“Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it”.
Facebook, Instagram, Fashion, Tattoos, Living Rooms, Office Spaces and even the human body all have one thing in common; they can function as a canvas for people to express their individuality.
This blog for example is my canvas; my tattoo, fashion and interior decorating equivalent. On a side note, I wonder if blog discrimination also exists as it does for people with colourful tattoos, or unusual fashion sense and personal expression?
I would say that the most successful consumer products are so, not just for their technical function, but because they fulfill the need that people have to express/paint themselves? You could call this style; so how can we create new ways to express style and how can style be more than a surface expression?
Commercially the canvas analogy can probably be interpreted in the following way:-
- Product, Fashion, Footwear and/or Tattoo creatives; create designs, clothes, shoes, or art for people to use on their personal canvas, i.e. their personal space and their body.
- Retailers distribute and sell those objects of expression.
- While the most successful brands go so far as to create a new canvas for people to express themselves with! Creating new markets like Social Media, or genres like athletic clothing.
- And the top companies can offer all 3; Design, Distribution and Canvas/Platform/Genre.
After the discoveries of body art, fashion and most recently social media, what new canvas for personal expression is waiting to be created? And what products of personal expression are still missing from existing canvases?
How can we be more creative designers and provide higher levels of innovation to the most disruptive emergentive originality?
As fashion designers is our inspiration too linear? Are we too limited by following market trends and creating new twists on passed fashions, when we could be searching for other ways for people to express themselves?
Is it time to re-design Design?
Has the standard design approach of re-mixing old, or existing aesthetic trends, now become more traditional/conservative than progressive? Should so many designs (including mine) still be inspired by the existing aesthetic constructs, features of sport cars, or modernist sculpture?
Can we think more abstractly, identify and propose what doesn’t yet exist (new markets and genres), as well as creating more abstract design evolutions?
Developing a new creative process, disruptive like social media, for new product and new canvases? No, not the fashion equivalent of Airspace internet inspired interior design.
Think Meta, or Generative Design used to inform new designs, and extending to customization by consumers through a digital interfaces, a sort of Design by Dial front-end addition to the creative process (a 3D evolution of ID and MIADIDAS).
Or what if your clothes or shoes designs were be inspired by social media, and maybe they could also receive likes on a special social media application?! Imagine a wearable Instagram?
Its a stretch, huge challenge and financial risk to offer more abstract design solutions that consumers may not understand, but I think if we can find new ways for people to fill their canvas of personal expression, maybe its not such a risk and can be hugely rewarding.
“It’s so fine and yet so terrible to stand in front of a blank canvas”.
The Body as a Canvas
I began joining the dots, after I first wondered “why do people get a tattoo”?
For me it would be to use my body as a visual canvas, a personal expression, not just for style, but also my character, or to capture a moment in the present, or in past which defines me….rather like this blog is for me.
Maybe one day ideas (tattoos of the mind.) written in blogs will be as popular, or more than tattoos, just an extension of the new phenomenon of social media.
The Digital Canvas
The most recent example of the canvas analogy is probably social media like Facebook, where instead of tattoo ink, you can reveal yourself in writing, photos and links.
Social media is the newest and maybe most powerful personal canvas that can extend you across the world! A digital canvas which is more linear in appearance than a tattooed body.
Then there is Instagram, which is a more traditional looking canvas for people to add their personal images, usually photos.
Its interesting seeing canvases inside canvases.
Typically more organized digital canvases can also begin to look like shelves which can compartmentalize our personal expression.
Interior Space as a Canvas
Whether its a bookshelf, or paintings in our living room, I think we all enjoy revealing who we are to others and ourselves. Maybe sometimes also with a little pride.
“I put on the canvas whatever comes into my mind”.
We also enjoy a canvas to experience moments that reflect and remind us who we are, whether its in the personal space of our, home, clothes, skin, or social media profile.
Clothing as a Canvas
Fashion is probably the most obvious form of “canvas” which a few designers can chose to paint, and that most have painted for them.
Part of this analogy equation which stands out the most for me, is probably at fashion trade shows, where you can also see people expressing their style on multiple canvases including social media and photography.
Using one canvas to portray another.
On different levels I think everyone wants to express who they are, telling part of their story in abstract.
“Let’s just say, if I weren’t a model, I’d be a walking collage. I see my body as a blank canvas that’s aching to be decorated; I find it all very fascinating”.
Abbey Lee Kershaw
Creatives and the Canvas
And for artists and designers, as creators and consumers, the Canvas Analogy comes full circle.
Creatives can express themselves without relying as much on pre-existing commercial products, which allows them to create new art and designs beyond existing boundaries. I think that the more creative an artist the fewer parameters their canvas has, the more alternative their tools and personal their expression/painting is.
Like consumers, maybe their art and design are also the artist’s way of expressing who they are. And the designer’s way to enjoy product, but without buying, simply by creating the commercial things they would like to express themselves with.
“You’re an enormous sponge and everything goes in there and you squeeze it out in songs, I guess. And if you’re a painter, you squeeze them out on to a canvas”.
The Future Canvas
It seems that currently the most successfully consumer businesses operate some form of social canvas.
But for me the biggest question is what new canvases can we create for people to express themselves on?
What else can people paint with?
And what else can they paint?
…a new canvas like Social Media, or Fashion is waiting to be discovered.
But what can we offer people to paint on and express themselves with?
“I deliberately, in a way, went for something that was a huge challenge and was a big period film. I was excited about the canvas on which I could tell the story as much as the story itself”.
The Human Instinct to Create and Express
People instinctively want to create.
Creation, or creating is the most powerful energy in the world, essentially the energy of life and maybe everyone tries to create something in the best way they can, which also expresses and defines them.
For some people its work, and maybe for others its kids; we enjoy creating on so many levels and in so many ways. Expressions of our life which create meaning and make it meaningful.
And when we don’t know how, or are too busy we can also buy something that can somewhat satisfy that creative, expressive and meaningful need.
“This world is but a canvas to our imagination”.
Henry David Thoreau