Five brands look to art for inspiration

Sensemaking / Five brands look to art for inspiration

How IBM, Intel, MINI, Selfridges and Tiger Beer each worked with artists to find new avenues for innovation.

By Jessica Naylor / 19 Nov 2014



Outside the Lincoln Centre in New York, a 123-foot wall swarming with colour, first opened in 2011, grabbed the attention of passers-by. The temporary display illustrated the potential for solar power on the city’s rooftops, using a colour-coded map. It also tracked the amount of water leaking from the Delaware Aqueduct, and visualised incoming data charting traffic flow and air quality in the surrounding area. If you had any doubt about the potential of sensors and data mapping to change the way that we live, a glance up would probably have quelled it. Developed by IBM, the THINK exhibit connected technological advancements to the daily lives of its audience, using an immersive film displayed over 40 screens offering an interactive touch screen experience. The aim was to inspire visitors to reflect on how technology can be used to create a more sustainable and efficient world. In 2013, THINK was opened at Innoventions West at Walt Disney World, Florida, and both an app and lesson plans for visiting schools were developed to bring the same inspiration to the next generation.

2. Intel meets Vice

Floating nature towers offering new habitats for urban wildlife; clothing which translates the wearer’s movement into a soundtrack; 3D-printed earthquake data… Just three of the ideas showcased in an ongoing collaboration between information giants Intel and global media outlet VICE. The Creators Project aims to illustrate and help foster the endless possibilities that can be achieved when art and technology collide – and, of course, to make the semiconductor chip just that little bit cooler. Founded in 2010, the project is a platform for global creative expression. An online blog, videos and YouTube channel keep the audience engaged and up to date with developments in the art world. Users can glimpse behind the scenes of recent music videos and browse features on the latest in boundary-breaking art and design. A short documentary showing how art and science collide in the work of Harvard chemical botanists who create miniscule floral structures from crystals is one of many to help The Creators Project reach 250 million video views. There’s more offline. Chris Milk’s The Treachery of Sanctuary engaged participants who used their bodies to interact with digitally altered shadows projected onto 30-foot panels. Through such platforms, Intel aims to engage a younger, artistic demographic and one which pushes the limits of technology for creative purposes, gaining valuable input for fresh advances.

3. MINI meets Dezeen

A car engineered from biological materials mutates and evolves through the process of human design to suit localised conditions. It’s a bit like a car putting on a raincoat, then swapping it for shades when the sun comes out. This is designer Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s response to The Future of Mobility, an arts project commissioned by MINI in a year-long collaboration with design magazine DEZEEN. Ginsberg took her interest in synthetic biology and materials and fused it with art, science and engineering. Her piece is comprised of 112 handmade model cars, all part of a diverse model ecosystem which imagines a shift in the way we recycle and repair our vehicles. Six designers took part in the project, all showcased online. There is a chamber which prepares the body for space travel, a world in which augmented reality is used to superimpose traffic information onto our own individual maps, and a colourful car made from stained glass. Yes, glass. Its creator, Dominic Wilcox, took inspiration from the rise of automated cars. You can use any material you like to build cars if they aren’t going to touch each other!

4. Selfridges: the festival of imagination

In the opening months of 2014, the world-renowned windows of Selfridges’ London store took a look inside the mind. Why? To explore the power of imagination to drive the process of innovation and inform the shape of our future, so the luxury retail store proclaimed. MAN A, an interactive window controlled via an app, explored the relationship between man and environment: dazzle-camouflaged figures were visible only with the help of technology. Artist Agatha Haines designed External Brain, a huge head with an outside extension investigating how parasitic prosthesis may in the future regulate our bodies. A double-bass-turned-sailing-ship designed by Nancy Fouts invited the viewer to imagine the music it might play. ‘Imagineers’ led discussions in the Imaginarium, a purpose built amphitheatre designed by architect Rem Koolhaas. Of course, there was a sales element to it all. Throughout, The Imagine Shop was at the forefront of futuristic retail with 3D printers and printed glasses, a virtual watch shop and – resonating with Selfridges’ commitment to luxury – an augmented-reality model of Zaha Hadid’s £300 million yacht: the most expensive item the store has put on sale.

5. Tiger Translate

An arts and music festival run by the Asia Pacific Breweries brand Tiger Beer aims to showcase the best of Asian talent and foster collaborations between artists from around the globe. The festival exposes revellers to exciting forms of art by combining different cultures and artistic styles in an ongoing celebration of multicultural creativity. One focus is Tiger Translate Streets, which showcases the street art of Asia. Twelve artists were given six days to create graffiti with the theme ‘Pulse of the Megacity’ at a live event in 2013 in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, to the sounds of a DJ. The theme continued with a virtual graffiti project, which used photographs of buildings in Asia’s big cities as canvases for the latest in graphic design. Engaging with its audience through street art and live music has given the brand new resonance with a hip young crowd throughout Asia, thirsty for talent, inspiration and new ideas. - Jessica Naylor

Image credits: Lara Torvi; Ilya and Emilia Kabakov; Dezeen and MINI; Andrew Meredith; Kenji Chai

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