Creative Thinking Strategies.
Creative thinking routines
Creative Thinking routines are like games that frame particular approaches to research, generating and developing ideas. When students are stuck for ideas or just need help in re-energising their creative journey, using these routines will change the ways they work and re-ignite their creative passions.
Creative Thinking assists students practice divergent thinking. This means they will be able to increase the quantity of ideas and enrich their approaches to solving a communication need. This kind of Design Thinking is more commonly done during earlier stages of the Design Process. The routines on this page are often used for;
- Generation of Ideas
- Development of Concepts.
CONTEXT FOR EFFECTIVE CREATIVE THINKING
Developing effective Creative Thinking is not as easy as it looks. In fact, thinking divergently is kind of counter intuitive to the students' desires to get work done and finish the job.
Creative Thinking involves games that make thinking visible. The take-away from the idea of thinking routines is that they are routines. Not sonly are they a framework for creativity but that they should become routine in the class room. Students need to become used to the routine of thinking. Thinking new things, thinking differently, thinking about thinking.
Creating innovative designs requires buy-in. I am referring to minimising the habit practised frequently in class rooms where students want to design something that will be recognisable and will award them praise for designing a nice, familiar product. Breaking, or leading students beyond this old approach is essential if any of the following Creative Thinking techniques have a positive effect on innovation.
WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET CREATIVE?
To create a positive climate for Creative Thinking routines that inspire experimentation students and their teachers will need to agree to a Code of Creativity. Teachers should talk to their classes about the positive working habits their students think will lead to them working more creatively. I did it recently with my class and they collaboratively came up with the code shown at right.
The Code of Creativity may include some of the following ideas;
- a commitment to design new. Post ‘We will make original ideas’ on the wall
- letting go of preconceived ideas no matter how slight they might seem
- focus on the physical and conceptual discussion of a problem (not a description of a solution)
- the freedom to move ourselves to a new time and place to think differently
- setting of rules to direct the formation of new ideas – ideas you didn’t know you had
- a commitment to play – free play without the need for an anticipated outcome
Brief and Research.
A Mind Map is a technique to help explore and understand the scope of a design need.
It is used at the Brief stage of a design process to help students to define a problem and consider as many as possible different ways that could be used to approach solving a design need.
Place the topic or design need at the centre of the page.
Create branches reaching radially from the centre by writing words associated with one way of looking at the topic. Colour can be used to separate the branches visually.
Organise the words (usually done as they are written) into topics or themes like the styles, or materials used.
Mind Maps can be a combination or words and imagery. They are also useful for making links between ideas. This can be done with arrows and connectors. Students should check with their teachers exactly how a mind map is to be prepared as their are different styles Mind Map that might be required for assessment.
VISUAL RESEARCH - COLLECT AND SORT
The purpose of visual research is to see trends in the ways visual products are designed.
A simple search and collection yields little in the way of information as a foundation for design. Yet through the processes of sorting and analysis much can be learnt about how design elements and principles are used together.
To build on the successes of the past we need to identify and understand the common themes in design. Visual techniques become evident when designs are sorted into groups that share common characteristics.
Make a wide search for as many different designs in one category. Print and place them on a flat surface.
Sort them into groups defined by their use of design elements and/ or principles. Take shape, colour or form for example.
Once the designs are grouped together begin to document how they use the design elements and principles as a group. I have analysed colour in the example shown.
VISUAL RESEARCH - KNOW THE BACK STORY
To understand the lineage of objects. An informed designer is one who builds on the past.
Will help when you come to make links between past and student's designs using Reflective Thinking.
Research widely using a range of on and off line resources. Collect pictures of the most significant designs in the category of your object at different points in history. Find out how designs are linked to stylistic or artistic movements. Find out what social or technological motivations there were for the designs. Why were they made like they were made, then?
Sort your images to reveal trends. These might be in the use of colour, materials, forms or details.
CONSUMER AUDIENCE PROFILES
To create a visual outline the type of person that use products one is researching.
The consumer profile is a simple representation of the characteristics of the target audience including;
- what they look like,
- audience characteristics (demographics and psychographics), interests,
- their purchasing preferences, lifestyles, past times, holidays they go on, brands they buy.
Determine the target audience for the design you are researching. Begin with a written profile to describe two or three different consumers of the design. Refer to a wide variety of audience characteristics in your description. Imagine each member of the audience as a real person - create their back story. Detail their lifestyle preferences.
