How designers and scientists inspire each
The inter-relationships between design and science are rich,
productive and reciprocal. Designers can draw influence from the
world of science, and they themselves can impact on the practice of
In 1951, the Festival Pattern Group, a pioneering assemblage of
scientists, designers and manufacturers working at the 1951
Festival of Britain used diagrams of atomic structures produced by
X-ray crystallographers as inspiration for patterns which were then
turned into carpets, curtains, wallpapers, lace, dress fabrics,
ties, plates and ashtrays.
Thomas Heatherwick's 'Bleigeissen' sculpture, commissioned by
the Trust for its headquarters building on Euston Road in London is
a significant presence in the north-west corner of the building,
while other commissioned works, which change at least once a year,
are presented in the front windows facing on to Euston Road.
Designers whose work has been featured include Doshi Levien
(September 2004-November 2005), Timorous Beasties (November
2005-November 2006), Graphic Thought Facility (December
2006-December 2007), Paul Cocksedge (December 2007-February 2009)
and Julia Lohmann (February 2009-date).
As well as drawing inspiration from medicine, artists and
designers have also historically been involved in the design of
medical facilities and equipment. In early 20th-century Vienna,
modernist architect Josef Hoffman was commissioned to produce a new
building for the Purkersdorf Sanatorium. He produced a radical and
technologically advanced hospital building, as well as designing
fashionable interiors, including furniture, for the sanatorium. A
more contemporary example is a project sponsored recently by
'Vogue' magazine, in which eight British fashion designers were
commissioned to give hospital gowns a makeover.
In the middle of the 19th century Florence Nightingale studied
new hospitals all over Europe to find the best designs. In Paris
she found a revolutionary design with separate airy, self-contained
pavilions, which minimised the spread of infection. Nightingale's
research culminated in the publication of her influential 'Notes on
Hospitals' which addressed every aspect of hospital design,
including details such as recommending the replacement of iron beds
with wooden one.
In our own times engineers, scientists, designers, and
clinicians working in medical technology are responsible for
groundbreaking innovations that are changing, improving and
challenging medical practice. They are applying their skills to
designing a huge range of products.