Design, like art, needs to push ideas to their limit

Neurons in the brain travel down pathways that have been established by previous thought patterns. It follows that there will always be established ways to do things, accepted ways to behave.

Neurons in the brain travel down pathways that have been established by previous thought patterns. It follows that there will always be established ways to do things, accepted ways to behave.

Given that the only way of exceeding existing standards in any discipline is to find ways of changing the accepted patterns of behaviour, it’s surprising how intuitively resistant we can be to the people who attempt to do this.

Writing in The Times about the disbelief surrounding Clive Woodward’s potential move from rugby to football, Simon Barnes draws a parallel with Leonardo da Vinci’s move from engineering to art. He may have had experience in other fields, but that didn’t exactly qualify him for the audacious step of painting the Mona Lisa. But he did, and if he hadn’t, it wouldn’t exist.

What parallels would the perceived audacity of Woodward’s move have in the design world and those who commission design?

Design is necessary in the world around us, but this doesn’t make it purely functional or one-dimensional. Packaging design, for example, has a use value – this is what makes it different from art, but in every other respect it is the same. It has the same duty as art to push ideas as far as they can go, the same duty to identify the status quo and try in some way to move it on.

The penalty for not seeking the unexpected talent or thinking as broadly as we can about what design can be and how it can work is a devalued industry, the same old solutions, an unchallenged status quo and no chance of producing a Mona Lisa.

Jonathan Ford

Creative partner

Pearlfisher

London W6

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