Posts tagged creativity
The Artist's Way

I’ve begun a 12-week course on recovering my creativity, called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I’ve had a number of friends embark on this journey to great effect. Thomas, for example, did it when he left his job to discover his art, and he said the experience was “f*cking awesome.” It has a somewhat cultish following of artists, filmmakers, writers and creatives who swear by its methods, and despite just getting started, I think it has great potential to unblock whatever’s been riding along in my psyche my whole adult life.

I was a strange and imaginative weirdo when I was young—always making, drawing, and exploring my curiosity. I lost a great deal of that imagination, perhaps surprisingly, in design school. While I was being groomed to become a process-driven, human-centered young designer at one of the best design schools in the nation, I was told that the way I used to be creative is wrong. Take for example: drawing classes. Drawing 101 and 102 had me spending weeks and weeks creating perfectly rendered three dimensional shapes, and pulled me away from the imaginative doodling and sketching I used to pull out of my brain. I am admittedly not a prolific industrial designer, so while I did well enough to scrape by as an A/B student, I just don’t think in perfectly rendered cubes, spatulas and chassis. But it was enough for me to tell myself that if I can’t draw it in perfectly rendered 3D, it’s not worth drawing at all. So, I haven’t drawn much in the last 15 years (I’ll note that I don’t think this was the intention of my professors, but the impact was certainly lasting). Anyway, I’m on a mission to get over those kinds of blockages and live a more creatively fulfilling life.

The methodology for The Artist’s Way involves writing three pages of stream-of-consciousness every morning, a weekly artist date with myself, and performing a set of tasks tailored by the week to guide the emotional and deeply personal journey of discovering/recovering one’s creativity. It’s a fairly spiritual book, and there’s a lot of reference to the Creator, which right in the intro encourages you to not think of this as the Jesus kind of God, but the divine creative force within us all that we are trying to access. I’m still adjusting to that as a key element in the journey and while I’ve never thought of creativity in that sense, I’m hoping I will convince myself for the sake of this experience. The fact that so many artists that I know and admire have successfully completed The Artist’s Way is motivation enough for me to get over my God allergy.

Introducing the Playspace
This week's prompt is Collage. 

This week's prompt is Collage. 

I'm working with some peers on efforts to push my design team be more creative, innovative, and thoughtful about how we approach our work. Part of that is making the time and space to play and experiment more, and share it with each other as inspiration. This is something that I do fairly regularly (and tend to document here), but in order to get others on board, there always needs to be some level of process introduced so it has a shape that others can adopt. 

Enter the Playspace. It's a public Tumblr where we are allowed to play without the constraints of client work. We've worked to build out a long list of prompts, and each week will be announcing a new one to inspire the team to make whatever they want. It's optional, but I'm hoping that participation will be infectious as the late-adopters see how cool it is to be a part of this. So far the usual suspects (our creative powerhouses) have been posting regularly. 

If all goes to plan, this will become a regular creative outlet for the team, and be something we enjoy contributing to, talk about and develop over time. There's pontential for it to fail, if no one uses it— we're in the early days of it so I'm excited to see what happens. 

So what's with the alphabet posts?

I have found that starting a design critique with a short 5 minute creative exercise is a great way to warm up. It gets our brains working to connect the dots in unexpected ways, gets us talking, and more often then not, we have a good laugh. 

A few years back I introduced this practice as a crit leader, and these exercises varied from week to week— I would try to vary the briefs so that it would always feel fresh. However, preparing a new exercise each week became exhausting and a burden rather than something I was excited about. I conferred with the other crit leaders (we have 3), and learned that my peer had starting a brief: each week they draw an animal that starts with a letter of the alphabet, starting with A and running 26 weeks to Z. I was delighted— 26 weeks worth of content from one brief! I promptly stole her idea, and with a new letter each week, it never felt old or stale.  

That tradition has carried on and spread to each of the three crits groups in our design team. These days as principal designer I no longer lead my own group, but rather, attend all three crits— so I get to see the direction each leader has taken it as we work through alphabets. 

Right now the variations are this: 

  1. In crit group New Tang Clan: As a group, pick an adjective that starts with the letter of the week. Then pair it with your own noun of the same letter. (ex. Terrified Testicles
  2. In crit group Babb to the Future: Pick your own quality that starts with the letter, to the letterform itself. (ex. Kinky K)
  3. In crit group Team Ale: Create the letterform however you like. Any medium is welcome: pen/paper, photoshop, animation, found materials. (ex. E is for Eat)

These alphabet drawings have become a fun and reliable source of creative output in my life. It has also reconnected me to the practice of drawing regularly and I am pushing myself in 2017 to do more of it. 

Jennacrits, creativityComment