8 Innovators That Are Changing Up The Art World

Peter Nicoll

For many, art can be hard to get into. When you spend $50 to get into an exhibit that only shows a huge block of paint on the wall, you can’t help but wonder: what did I just pay for? But when tech is added to the situation, it makes things a bit more interesting. And considering the modern world has the attention span of a goldfish, interesting and innovative twists are 100% necessary. Below are eight innovators that combined tech, art and culture to create something you really have to see to believe.

Knot Standard

Founded by John Ballay and Matt Mueller
New York, NY

The Innovation:Knot Standard’s mission is simple: to make men look like BAMFs without breaking the bank. The innovative fashion company takes a new approach to modern tailoring by creating a 3D image of a client’s measurements to ensure exceptional fit. After three to four weeks, clients will have a precise, handmade suit that’s perfectly fitted to their body.

The Inspiration: While living in Dubai, Mueller and Ballay were constantly traveling to and from the US for various occasions that required dress attire. Unable to find anything that fit exceptionally well in the US, both Mueller and Ballay would get their suits tailored in Dubai, and would return home to countless compliments on their style. Because they were never able to get what they were looking for in the US, the two men wanted to make sharp tailored suits more prevalent back home without attaching the usual astronomical price tag. In 2010, Knot Standard was born, relieving bespoke suit junkies from the $2,800 to $4,800 fee they'd become used to and replacing it with a more reasonable price average of $1,200.

How Knot Standard is improving the fashion industry: “For the first time in history, men can digitally create and visualize custom suits, blazers and pants in lifelike 3D form,” says Megan Glynn, Knot Standard’s Director of Customer Acquisition and Growth Marketing.  “After two years of development, Knot Standard is the first company to successfully launch real-time visualization of custom menswear.”

"I think one of the best things about Knot Standard is our style advisors and the personalized experience that our clients receive when they walk into any of our seven showrooms nationwide,” Glynn says. But you don't have to track down a store to look like 007. The Virtual Studio is another unique aspect to their company, a design element that combines "the best of the old world tailoring process with modern online shopping convenience [and] personalization." For those looking for a quick customization, shoppers can enter the Virtual Studio and pick from four "starting point" designs. From there, they are able to customize the suit to their liking, picking everything from the suit's fabric, to the color, to the style of the pant loops' button. Considering the team's end goal is to change the luxury menswear industry, they're already way ahead of the game.


Founded by Fiona O’Leary
Dublin, Ireland

The Innovation: Dublin designer Fiona O’Leary is changing the way people create typography. As most designers are probably familiar with, there tend to be major differences between the digital design and the print version, with typefaces looking completely different on screen than they do on paper. So O’Leary created a product that would relieve this creative frustration. With her tool Spector, users are able to create a finalized product digitally without having to print it out several times as testers to see what it would really look like once it’s finished. So not only is she saving the environment (less paper, less trees killed!), she’s also saving your precious time.

So how does it work? The Spector software -- which looks to be a hybrid between an elaborate stamp and a Pokéball -- is an InDesign plugin that also has a live feed of a camera. After placing Spector over an intriguing typeface, users are able to see it directly transfer to a computer for digital design, where fonts and colors can be more accurately analyzed for a final product.

The Inspiration: Contrary to popular belief, great things come from being incredibly irritated. “I came up with this idea from my frustration with designing for print on screen. It never looks like it does on screen as it does on the finalized print,” O’Leary says. “I came up with the idea if you are going to design for print on screen, why not start with print material? And why not make it interactive? As designers we always collect nice samples of inspiration and I wanted to utilize these samples.”  

Why it’s awesome: “It’s a new way of seeing how to understand typography and making typesetting more transparent by communicating invisible factors such as size, kerning and leading,” O’Leary explains. “I also see it as a new way of taking the guessing game out of typesetting. So when it comes to printing your book or page from Adobe InDesign, you already know what it’s going to look like because you took it from a piece of printed material.”

Caress of the Gaze

Founded by Behnaz Farahi
Los Angeles, CA

The Innovation: Behnaz Farahi is an architect and designer who’s giving new life to the fashion industry with her creation Caress of the Gaze, a 3D-printed garment that is able to detect another person’s gaze and reacts by changing shape. Along with inadvertently warning off predators, the high tech cape is also really, really cool.

