’s a link to a very cool explanation of how the period “print props” were designed for the film.
Artist Leonardo Ulian – Less likely that you’ve heard about this Italian artist – and that’s too bad. Ulian meticulously crafts mandalas and other artistic forms out of discarded computer parts. They are not only mesmerizing and a terrific example of “upcycling”; the artist has made them powerful messengers. For example, his Mandala series explores the similarly temporary nature of electronics to the intentionally brief life of these sacred pieces of devotional art. Here again, art and science are joined beautifully and powerfully. The Wired article that introduced me to Ulian’s work can be viewed here.
I certainly don’t put technical writing and editing on the same level, but done well, it employs both art and science to create an enjoyable experience.