Virtual showroom, real showmanship: the 2021 IDM Showcase merges art and engineering

The view from inside the IDM 2021 Spring Showcase virtual gallery.

When you think of an engineering school, do you think of graphic design? Innovative film-making? Off-kilter art projects? At this year’s IDM 2021 Spring Showcase, graduates from the Integrated Design & Media (IDM) program showed that engineering means more than just the traditional definitions allow. Because design and coding and other engineering principles are just as much an artful and creative endeavor as they are scientific ones.

The IDM program at NYU Tandon aims to foster creative practice, design research, and multidisciplinary experimentation with emerging media technologies, and each year the program’s students showcase their work at a gala event that draws hundreds of members of the NYU community as well as the general public. This year’s event was even featured as a part of NYCxDesign Design Days.

This was the second year that the showcase has been held virtually, but the IDM team behind it made it feel like the real deal. The centerpiece was a virtual showroom, a 3D space where visitors could walk around and visit each of the exhibits — even offering the option to discuss the art and other works with nearby digital avatars. For those who haven’t visited a gallery or museum since the beginning of the pandemic, the experience was a thrill. It offered a unique way to experience each project, many of which were directly influenced by the pandemic that required a virtual space to begin with.

The showcase had three days of programming. On the first day, all of the students presented their senior projects and theses in small groups, moderated by their professors. The breadth of the word encompassed everything from traditional fine art to film to UX design, showing just how applicable IDM’s unique approach to engineering, art and design can be for different mediums. The second night was dedicated to a performance from the Real Time A/V class, featuring visual performances from the psychedelic to the understated, performed alongside music. Lastly, there was a film festival featuring a varied group of work from the students working in live-action, animation and typography. The topics included addiction, student life, stress, procrastination, finding a job, and everything else an audience would find relatable, but was also punctuated by whimsy and comedy.

There’s a lot to explore, but here are some ideas of where to start:


Animated woman standing next to an avocado with the title "From Tree to Toast"

Interested in food? Check out From Tree to Toast by Monica Leon, an exploration of food trends and their direct influence on global political, environmental, economic and cultural issues through the story of the avocado.


Large necklace with neon lights.

Interested in social justice? Try Material Metaphors for Feeling & Healing by Wanda Nyairo, wearable technology that explores the connections between the mind, body, and environment as it relates to emotions — giving voice to the people most restrained in the ways they express themselves.


Various 3D models of pandemic archetypes, like new plant mom and essential worker.

Interested in some whimsy? Look for Homo Sapiens in the Age of Covid-19 by Ellen Shiu. Are you the Rookie Plant Caretaker, or the Annoyed Cat Mom? Find which new pandemic archetype fits you best in this 3D modeling project.


City in black and white with "Radical Vitality" written over it.

Interested in urban living? Watch Radical Vitality by Andrew Lau, an impressionistic look at the future of cities, and asks: What kind of cities do we want to live in? And how do we want to engage with those who live in them?


IDM 2021 Showcase

Explore the virtual reality floor, student projects, video archives of panel discussions and more.