A camera lens smaller than 3mm is embedded inside the garment and is able to detect a person’s stare. A computer algorithm can tell exactly where the person is looking, and spines attached to that spot would start to move in response. Farahi calls the reaction similar to “actual skin goosebumps,” and also points out that unlike conventional machinery, her piece operates silently and organically.

The Inspiration: According to Farahi, inspiration struck when looking at the behavior and properties of skin. “Our skin is constantly in motion. It expands, contracts and changes its shape based on various internal and external stimuli, including not only temperature and moisture, but also feelings,” she explains. Her idea was to create an artificial skin with enhanced functionality that could become an extension of one’s actual skin while interacting with the body and the environment around it.

Modeled after the morphology on fish and snake scales, Farahi adds, “Gaze is one of those elements in our social life which can express and communicate meanings and intentions, as well as a person’s current object of interest.”

How it’s changing the industry: “The main promise is to speculate on the future of fashion,” the designer says. For Farahi, the future of fashion depends on interactive clothing that could eventually act as a type of communication. “Even though this approach is still speculative, it opens up the possibility of a radical new approach to interactive clothing and I think that is why this project might be exciting for the viewers too,” she explains.


Founded by Pindar Van Arman
Washington D.C

The Innovation: bitPaintr is a robot that paints portraits. And no, it’s not just some glorified printer, it’s an actual AI robot. When Pindar Van Arman set about creating Mr. Paintr, his goal was to build a system that did not just paint a portrait, but understands the painting. To do so, he’s designed software that uses neural networks (algorithms that imitate the brain) to create portraits that seem eerily like the work of a real human.

The Inspiration: Van Arman is a “technology artist.” Which means he gets to create cool works incorporating technology. He spent most of his life as a painter, but one day decided that he was bored with the tedious aspects of using paint and brushes and actually, you know, painting. Sure, he could’ve hired an assistant or a living apprentice, but what would be the fun in that? Instead, he set about designing literal painting robots, of which bitPaintr is the fifth iteration. With bitPaintr, he was able to start a website, cloudPainter, where users can submit an image for bitPaintr to recreate. And after a successful Kickstarter campaign, bitPaintr is so backed up with portrait orders that it’ll be painting almost non-stop till February.

Why it’s artistically awesome: Building a painting robot would be impressive by any metric, and five painting robots would be even better. But the real genius of bitPaintr is in the software. bitPaintr reimagines portraits using a complex set of algorithms, reimagining it the way a human would. This gives bitPaintr some impressive features, like deciding autonomously when the portrait is finished. It can choose between a set of photos and decide which one it likes the best. If someone decides to add a few brush strokes of their own to the painting, bitPaintr can even incorporate these additions to the portrait and try to paint in the new style.

Van Arman’s invention has been getting lots of attention, especially once he gave a TEDx talk on his creation. He was even recently invited to attend the White House tech and innovation festival, South by South Lawn. His goal is to eventually make it easier for people to paint for themselves, whether by learning on their own, or by having a talented bot take over the messy work. And he's currently working on next and latest robot that will have way more paintbrushes and even airbrushes so that the robot can paint faster, or you know, eventually take over the world. 


Founded by Miral Kotb
New York, NY

The Innovation: What started as an America’s Got Talent act has since transformed into a staple of New York City’s off-Broadway scene. iLuminate is an entertainment technology company that features a group of talented dancers decked out in electrified glow-in-the-dark body suits performing choreographed routines and illusions in the dark. Think Tron but without the robot moves (and questionable acting).

“We are constantly pushing the envelope in terms of advancing the technology to last longer, be brighter and more illusion-filled,” explains Timothy Dorey, the show’s digital marketing manager. “We were one of the very first to come out with this technology and now it's causing other companies in the entertainment industry to see how they can incorporate us into their acts and performances.”

The Inspiration: “The concept for iLuminate came about while Miral was developing iPhone apps,” Dorey says. “She had a vision of dancers wearing costumes that illuminated wirelessly to compliment the music and choreography -- wireless technology that could be controlled from the palm of one’s hand. It was the perfect way to combine her uniquely different worlds and follow her true passion.”

