Modern Design thinking by the Ancient Incas

I have spent the last three weeks as intrepid explorer. More precisely, I was a designer exploring the breathtaking cosmopolite town of Cusco, in Peru. I was armed only with limited knowledge about the amazing wonders that I was about to discover. Everything I knew about this place was taken from the Internet and my Lonely Planet Guide, which made me feel poorly equipped for an arrival in this amazing rainbow capital and gateway to one of world’s wonders – the magnificent Machu Picchu.

Exploring the city, the first visual surprise that caught my attention was the Inca architecture and its mythical presence it had throughout the entire town of  Cusco. The Architecture paired wonderfully with the trapezoidal windows and alters throughout this contemporary city. The image can instantly transport you back to the Inca times and, as a designer, sent me on a problem solving task. How on earth did they manage to create such perfect and flawless temples that were dotted around the city? This was my puzzle. 

The Incas used their intelligence and utilized design thinking to the maximum, proof being their organic architecture. Using the local stone, which is granite, they created three types of architecture. That was visually identifiable through shape and workmanship, and an incredible finish of the structure. Most certainly this was another place of worship, such as a temple.

As I visual designer, I utilize contemporary design tools with mathematical properties to create perfect l squares, rectangles and other shapes that require a precise size, in order to make a cohesive design. Probably my background training as a contemporary designer helped me solve this rather easy. The tools of the Incas were basic, however they used them perfectly. Through using simple water levels, for obtaining the perfect rectangle with flat sides or, for example a temple, they had multiple angles by using the one block of granite. 

The Incas designed everything meaningfully. For example, if you ever get the opportunity to see an ancient Inca ruin, the first thing that will pop out is the way the building leans. My wonderful tour guide was very patient with me and quickly answered every question I had. When I asked why the wall of the ruin leaned inwards, my tour guide informed me that is was to protect the building if there was an earthquake. The building would naturally move and help it not to collapse, as most modern colonial buildings had in the city. This excited me, because all good design requires much more than just an aesthetic look. As the ancient Incas knew, it requires thought and design thinking to preserve the structure for generations to come.

Incas - Peru
The ancient Andes culture was also amazing, skilled artisans being able to create incredible visual stories through using geometric and anthropomorphic designs on their pottery and textiles. This way, they communicated the story of their life to other people. The story they created on pottery had articulated iconography that denoted social status, gender, locality, and other details. Color is heavily used to quickly and succinctly communicate their message. It was important for them to find a way to communicate and keep their identity alive. However, these special Pieces of Pottery were usually used just for religious rituals, so luckily enough they managed to survive the test of time. Looking at these with my designer eyes, I could easily follow the stories that were unfolding on them. For example, as I mentioned before, the anthropomorphic designs that depicted the soaring condor, to snake, and mountain puma, all these animals were masterfully represented on the pottery, signifying the past, present and future.

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