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Posted 29 October 2012

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My desk in it's current state. Cables everywhere!

Ugh. For years now I have wondered how to simplify — truly simplify — my surrounding space and possessions. Today, I stumbled across this wonderfully simple, yet powerful TED talk by Graham Hill, founder of (As a side note, I also love the simplicity of his presentation.)

This idea of simplifying your surroundings and editing ruthlessly reminds me of a wonderful video entitled The Desk, by Imaginary Forces. In it, we are afforded a little glimpse into a very famous desk, that of Massimo Vignelli. I have long admired Vignelli’s desk (is that weird?) and his insistence upon clearing it off every night so he can start fresh the next morning. There is something so refreshing — even inspiring – about this idea to me.

I suspect we all have our rituals before starting a big project. Mine is to clear off and organize my desk. I do it thoroughly — often spending up to an hour making sure that everything has a proper place. In many ways, it is my attempt at “editing ruthlessly” – or more likely – a ritual cleansing before the creative gods.

Less truly is more.

My refined process now includes playing

In last unit’s post about the creative process, I explained that I follow a modified waterfall process. I should have referred to it as a modified 4D process instead.

During this week’s readings, I discovered that the process I follow continues to appeal to me, however, I made some important distinctions and refinements to the stages I follow. For example, in this new and improved diagram, I have attempted to clarify several of the steps. Perhaps the most significant modifications are calling out the prototyping and feedback loops more specifically. I also included the term play in step three. If I were to point out a step that I continuously overlook in my process, it is playing. Too often, my process is so focused on the final outcome that I forget to truly play and allow that important step to guide the outcomes more often. This is something I will keep in mind as I continue to develop.

On a related note, this particular diagram from Dubberly’s book did resonate greatly with me. I have often called my process a modified waterfall mainly because the transition from one step to the next does not have a clear stopping/starting point. It is far more fluid than that. This diagram does a much better job of showing the underlying transition from step one (research/define) to step five (develop/produce).

Posted 23 October 2012

In: 701 Methodologies Seminar

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Posters created for Minnesota Public Radio's alternative music station. An example of "flow."

In his book, Finding Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes “flow” as the “state of effortless concentration and enjoyment” that individuals experience when they are working towards achieving a particular task or goal. This state is often referred to as “being in the zone” and it is often experienced in our most enjoyable, rewarding and fulfilling moments of life.

In my creative work, I have enjoyed many such moments of blissful lucidity which I would describe as perfect examples of “flow.” These moments often happen whenever I approach design problems in a “playful” manner – not necessarily concerning myself with the final outcome, but instead, allowing the creative process to dictate the outcome. These projects often feel like I’m painting on the canvas, rather than designing on it. The ‘rules’ of good typography, proper grid structures, and engaging color harmonies are still very much a part of these projects, but they are loose interpretations rather than strict mandates. Things like rhythm, visual texture, color and balance become the driving factors and the communication happens almost serendipitously. The message feels like a part of the piece rather than the purpose of it – if that makes any sense.

I’m not certain how to constantly achieve this state of flow in my work, but I suspect that approaching the design problem with a playful attitude is key to getting there. By that, I mean that instead of approaching the design problem in a more systematic and prescribed or formulaic manner, allowing myself to approach it with feeling. What feels good? What resonates? Perhaps, in a word, to create art, rather than design.

Banksy's "flower thrower" - a good example of an idea with a 'twist' to make it work.

Reflect on your experiences with disruptive wonder, as described by Kelli Anderson in the video “Kelli Anderson: Disruptive Wonder for a Change.” Are you open to creating disruptive wonder? Is the notion new to you?

During our course unit, we reviewed Kelli Anderson’s TED presentation Design to Change Reality in which she describes her quest to “make things better by making them more absurd.” The first example she provides is entitled “the empty gesture,” in which she explores the notion of receiving holiday cards which are often sent and received as empty gestures – as a result, she designs a holiday card that folds into a four-frame narrative of what it looks like to receive a holiday card. In essence, “a holiday card about itself.”

Her point is that in order for us to make sense of the world surrounding us in a creative manner, we need to question and approach things from completely unexpected points of view. In a manner of speaking, to turn things on their heads.

Since watching Anderson’s talk, I have attempted to look at my own design challenges from differing perspectives – perhaps not as radically as she suggests, but enough that I am discovering new and uncharted avenues that I feel would not have been possible had I stuck to my ‘normal’ process. And while this kind of process may not always uncover appropriate solutions to the design challenge at hand, it certainly allows for creative exploration that could otherwise (and often) end up in just another expected solution. And who wants to deliver expected solutions?! Not I.

Posted 18 October 2012

In: 701 Methodologies Seminar

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My personal creative process is a fairly straight-forward, slightly-modified waterfall process, and is probably quite common in our field. This is likely because it is an easily scalable process which effectively breaks down a design problem into smaller, more digestible chunks.

To better illustrate the process I typically follow, I will describe how the process applies to a larger project, like the development of a new brand and visual system:
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