Eight rolls of wallpaper (and more just out of shot), photographed side by side, from the end of the rolls. They are patterned with leaves and flowers on a black background.

What happens when creativity meets technology?

Creativity, inventiveness, imagination… it’s the foundation of so much in our lives. Without it, we’d probably still be living in caves – but even then, we’d no doubt be painting on the walls. The need to make our mark on, better or brighten the world around us is ingrained in the human experience and we create things of such beauty and capability that we even surprise ourselves. Yet, so often we are guilty of treating the worlds of creativity and technology as separate, like two opposing disciplines that are populated by very different kinds of people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In the middle of the Venn Diagram of creativity and technology sits trend analyst and creative leader Jorunn Tharaldsen, who is also a product developer for Norwegian interiors brands Dusty and Modena Gruppen, Scandinavia’s leading supplier of ceramic tiles. She is passionate about heritage and interiors, but also has an innate understanding of ‘synergiefeckten’ (the ‘synergy effect’) – the push/pull relationship between technology and creativity. Speaking at the FuturePrint Virtual Summit, she explains “Without creativity to push technology, technologists don’t know how to develop… but without technologists, creativity has no development.” Indeed, Jorunn’s experience in growing her creative ideas to match her commercial ambitions has seen her working hand in hand with world class experts in their technology fields, such as teams at Canon Production Printing (CPP) across several countries and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. She, and the people she has collaborated with, are testament to the value of these meetings of minds. And these relationships have enduring effects.

A restaurant setting, with two tables side by side. One is round, with six chairs. The other is oblong with four chairs. Both are set ready for customers, with cream tablecloths. Above them is a circular orange light fitting and behind is an image of a huge flower, taking up the entire wall on printed wallpaper.
Creatives are always looking for ways to push the boundaries of their practice and the materials they use. With the help of technology, they are able to influence trends and have a wide impact on the world.

Challenges are met and overcome

“Could this process be made easier? Was this workload so heavy because I didn’t know how to solve it technically?” Jorunn asked herself these questions when she was undertaking the painstaking task of digitally ‘repairing’ and enhancing images of repeating patterns in classic wallpapers from an old manor house for Dusty’s heritage collection. And, as is often the case, where creative challenges exist, the technology to help is out there already. Jorunn’s repeating pattern issue was solved in collaboration with Professor Marius Pedersen and his team at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who believes that solutions often lie in good communication. “A key aspect for me is being able to grasp and understand what the problem is,” he explains. “Often understanding or knowing is the problem. While the solution from a technology perspective isn’t always complicated.” In the end, Jorunn’s issue was solved by automating the process using advanced image processing techniques. No more sitting for hours over a computer, working on each image pixel by pixel, all because she sought a better solution. 

New and exciting things happen

Simply put, what creatives need can drive the development of new technologies. In the case of interior design, we are all familiar with the swift shifts in décor styles and the desire to keep up with the latest looks. These ever-changing design trends and the influence that they have on the way we want our environments to look and feel has taken Canon Production Printing into a new market, developing inks and machines that address the very specific needs of interior design – UVgel ink and the UVgel Wallpaper Factory. Kris Walewijns of CPP’s Global Business Development is excited by the huge potential of this. “Trends in décor are changing constantly. It’s a very promising market to step into. Figures show the demand for printed interior décor is growing day by day.” CPP’s solution, the ‘factory in a box’ gives interior creatives like Jorunn the ability to produce fast, short-run, exceptionally high-quality wallpapers for almost any situation that are both wear and tear resistant and impeccably finished. Why is this important? Because for Jorunn and her contemporaries, all of these qualities remove a problem and add more creative freedom.

The Canon UVgel Wallpaper Factory. It is a machine arranged in a left to right configuration, so that the paper enters production at the left and trimmed and printed rolls are output on the right. In the middle, the patterned paper can be seen as a printed work in progress.
This is what innovation looks like: The Canon UVgel Wallpaper Factory is a precision solution to many creative challenges.

Visible disruption occurs 

Many different minds and perspectives together to solve a problem is the birthplace of innovation. Not just in terms of creative output and the development of new technologies, but in how it has the potential to change the way things are done overall. Creating uniquely designed places and spaces has not traditionally come easily, quickly or economically, but when limits are pushed, they tend to have a perceptible knock-on effect. In interiors, this can happen fast – what’s on the pages of a magazine one day can be the new office style trend the very next season, or even before. In this way, a productive meeting of creative and technological minds, such as Jorunn and her colleagues with CPP, can actually spark the next big thing. 

Heritage is preserved and created 

Saving something old and creating something new. It sounds so simple, but the homage that creatives pay to what has come before is nothing so straightforward. When an artist or designer looks to the past for influence, they are in effect constructing a new timeline for that original work, tracing a path between the two that is unbreakable. In Jorunn’s case, she is digitising and printing both old and new artworks, turning them into wallpapers and tiles. In the physical creation of the new works, she is supporting the creative assets of the future. But at the same time, the reproduction of heritage wallpapers, such as those from Gimle, are now both held in digital stasis and given a new, updated life. This sense of responsibility to the works has only been possible through new technologies available that can both preserve and continue original pieces of art and design. Yes, this means that they can live digitally in perpetuity, but more importantly, they have a significantly longer physical life than their printed predecessors through the development of incredibly lightfast and robust inks, such as UVgel, and a whole variety of new types of media. Creatives will be able to take inspiration from these designs far, far into the future, just as Jorunn and her colleagues have. 

To delve deeper into the creative journey and the technology behind it, watch the full seminar from the FuturePrint Virtual Summit, featuring Jorunn Tharaldsen and Canon Production Printing’s Kris Walewijns.

Written by Inge Hazewinkel