The Art of Iteration

Iterative process, especially in the case of my project, is highly important for an artist to experiment with new ideas and concepts in a manner which is rapid, affordable and valuable. Due to the experimental nature of my project and the use of the laser cutter in a means which has been previously unexplored – the iterative process for me has been essential in trialling ideas and discovering what does and does not work when working with this medium.

Cobanli, the founder of OMC design studios argues that “great design is the iteration of good design” (2019). Iterative design can be implemented at any stage of the artistic process, and when executed effectively, should be of a minimal cost to the user. This is to say, the iterations and experimentations with a medium need not be necessarily at the same high standard of the finished product, but should instead give an indication of the successes or failures of a particular medium. As Stein explains, practice is essential in any iterative design process. “Fundamental to the design process is prototyping and producing mock-ups of the design. Imagination can only take you so far” (Stein, 2014).

In my experience with prototyping this semester so far, I have used some successful iterative processes to expand my tactile knowledge and skills with the medium of the laser cutter. Early on in semester, I began to experiment with cutting generic designs into leaves, in order to examine the effectiveness of the process. As shown in the images below, I began by cutting into a leaf which was more green, and eventually working my way through to fully dried leaves. Along the way, I became aware of significant challenges with using the laser cutter in such a manner. This included the fact that the inbuilt extractor fan made for a windy environment – blowing the leaves around and resulting in some failed attempts (shown below, where an entire design was cut in half). As Stein argues, this is all an important part of the iterative process, with persistence and focus a central part of prototyping and experimenting (2014). He states that “designers must be self-aware and not afraid to take risks, improvise or exercise aesthetic judgements” (Stein, 2014). These experimentations have also been highly cost-effective, as the use of the laser cutter is free and unlimited, as is the availability of fallen autumn leaves.

The artist Jeroen Erosie works with the medium of graffiti and explains how the iterative process for him is highly valuable, even though the nature of spray painting is something that is permanent yet very experimental. He explains that he is “looking for that joy of execution, directness, the fast, intuitive result, and the scale, among other things” (2017). In his case, performing iterations of the final piece is not as feasible due to the large-scale nature of the art piece. Instead, he explains that “most of the work beforehand is done in my sketchbook, with many pages of gradual development, trying things out, finding a certain swing, and discovering while drawing” (Erosie, 2017). In addition, the iterative process allows for the personal growth of an artist and the evolution of styles that may not have been previously explored. Erosie recalls that he had “several phases in the past 20 years that were more or less definable as a signature style, but I think I was generally too curious to really stick to a specific approach for too long…I am more interested in researching possibilities than a final, definitive outcome” (2017).

Installations by Jeroen Erosie

Research is a fundamental step in the iterative process, which can both precede and compliment the tangible process of making. In my case, the initial research undertaken into the experimental use of laser cutters is what originally introduced me to the idea of cutting into leaves and other natural items. Early research undertaken in my project proposal allowed me to explore both the history of laser cutting, and the current uses of the laser cutter for artistic purposes. One example was looking at the artist Gabrial Schama, who writes that “the formal qualities of [his] artwork tend to emerge from the particularities and structural limitations of layered plywood and paper”. By experimenting with the laser cutter and wood as a medium, Shama was able to identify a new aesthetic and explore this through further prototyping and iterations.

In Week 6 of this semester, we presented an early concept to the cohort explaining our ideas and hopes for the final project. In my case, this process of receiving critical class feedback was a highly valuable step in the iterative process. As Vizard (2018) explains, “giving and receiving feedback is a fundamental part of being a designer… and at its best, feedback is inspiring, opens up new possibilities, and elevates your work to the next level”. In my case, this was highly relevant, as it was made apparent to me that my ideas, while sturdy they may be, can certainly be pushed to a further conceptual place with added dimension. Consequently, I have now begun playing around with both shadowing and movement. I have experimented with shining light through the laser cut silhouette, but further, bringing movement to the leaves so that the silhouette is tactile and multi-dimensional.

In the same week, the reading from Sullivan indicated that this “imaginative” process of experimentation is continually evolving. Sullivan argues that “visual arts involves thinking, and imaginative thinking is never fixed as it embraces what is known and unknown. The importance of thoughts becomes apparent when they are enacted in some form” (Sullivan 2010). This is something in my practice which could be greatly improved. Heading into the final few weeks of semester my iterations and practice, admittedly, have diminished greatly as the workload from other subjects has increased. In order to effectively complete this project, I am in a position where I must now continue to iterate and receive feedback to ensure the quality of my final piece is high.


Interaction Design Foundation 2019, ‘Design iteration brings powerful results. So, do it again designer!’, Interaction Design Foundation, web post, viewed 2 May 2019, available at: <>

Pricco, E 2017, ‘Jeroen Erosie: The Iterative Process’, Juxtapoz, blog post, viewed 3 May 2019, available at:<>

Stein, E 2014, Fostering Creativity in Self and the Organization : Your Professional Edge, Business Expert Press, New York.

Sullivan, G 2010, Art Practice as Research: Inquiry in the Visual Arts, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks.

Vizard, L 2018, ‘Mastering the Art of Giving and Receiving Feedback on Design Work’, Adobe Blog, blog post, viewed 2 May 2019, available at: <>

Wood, Revisited. 2016. Gabriel Schama (USA). [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 1 April 2019].

Published by susiealdermann

Fifth Year Bachelor of Communications and Media/ Bachelor of International Studies (Dean's Scholar) student

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