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:
- 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)
- In crit group Babb to the Future: Pick your own quality that starts with the letter, to the letterform itself. (ex. Kinky K)
- 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.