Light Up Your Creativity
How aesthetic technology brings together high fashion and design in the form of wearable tech.
As a child, I loved watching fireflies light up the night sky on warm summer evenings. Insects that twinkled and glowed fascinated me, and I secretly wished that I could glow too.
Today, wearable tech makes my wish possible. Wearables have evolved beyond smartwatches or fitness monitors, and beyond any mediating screen. With sewn technology, electronics can be incorporated directly into textiles. Just look at Zac Posen’s fiber-optic gown worn by Claire Danes at the Met Gala, and lighting company Philips’ use of LED suits for nighttime skiing in a marketing campaign.
What’s even more interesting is that independent designers and small-scale creators are now also moving digital technology away from screened devices and into tactile media that satisfy our imaginations and enhance our lives.
Wearable tech moves moves beyond glam.
While sewn technology has been around for a while, more applications are popping up all the time. For example, Google is working with Levi’s to weave conductive threads into textiles for touch and gesture interactivity. And, thanks to Fan Jersey, watching your favorite team score a goal brings new meaning to the term “spectator sport,” as connected clothing creates a completely new fan experience with haptic feedback.
Technology brings more meaning to fashion and thrills customers. Aesthetic technology is also making waves in the creative maker community. Take, for example, a jacket with conductive thread that flashes turn signals for bikers. It isn’t available for purchase, but there’s a tutorial explaining how to make it yourself.
Creativity lights up when technology is accessible.
Artists in the maker community are inspired by DIY creations, and they aren’t shy about using technology to help develop and showcase their talents. As we witness the democratization of technology, and its movement beyond the screen, even more options for creating will become available across the board, and we won’t be limited to what’s happening at innovative labs distanced from individual artistic expression.
The union of creativity with technology is natural. For example, young children learn computing skills, and want to create objects that combine elements of both technology and craft. From bracelets with flashing LED lights to toys with glowing eyes, creations incorporating technology are brought to life by people who shape new ideas with their hands. Using technology at this level demands that its use is a natural extension of how we operate as human beings.
Function and form connect with circuits.
For artists who enjoy small-scale production, the idea of creating interactive crafts, using conductive threads, and making designs that light up is an attractive proposition. However, learning how to use circuits is challenging. Most tutorials focus on computer circuitry, and most circuits are still housed inside boxes. Artists must literally think outside the box to gain expertise, and incorporate visible circuitry into beautiful designs. The result is technology and craft working together to inspire, engage, and excite.
The in-the-box/out-of-the-box dilemma was not lost on Mira Dontcheva. Growing up, Mira liked sewing and knitting, but saw her interest in craft as separate from her studies in computer engineering. It wasn’t until she discovered conductive thread, and saw recent projects in e-textiles — like the turn signal jacket — that she realized she could combine her passion for art and craft with her love for science and engineering. In her work as a research scientist at Adobe, Mira develops new technologies, including Project Ellustrate — developed in collaboration with UC Berkeley — that helps designers draw and create functional circuits.
Project Ellustrate provides step-by-step instructions for designers to draw a circuit, and incorporate it into a physical design. Anyone can sketch an idea, click the “make” button, and have the technology walk them through the process of creating a working circuit in their design. With suggestions and troubleshooting help along the way, Project Ellustrate guides designers who are just starting out, and then provides more advanced suggestions as they learn.
Mira’s concept is a prime example of how we can make technology more accessible for creatives at every experience level, an effort that will result in a new wave of design that moves technology beyond digital art and into the aesthetic — not just the function — of physical wares.
The future is bright.
Circuits are likely to be everywhere in the future — in our clothes and in our environments. There’s no telling what applications and ideas those circuits will enable. What we do know is that the democratization of wearable technology will be a boon for creativity. Driven by the desire to fuse technology and craft, both large-scale developers and individual artists will have the tools to explore their wildest ideas, melding form and function. Now, in addition to watching fireflies light up the evening sky, I’m witnessing artists bring exciting electronic capabilities beyond the screen to light up our experience with tangible, everyday objects.
Read more about the future of immersive experiences in our Beyond the Screen collection.