Walter Issacson, author of the Steve Jobs biography, discovered that in all Apple's products "technology (was) married to great design, elegance, human touches, and even romance." On a personal note, Isaacson added,
The creativity that can occur when a feel for both the humanities and the sciences combine in one strong personality was the topic that most interested me in my biographies of Franklin and Einstein, and I believe ... will be a key to creating innovative economies in the twenty-first century.
Not surprisingly, the importance of design and the creativity inherent in the concept of design, is weaving its way into more programs on college campuses.
Recently, the Paul and Stacy Jacobs Foundation (Paul is CEO of Qualcomm and a Berkeley alum) gave $20 million to the College of Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, for a new institute for design innovation that will expand the role of design in engineering education.
In making the gift Jacobs said:
In our interconnected innovation economy, it is not enough to provide our future engineering leaders with technical skills.... they must also learn how to work in interdisciplinary teams, how to iterate designs rapidly, how to manufacture sustainably, how to combine art and engineering, and how to address global markets.
Stanford has its D (for design) School, a "hub for innovators" in which "Students and faculty in engineering, medicine, business, law, the humanities, sciences, and education find their way here to take on the world's messy problems together." Further, Stanford's D School says:
In a time when there is hunger for innovation everywhere, we think our primary responsibility is to help prepare a generation of students to rise with the challenges of our times.
And, across the country, Middlebury has launched a comprehensive project on creativity and innovation as "A Launchpad for New Ideas." Through a number of student centered programs, the projects aims to "encourage students to think independently and creatively."
Middlebury, like Berkeley and Stanford and other colleges across America know that "The ability to take intellectual risks, to think creatively, and to create new knowledge and thought are all-necessary for leaders to meet 21st-century challenges."
Sadly, as Middlebury acknowledges "there have been too few structured, systematic initiatives at the college level that encourage the development of creative, innovative skills."
In many ways what the Universities do or don't do influences what happens everywhere. By eliminating the silos, deploying the best of technology, and helping forge a new awareness of the importance of art and science and design, they set the stage for communities across the country.
Follow John M. Eger on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jmeger62