Collect pictures to illustrate the aspects you have identified.
Place the pictures carefully on a clean layout using a crisp white background. Use hierarchy to draw attention to headings and key images.
GO FOR THE REAL - PHOTOS AND SCRAPBOOKING
Get out from behind your desk. So many books discuss the need for 'real' research experiences, yet so few of us do it. Take a walk around your home. Give yourself one hour to take fifty photos on your phone. Look up, down. Find the details in buildings, footpaths and shop windows.
Collect bits of paper everywhere you go. Free newspapers and post cards. Put them in a box. Put them in folders. Keep track of the years you collect them. Buy old magazines for 20c at the opp shop. Wait till you hold them. Forget about pixel pictures on your computer. Real is real and that's inspirational. If you're collecting for research for a folio, make it relevant.
SEE, THINK, WONDER
Generation of ideas.
The Generation of Ideas phase is the phase that requires the use of divergent thinking. The goal is to create as bigger range of ideas and approaches as possible. Students might be able to think outside the box for a while. They may be able to consider a problem from several angles. However, before long the demands of the task and the need for closure will wear one down and students will no longer be able to come up with any new ideas. They need a new approach.
To extend students' creativity they are required to change perspectives and challenge assumptions. To change perspective means to see the design problem from another point of view. To challenge assumptions means to reject preconceived or normal ideas about the way a solution to a product should look.
Creatives tell us the best way to enter this extra creative sphere is to play games - often within strict sets of rules. Each of the techniques shown in this section will have students working that way. They might not feel comfortable at first, as if they are being pushed to work in a strange or different way but hey, that's what we want - different approaches = different outcomes!
WHAT IF SOMEONE ELSE WAS DESIGNING THIS?
Consider the communication need defined in your brief. Choose (or your teacher will allocate you) a person to pretend to be. (See a range of people from which to choose below)
Then gather a little information about the experiences the person may have had. Anything we know about their personality, gender and when and where they lived will help you get inside their head.
From that information determine what aesthetic (what something looks like) and functional (how something is made and works) preferences you think they may have had. Would they have liked things simple, complex, traditional, avant-garde, strong, or light, portable, for example.
Finally, pick up your pencil and see what comes. It's entirely up to you. Or should I say, them...
Suggestions for personalities to assume are:
- A Geisha
- Albert Einstein
- Isaac Newton
- Wonder Woman
- Martin Luther
- William Shakespeare
- Mary Quant
- Sigmund Freud
- Winston Churchill
- Queen Elizabeth
- Marie Curie
- Anne Boleyn
- Frida Khalo
- Ivanka Trump
- Oprah Winfrey
- Your teacher
- Your best friend
Action verbs is a creative thinking strategy where individual actions are applied to an initial idea. Having a list of actions one can do to a design takes the pressure off thinking, 'What else can I do? and shifts focus to solving smaller bite sized problems.
Like all creative thinking techniques, using action verbs requires an open mind. Let it flow without criticising your ideas. Remember, divergent thinking is about producing more concepts, more variations.
SCAMPER is a set of rules designed to elaborate on ideas by making variations on them. It can be used at the Generation of Ideas stage to help form new ideas from existing ones or at the Development stage to help re-forming existing ideas.
You may choose to use they whole set of actions or focus on those that are more relevant for your design.
Begin with one initial drawn idea.
Research the SCAMPER technique to find elaborations on the key questions proposed by each letter of the acronym.
Sketch at least one new design using each letter of SCAMPER as a guide for developing your existing design.
Keep an eye on your brief. New and wacky ideas are good but if you are trying to fulfil a need, try to direct your ideas towards the need described in your brief.
Extremely simple from the outset. One should just take an existing form or motif, then apply an action to it. No second guessing in the process, see where it leads.
To extend these actions, apply them in more than one way to each form. Alternatively, apply more than one action to each instance of your form. Furthermore, apply several actions in sequence. For example, one could merge, branch then grade a form.
Don't limit yourself to these operative actions. Test some more;
- make transparent
SET TARGETS AND/ OR LIMITS
Do you really need all that time to come up with an idea? Think of a picnic. A car race, can of Coke, a beach holiday? The picture is instant isn't it?
Setting strict time limits increases your capacity as a creative thinker. It's a workout for your brain.
Use the timer here and draw 10 different designs using one approach. Take a one minute break between ideas to think of a new approach. This will be the best, most productive 20 minutes you have ever spent.