What’s next: iLuminate is looking to pass on their creative edge to future generations, and what’s the easiest way to do that? Through young’ns. “We are very excited to be getting involved in education as of late. We think it's really important for students to learn that art and technology aren't mutually exclusive. You can combine the different things you love and come up with something revolutionary,” Dorey says. The more you know!

Mayku FormBox

Founded by Benjamin Redford and Alex Smilansky

The Innovation: For anyone who’s ever had a business dream but lacks the actual tools to make it a reality, Mayku has your back with FormBox. “At Mayku, we’re building the world’s first desktop factory,” founder Benjamin Redford explains. “A whole family of machines that will enable anyone to make anything, right from their home.”

FormBox is essentially a vacuum-powered molding machine that fits on your counter. Getting the suction it needs from a vacuum cleaner attachment, the machine makes it incredibly easy to mold three-dimensional objects in a short amount of time, and is easy to operate for even the most technologically challenged. Heat up the sheet you want to make something out of, start your vacuum, stick the object you want to mold into the FormBox, and watch it transform. Aside from being able to work with just about any type of plastic, Mayku’s Formbox also allows for just about any kind of free-flowing substance to be used for a final product. So chocolate, wax, silicone, plaster, and water are all fair game.

The Inspiration: Frustrated by the lack of tools in his university's workshop, Redford decided to take matters into his own hands. Instead of complaining, he opted to build new tools from domestic appliances lying around the house. “The first FormBox was cobbled together from bits of wood, an old floor heater and a vacuum cleaner,” he explains. “But it worked!”

How it’s changing the industry: “We bring making to the masses,” Redford says. “By bringing crazy techniques that you’d usually find in factories into people’s homes, garages, kitchens, and studios, we’re giving anyone the chance to create their own way in this world. Whether you’re just making a few custom chocolates for your friends or you have plans to dominate the phone case market, we’re giving a leg up to the little guys.”


Founded by Gabriel Asfour, Angela Donahauser and Adi Gil
New York, NY

The Innovation: This avant-garde fashion brand has made a name for itself by implementing cutting-edge technology into their designs to create experimental, unique, and, most importantly, innovative fashion lines. threeASFOUR’s latest line consists of a 3D printed dress dubbed OSCILLATION, a product produced from a collaboration between Stratasys, a 3D printing company, and Travis Finch, a 3D designer.

The dress, which made its debut during the 2016 fall fashion week in New York, was based on the geometric patterns that appear from vibration. “At certain frequencies of vibration (in this case Solfeggio frequencies), some very astounding geometric patterns are formed,” explains Plum, the brand’s Communications Director. The Solfeggio frequencies are known to activate the human Chakras. According to Plum, the trio of designers and Fitch chose two of those Solfeggio frequencies to “produce geometric patterns oscillating around the body in aquatic waveforms in shades of blue and white.”

Why it’s different: threeASFOUR says their approach to 3D printing is specifically from a textile point of view. “We view 3D printed and textile weaves as advancing wearable fabric properties drastically in both form and function,” says Plum. “For example, properties such as stretch, wrinkle-free, heat protection, cooling, bullet proof, fire resistant, pressure protective, and so on will be improved dramatically through a set of new 3D oriented fabric weaves.” She adds, “We envision 3D printing changing the fashion industry tremendously by evolving materials and shapes to drastic levels we cannot even imagine.”


Created by MIT Media Lab
Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Innovation: Temporary tattoos have evolved from scraps of cartoon characters pulling out your arm hair, to flashy designs plastered around music festivals. But DuoSkin is taking things to a whole new level.

In August of 2016, MIT Media Lab unveiled DuoSkin, a project that uses temporary tattoos to control your electronic devices. With a number of potential functions, like communicating to your cell phone and controlling your music player, DuoSkin fuses an intriguing aesthetic with a technology that’s hard to imagine even exists.

How it works: In a paper presented to the International Symposium of Wearable Computers in September, Cindy Kao, a graduate student from MIT, explains that the creation uses gold leaf paper for basic conductivity along with a vinyl cutter and temporary tattoo printing paper. You can use nearly any computer graphics creation software to design the circuit. Once that's crafted, feed the design through the vinyl cutter, layer on the gold leaf paper, and apply it to your skin. It may look like an ordinary flash tattoo, but an embedded NFC chip allows for information (like swiping left or right) to be transferred to an electronic device.