Left Brain, Right Brain – Harriet Edwards

Looking at the way the brain works, particularly focusing on the functionality of the two hemispheres; this lecture followed on from Edward’s previous, about Line and Memory. In preparation we were asked to read an extract from ‘The Master and His Emissary’ by Iain McGilchrist, 2009. This introduced us to the idea that the left and right hemispheres are extremely different; however elaborates by explaining that there hasn’t been enough research to identify their uses as individuals. Since the 19th century the left hemisphere of the brain has been identified as being responsible for our analytical, logical and literal skills; we later identified the right side of the brain to be the creative and imaginative side; responding to visual imagery. It was therefore believed that the left hemisphere dealt just with words, and the right side just with images; however this has since proved not to be true. Both sides of the human brain deal with both of these things in different ways. Despite both sides cooperating, McGilchrist uses the analogy of their being a power struggle between the two sides; perhaps being what makes some people more creative than others.
We started the lecture by creating a visual interpretation of our own brains; I remember being extremely tired and stressed with upcoming deadlines at the time so my interpretation isn’t the finest of my drawings…

It shows an unorganised mess, featuring drawings of what I was thinking about at the time and with arrows pointing outwards, representing things escaping my mind. This doesn’t reflect my brain on an everyday basis, just that particular morning.


After this, we compared each others ‘brain’. It was really interesting to see the different ways people had approached this exercise; whether illustrative, abstract, or by what they felt physically as well as mentally.

A discussion based on McGilchrist’s concept of us living in a world dominated by the left hemisphere then started. During this, we were asked if we agreed that the world is governed by left hemisphere characteristics, starting a heated discussion in the group about responsibility in design and the influence individuals can have in society. Some believed that they can not directly make changes to improve society whilst others argued you definitely can and you should always try. This links to Adriana Eysler’s lecture about designers being agents for social change.

Despite being interested by the concepts raised by Edwards, this lecture didn’t captivate me as much as the previous ones did and it’s perhaps not a topic I will read further into after comparing it to some of the other issues and themes talked about.

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