Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo Da Vinci is the embodiment of multidisciplinary genius and creativity applied to diverse bodies of knowledge. He is probably the best example of what we call the Renaissance Man.
Despite the centuries that separate us from him, Da Vinci’s approach to contributing to deepening the understanding of his world is an early, broader version of the way modern polymaths’ such as Elon Musk, Thomas Edison or Steve Jobs approached the world.
His limitless curiosity and keen observation skills led him to explore and master many disciplines, making him known today as a pioneer in topics spanning across science, engineering and of course, painting.
True, Leonardo was often more interested in understanding and getting inspiration from the world than in solving narrowly pre-identified problems. The below quote attributed to him perfectly illustrates this:
The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.
But the depth with which he approached any domain also often led him to see things no one had seen before, patterns never previously identified and relationships never thought of.
In a way, one could say that Leonardo Da Vinci was a lateral thinker. Every one of his interests fed each other, leading to results that no one else could achieve. But beyond this, it is his deep interest in art, when combined with science and engineering, that ensured his understanding and ideas were not only innovative but also expressed in a beautiful and simple way. This is why I consider him to also be a pioneer of Design with a capital D.