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"Engineers aren't creative" and other misconceptions

creative engineer, architect

Article provided by Alison Horton, principal engineer at built environment consultancy Curtins’ Birmingham office.

I think there are still a lot of misconceptions about the engineering industry today.

These are definitely tied to it being a male dominated industry. I think many people still see engineering as a dirty, noisy industry, and a ‘geeky’ one at that.

One problem in the UK is that the title of ‘engineer’ is not protected. In other countries – like Germany – only people who hold certain qualifications can call themselves an engineer. However here, anyone can call themselves an engineer. This means that many jobs that would be called ‘mechanic’ or ‘technician’ elsewhere, become classified as an engineer – further feeding confusion over what an engineer is and does. For example, someone who comes to repair your boiler may quite happily refer to themselves as an engineer, but the main differentiation is that he fixes the boiler, he hasn’t designed the system. Engineers are the designers.

Once you understand that engineers are designers, you can begin to see why creativity is such an essential element of what we do. Engineering is one hundred per cent a creative industry and we are designers in every sense of the word. People don’t realise that a lot of us spend our time in an office in front of a computer – and part of this is using the latest and most exciting technology available to make the buildings and infrastructure you see and use every day possible. If engineers weren’t creative, buildings that are both functional and beautiful would never come to life and we would never be able to solve the problems that inevitably arise when designing new infrastructure.

Some of the best all-round engineers I know have an aptitude for creativity, with an artistic eye and a love for architecture just as much as structure. Engineers explore ideas, create models, produce sketches and work iteratively, constantly adapting and working as a team. The industry is embracing the most cutting-edge technology as part of this, allowing creativity to thrive. Our designs can now be expressed through virtual and augmented reality, producing better – and these days more sustainable – buildings, for a brighter future.

For more information, please visit www.curtins.com

About the author

Alison Horton is a senior engineer at the Birmingham office of built environment consultancy, Curtins.

Horton is also a STEM ambassador and is passionate about encouraging more people - both male and female - into STEM related jobs.