Where art meets science – bridging the divide.


Too many years ago I decided to stick my neck out: I did 3 science A-levels and then to my school’s horror (and my father’s concerns) I took Art as well. After gaining a BSc. in Psychology from Bristol University, rather than becoming a clinical psychologist, I became a theatre designer and I now work as a Creative Director in live events.

This somewhat schizophrenic approach to my early training did initially leave some people perplexed. How come I’m a Designer / Creative Director who never went to Art College? Or a psychologist who never practiced? It certainly made it difficult to pigeon-hole me and my CV is somewhat atypical. However, over the years it is precisely this mix of psychology and design, of science and art that has been my USP.

I am one of a fairly rare breed: a hybrid – part scientist, part designer. It works for me – I enjoy the challenge of understanding new technologies and products, can plough through the necessary research with ease, am analytical about what the key messages need to be and can wrap up the message delivery in powerful and memorable design and brand experience. I like to think of my process as having scientific rigour plus artistic flair.

A recent article in the New York Times enthuses about how the World Science Festival finds its success in physics and more through theatrical spectacle. The presenters tell their stories about Einstein’s theory of relativity to sold-out audiences. Set to music and drama, brought to life with actors and choreography and animated with digital projections, the whole lecture is presented as theatre. The lectures aren’t in academic lecture halls, but in theatres, and the festival is now part of New York’s cultural scene. So science has been brought to the public, presented in an intriguing and captivating way – this is science to fall in love with.

The festival organisers claim that the aim of this is not just about mere engagement, but about actually changing how science is viewed and discussed – changing mind sets and behaviour beyond the festival itself – not just with fellow scientists – but with you and me. Why is this important – because in this age of information overload, we, the public need to learn how to disseminate the truth from the untruth, the good research from the bad. In our domestic lives, debates on whether to vaccinate our children or on the use of GMOs touch us every day; it’s more critical than ever to look for evidence. We all need to be able to be scientific. And if science is presented theatrically we start to succeed.

As Creative Directors within the corporate marketing world, we aim to achieve exactly these same goals; after all, entertainment and engagement are a wonderful way to help your audience remember and learn, and with learning comes progress. Ideally attendees should leave any event as brand ambassadors, able to navigate their way through the information more efficiently and more enthusiastically and most of all more believably so they can share meaningfully with others . My unconventional scientific approach to the creative industry seems to work well.

‘Pigeon-hole education’ might mean that hybrid thinkers become an even rarer species. I've recently spotted UCL’s interesting hybrid degree. Maybe it’s that kind of training we should be looking out for on the next generation of CVs.

PS. I’m hoping that this year’s World Science Festival collaboration with Scott Farris and 59 productions ‘Light Falls’ will come to London – if it does, try and catch it. AE

#anoukemanuel #theatre #creativedirection #corporate #science #hybrid #education #art

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