Set a timer on your phone for 2 or 5 minutes to draw in more detail. Get used to completing work efficiently.
LEAST AMOUNT OF SHAPES OR FORMS
Less is more. Pair back your designs to increase their effectiveness.
Get rid of superficial decoration and reach the core of your idea.
Take one of your ideas then simplify it. Use only one font. One image. Round off corners or sharp edges. Remove distracting backgrounds. Get rid of overlaps.
Eliminate complex forms. Consider if an object could be made with only one form. If not, do it in the least amount.
WORK IN A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT WAY
The actual way you will work differently is up to you. Here are some suggestions;
- draw with one line
- paint with a scrubbing brush
- draw with your wrong hand
- draw with the paper upside down
- draw with two pencils
- tear paper for a collage
- walk around someone as you draw them
- paint the tires of your bike with black paint and ride around a big piece of paper!
Development of Concepts.
EXPERIMENTATION WITH DESIGN ELEMENTS AND PRINCIPLES
Development of concepts by experimentation with design elements and principles can be done by selecting and emphasising individual or combinations of design elements and/ or principles in a concept. This experimentation is usually accompanied by one varying the number, proportions, format or arrangement of given visual components found in a design idea.
The techniques shown below do not enable the creation of new design concepts but provide inspiration for how existing ideas can be extended and ultimately improved to hopefully meet the requirements of a brief.
The purpose of using alternative grids is to break the habit of using a symmetrical layout.
There are so many inspiring compositions in the real world that can be used to power original designs.
Observe, Notice. Get out and search for shapes, patterns and fields in the environment around you. Look in buildings, gardens, shops and artworks. Photograph your observations.
Deconstruct. Use tracing paper or place your image in Adobe Illustrator and replicate composition. Use shape and line to support your analysis.
Organise the content from one of your concepts according to the structure you have identified.
KIT OF PARTS
Observe and record stimulus material in the real world. Sketch or use photography to record what you see.
Represent the forms you see in simplified and stylised visual devices using the least amount of shapes, lines, or other design elements. Ensure that your shapes are generic so the same ones can be used in different places to form an image.
Deconstruct your first image into a tool kit of reusable parts.
Build something new from your kit. I tried an alphabet. Another figure or a house would be good.
Use the design process. I found I needed to go back to the steps above and modify how I represented my initial figure. When doing the alphabet step I found I needed to make changes to my kit of parts.
USE OF ALTERNATIVE MATERIALS, METHODS AND MEDIA
Development of concepts by experimentation with materials, methods, media, techniques and processes leads to changes in aesthetics and the form of each concept. Every different art-making process brings a different look.
Now that we have computers for tight professional work, let's use hand techniques for rustic and retro effects.
The use of different tools and processes will enable growth as each technique forces your ideas to work in unique ways. These will be ways students never anticipated when they use different media and techniques.
Students may have to suspend preconceived ideas relating to the audience, purpose and context in their brief to let your creativity flow but don't stress, they can bring it all back soon with critical and reflective thinking.
Each method and media brings with it particular aesthetic and functional qualities. Capitalise on the unique qualities of media and methods. Let them drive the development of our work.
A common barrier to the use of this technique is when students try to force media to work in ways that are not natural to them. Don't fight them, use pastels and paint, let them drip and smudge. That's their characteristics. That's development.
As a class.
Your teacher might set up various 'method stations' around the room. You will be expected to work around the class room using as many as you can in timed exercises.
Think back to every media, method or technique you have ever used in art or vis comm at school. Take one of your concepts. A logo is a great motif for this activity. The use as many different media, methods or techniques as you can. Work 2d and 3d. Have you ever made a model of a letter?
This one is my idea too. Can you spot the media and methods I have used in my set? They are;
- Rubbing of the lino cut print
- Vector based image
- Orthogonal vector based image
- Acrylic paint
- Vector based image as Speed Sign
- Artline marker
- Oil pastels
- Lino cut print
- Isometric vector based image
- Vector based image as Parking Sign
DECONSTRUCTION & RECONSTRUCTION
Use any of your images as starting points for deconstruction and eventual reconstruction.
Work manual then digital, print it out, cut it up, stick it down, scan it and bring it back to digital again. Cut it, rip it, delete it, scrunch it up, photograph it, disassemble it. How much process can you give one image?
Check the new collage work by the master of grunge and deconstruction; David Carson.