Course: The art of simplicity

This course offers an alternative and multidisciplinary approach to the analysis of complex systems that is complementary to traditional systems engineering and product design. The pedagogic approach blends theories from cognitive science, aesthetics and art, behavioral economics, and design thinking with experiential learning based on the analysis of visual art masterpieces through museum visits, visual arts labs, and writing workshops.

Full immersion format for graduate students and professionals in the fields of Engineering, Architecture and Management Science

Creativity labs, workshops and site visits

Previous editions delivered at Aalto University (Finland), Stevens Institute of Technology (USA), St John’s University (USA), University of Naples Federico II (Italy)

We need some (effective) complexity

Aesthetic pleasure is somehow related to the recognition of order. But what kind of order do we look for? And how much order do we need? Research on aesthetic appreciation shows that we tend to prefer combinations of stimuli that are both familiar and novel. Conversely, we can experience easily that situations in which either the familiar or the novel are predominating tend to be unpleasant, although for different reasons.

Elegant Decisions

Aesthetic decision making is immediately visible in the process of artistic creation. In this short movie, Monet is making an impressive amount of micro-decisions in the act of capturing the fleeting reflections of light over waterlilies in a pond. These decisions are aesthetic not only because they are about the making of an artistic product, but because the artist grounds them on the empirical perception of light and color. The sensory flow, mediated by what the artist is trying to achieve and by his representation of the world, are a key ingredient in determining where the next brushstroke is going to fall. The word aesthetics, in fact, means “what pertains to the senses.” 

The beauty of ordinary life according to Georges Perec

If you happen to be in Paris, consider a short visit to Place Saint-Sulpice. It’s a place rich in literary references and stories. After a passionate investigation, the Italian writer and humanist Umberto Eco discovered that D’Artagnan and Aramis lived in nearby streets. An episode of the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown takes place in the Church of Saint Sulpice, the building after which the square took its name .

New York Street Scene – Joaquin Torres-Garcia (1920)

Why product aesthetic matters in the digital age

One reason for which product aesthetic matters even more today is Digitalization. Digital technologies make it easier than ever to embed more information and intelligence into products and services. The value of a car is now determined up to 50% by electronics[. It was 1% in the 50s, 10% in the 80’s, and can only increase with the development of electric and self-driving cars.

Guggenheim museum – NYC

The Guggenheim museum, an iconic New York City attraction, is one of the most impressive buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. While you can go there to admire Vassily Kandisky’s works belonging to the permanent collection or to attend the latest temporary exhibition by some well-known or emerging star in the firmament of contemporary art, the building deserves a visit just to get to know more about its innovative design.