I had the good fortune to spend a couple of hours at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday. My favourite area of the gallery is the impressionist section.

You may think that impressionist artists just went straight to the finished work, but their processes, like most artists’, were far more deliberate and structured. The use of sketches and rough models is an essential step in the creation of most artistic pieces, where the artist determines the ideal composition and form of the work and has a chance to practice specific areas and decide what will work best.

Take Degas, for example. I’ve attached a photograph of just a few of the rough bronzes he did as a stepping-stone for some of his most famous ballet sculptures. Not only are they beautiful in their own right, they helped Degas produce his final work.


Degas and the other impressionists were masters of prototyping. The ability to create a rapid model to assess what is likely to work best in the final solution is not only critical to the artistic process, but also to the creation of new business solutions – products, services and processes.

What are you doing to rapidly and cheaply create prototypes of your new ideas so that you can learn and develop a better final solution?

James Dyson, for example, famously developed over 5,000 prototypes of his ground-breaking bag-less vacuum cleaner before he perfected a final version for the market. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Met’s section on 2oth century design includes a Dyson vacuum – a tribute not only to Dyson’s final product design but to the art of prototyping.

© Stuart Cross 2011. All rights reserved.