Art Science and Engineering

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Steeve McConnell, Construx Software.



 author = {Steve McConnell},
 title = {Art, Science, and Engineering},
 journal ={IEEE Software},
 volume = {18},
 issn = {0740-7459},
 year = {2001},
 pages = {9-11},
 doi = {},
 publisher = {IEEE Computer Society},
 address = {Los Alamitos, CA, USA},


Some argue that engineering, and software engineering with it, lacks creativity and aesthetic aspirations. The author shows that engineering and art are not even compatible, but cannot one without the other to achieve great works.

"Engineering does not constrain artistic possibilities. The lack of engineering constrains artistic possibilities."

If there are high commercial stakes behind the project, the try and fail system cannot be used. In this case, a science develop to gain better confidence and results for the project. When the science matures, it develops theories that contribute to commercial practice, and this is where true professional engineering practices emerge.

As Show[1] points out, mature engineering proposes known solutions to common problems, and establishes strong foundations for going further. Thomas Kuhn[2] points out that a scientific paradigm can consist of a set of solved problems. Reusable software project artifacts are a set of solved problems.

As a conclusion, aesthetics is a part of software engineering. This part may grow with time as a consolidation of strong foundations for softare.


  1. Mary Shaw, "Prospects for an Engineering Discipline of Software", IEEE Software, Nov. 1990.
  2. Thomas Kuhn, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", University of Chicago Press, 1970.

See also

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