I’ve been called a number of things in my time but ‘stylish’ has never been one of them! Style was never really something I thought about – "that’s obvious" may be the comment from anyone who knows me – but I guess functionality always seemed much more important to me.
“The main tenet of design thinking is empathy for the people you're trying to design for. Leadership is exactly the same thing - building empathy for the people that you're entrusted to help.”
But as I started to take an interest in social innovation, I came across the work of IDEO, a design company that was seeking to create positive impact through design. This was all new to me – the idea that good design was actually fundamental to a good society. In retrospect it seems obvious, but I loved discovering the topic and it certainly helped me take a much closer look at design – and design thinking.
“Failure sucks, but instructs.”
David Kelley, the founder of IDEO, has written a number of books, but two in particular, have been personal favourites. The first was ‘Ten Faces of Innovation’ and the second was ‘Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential within Us All’. These books were not only great reads, but also made me take much more interest in design and, consequently, learn to appreciate what was happening around about me – and realise how much I had taken design for granted.
“Belief in your creative capacity lies at the heart of innovation.”
Anyway…I had not really intended for this blog to go down the rabbit hole of design thinking, fascinating and wonderful though the topic is. Rather, I wanted to explain why I have started to appreciate the finer things in life – like design! And perhaps, therein lies a tinge of regret that for much of my life I took design for granted and indeed, some of these finer things.
So I am now making up for lost time as I devour new experiences and situations where I am learning about the work of designers who actually shape modern life as we know it – for good and ill.
And that takes me back to some recent travels where I was introduced to the ‘arts and crafts’ movement.
The arts and crafts movement was an international trend in the decorative and fine arts that developed earliest and most fully in the British Isles and subsequently spread across the British Empire and to the rest of Europe and America. This is St Andrew's Church, Roker, sometimes known as 'the cathedral of the arts and crafts movement'.
In the early 20th century when the seaside resort of Roker was growing, the need for a new church soon followed. Local wealthy shipyard owner John Priestman was the main benefactor and the church, designed by Edward Prior was built in 1906 – 1907.
Recently, on another trip to the north-east of England I made a deliberate effort to not just notice what was around about me, but also to understand a bit more about it.
I was staying at the Grand Hotel on the Roker seafront. You will probably have heard of the famous artist, Laurence Stephen Lowry. Lowry is famous for painting scenes of life in the industrial districts of north-west England in the mid-20th century. He developed a distinctive style of painting and is best known for his urban landscapes peopled with human figures, often referred to as "matchstick men”.
What you may not know is that Lowry also spent a lot of time in the north-east and stayed at what is now the Grand Hotel. He said he loved the light in this area and it certainly seemed to give him inspiration. Some of his work is on show at the Sunderland Museum.
This is one of Lowry’s works showing the Sunderland Docks.
You will have gathered that I could go on and on about design, but I will finish with a quote from one of design’s tech gurus. Not a man noted for his sensitivity, it does perhaps give an insight that he did ponder much on life.
“You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”