Tuesday, August 19, 2008


History is often seen as a catalogue of changes over time. Yet, most cultures have living traditions which go back millennia and while a study of the history of design looks at how things changed over time, we also need to account for how some objects, images, symbols and rituals persist – often with little change.

In groups, participants investigated ancient cultures from different parts of the world – Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, Greece, Indus Valley, China, Central America – to explore their cultural achievements, their contact with each other and the synthesis and sharing that this led to and elements that persist to this day.


What were the first acts of design? The course participants looked at ways in which early humans used elements from their environment to fashion tools made of bone and stone, shelters from wood, leaves and hide, clothing from bark and hide, visual expression in cave paintings and through hand gestures and ways in which these transformed human societies. Central to this investigation was the role of fire - the security it offered, the possibility of cooking food and its implications for hunting and leisure, gathering around the fire and its impact in the development of song, dance and storytelling and so on. There was also discussion on how 19th century archeologists, anthropologists and adventurers investigated, uncovered and deciphered this aspect of human achievement and transformed our knowledge of human history. And in the process our understanding of Homo Designer.