A New Renaissance for Creative Design?

[tweetmeme]I recently went to the excellent exhibition of Italian Renaissance drawings at the British Museum.
Verrocchio's Head of a Woman

The drawings were, of course, amazing, and included works such as the Head of a Woman by Verrocchio, and Leonardo’s first landscape (1473). But what has stayed with me, as well as the memory of the drawings themselves, is a couple of thoughts the exhibition triggered about today’s world of design and technical innovation.

So, the main source of material for new works of art before the Renaissance period were ‘model books’ – collections of images and compositions from which artists copied and used ideas and representations they liked. During the Renaissance, artists began to take their inspiration and draw more directly from nature, leading to a more naturalistic style, and more freedom for creative expression. This was in part due to the increasing availability of paper – much cheaper than vellum – on which drawings could be made.

My favourite section of the exhibition was dedicated to explaining the impact on artistic practice of the new tools (such as paper) and techniques for drawing that were developing at the time of the Renaissance. For example, how the use of pen and ink for sketching was increasingly favoured for its responsiveness and expressive capabilities, how techniques for drawing using silverpoint – that couldn’t be erased – compared with those for drawing with lead – that could be rubbed out and changed, and how the development of print-making techniques enabled designs to be mechanically replicated and shared with larger numbers of people for the first time. The exhibition shows how developments of this kind in drawing laid the foundation for a new world of art.

It struck me that current developments in interactive tools and technologies offer the potential to deliver a similar revolution in today’s world of creative design. Interactive technologies are more pervasive and available to us all than ever before – they are in our buildings, on our desks and in our pockets. We can share digital artefacts as never before, and the possibilities of gestural interaction offered by devices such as the Wii and iPad offer huge potential for flexible and fluid interaction. How are such developments in new technologies laying the foundation for a new world of creative design?

This is a question I’m looking forward to exploring in my course on Technologies for Creativity and Innovation as part of our new Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership. In the meantime, I’ll be happy to share more experiences, and hear yours too.

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About Sara Jones
Sara is interested in creative design of interactive systems. She is actively engaged in teaching, research and consultancy in this area.

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