The artist, writer and sage John Ruskin said of his hero, the painter JMW Turner, that he had ‘heartsight deep as eyesight’. I was inspired by this notion of ‘heartsight’ when approached by The Ruskin Foundation to work with it on its campaign for visual literacy earlier this year. The How to See campaign aims to develop young people’s use of both their hearts and eyes in looking at the world around them.
Of course, it is not just young people, but all of us who can forget to look for, or fail to create, significant underlying meaning in our world of endlessly reconfigured pixels and printed dots. I was reminded that, as designers, we should seek to raise people’s emotional expectations, and encourage the public to challenge and demand more than just surface or decorative trends from their visual experience.
Spending time at Brantwood, Ruskin’s former home on the shores of Coniston Water, surrounded by the beauty of everything nature has to offer and packed with the objects of his study, art and (sometimes) controversial writing, is an inspiring experience in itself, but immersing myself in the concept of heartsight – connecting two parts of the brain that otherwise tend not to speak to one another – truly inspired me to make huge changes to my design practice, my business and my personal life this year.