Exploring the Complementarity of Mathematical and Artistic Thinking in Design through 3-D Printing


  • Nasiha Muna Department of Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics, Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University
  • Maliha Lubna Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering and Engineering Management, University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Sherri L. Messimer Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering and Engineering Management, University of Alabama in Huntsville
  • Albert E. Patterson Department of Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign




Art and Design, Mathematical Art, Steam, Technology in the Arts.


Most development of the “STEAM” (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) paradigm has been in the realm of education; however, the idea of combining technical and artistic thinking has many practical applications in product design. The more artistic side of technology design is often considered during design, but it tends to be subservient to the technical (“quantitative”) side due to the lack of a definite method for combining the technical and artistic concepts. New developments in 3-D printing and related technologies have opened some doors toward this by allowing the qualitative and quantitative design aspects to be expressed via a “common language” derived from the complementarity of mathematics and art. In this article, the complementarity of thought in design is discussed through the medium of 3-D printing. The basic concept of a “complementary design thinking” approach and work-flow of 3-D printing is explored in detail, with a focus on the value of the technology to bring together both the quantitative and qualitative approaches to design thinking. A case study using a 3-D printed model of the well-known Costa Minimal Surface from mathematics is presented and discussed to demonstrate the concepts. The concepts presented have clear policy implications for design, arts, education, engineering, and human-technology interaction research and practice; these implications are discussed in detail.  


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