My purpose for writing about design and innovation in the context of technological development is mainly to portray the deep connection between the two. I am a young, ambitious designer myself, and what drives my motivation is my diversity in visualising, thinking and processing. Has anyone ever thought why America, or countries in Europe such as Germany and Italy, are the modern-day leading global forces?

Or why the above-mentioned places have always been a step ahead in technology, multi-culturalism and general mentality? For instance, I come from Pakistan, a third-world country that significantly lacks success in those areas. What did countries such as Pakistan lack that the Europeans were able to capitalise on? This is a huge public discourse, and despite not being anywhere near an expert in world history, I quite enjoy observing and connecting the dots. Historical context of innovation and design During my studies, I fell in love with the Renaissance period of the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries. I am sure that the reader is already well informed about this prestigious time in history.

Nevertheless, I would like to make some outside-the-box observations. I found it intriguing to see how artists such as Leonardo da Vinci were more than just artists. They were innovators. What I found to be even more interesting was my observation of how the Medici family played a crucial part during the rebirth period. They crafted their masterpieces by patronising the arts and paying commissions for the creation of major works of art.

Their patronage allowed the artists to focus on their work without worrying about money. Most of the architecture and art produced in Florence during the Renaissance was because of the patronage of the Medici family. They supported Masaccio, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello and Leonardo da Vinci—all of whom are well-known figures in the art of innovation. Refraining from excessive detail, I would like to point out how la famiglia de’ Medici took care of the basic living needs of these artists, such as shelter, commission and freedom of thought, allowing them to truly liquefy their creativity and give rebirth to art and culture.

These were innovative times, which is why I, as well as many others, find Leonardo da Vinci’s scientific work astonishing.

Innovation’s reliance on freedom

Let me play devil’s advocate, and let’s think about this: what if Leonardo had been born in Pakistan at the time? He would have grown up with the Muslim religion and traditions, which bans artwork and creative thinking, and without support from visionaries such as the Medici family.

Would the world be any different? I guess we will never know, but these restrictions and this way of thinking did impact half the world. I am not saying that Muslim culture did not provide any creative work, but I would say that visionaries who believed in the development of oneself and one’s surroundings were a mere handful at the time.

Sadly, most of the beautiful Islamic or Southern architecture was the work of slaves and not an opportunity for creativity. Coming back to the present, I keep seeing history repeat itself; we once again find ourselves in an era of fast technological development, an era in which information, data and ideas are the currency. I see visionaries in my surroundings, visionaries who believe in people like me, visionaries who give our creativity a purpose.

The approach that design and innovation companies should adopt

Let’s focus once again on the main topic, the connection between design and innovation: design and creativity are about finding the problem worth solving. The absence of a scalable creative framework encourages incremental innovation instead of disruptive innovation.

As companies strive for disruptive innovation, they must find ways to inject and scale creativity across their organisations. That having been said, digital transformation is about the accelerated disruption of business models and requires a mind-set shift from problem solving to problem finding. CEOs need to be visionary leaders, from establishing an internal culture that encourages ideation, creation and iteration to building strategic partnerships that create new value propositions.

All these factors are things I see on a daily basis whilst working for the European Technology Chamber (EUTECH), an NGO that aims for competitiveness, sustainability and growth. I admire the leader for being a true visionary who foresees the future and motivates my creative thinking. Innovation itself will always involve design as a means of critical thinking, creative rearticulation, continuous reiteration and refinement of the grand challenges facing contemporary society. Design acts as the catalyst to innovative thought, which then results in new solutions to contemporary problems.

Mohammad Abdullah Sajid
Graphics Design Manager,
EU Tech Chamber