Who’s Teaching Creativity?

creativity-takes-courage matisse quote2Although the answer to that question isn’t everybody, I do wonder if we’re seeing the beginnings of a tipping point. More and more businesses are clamoring for creative employees, and universities across the country are starting to integrate the subject into their curricula. Hurrah! Are big business and big education seeing what art and design programs have known all along; that imagination and inventiveness are essential problem solving tools? Perhaps so.

Today’s online New York Times has an interesting article, Learning To Think Outside The Box, that fills me with encouragement. In it, author offers examples showing the University of Georgia, Penn State, and SUNY Buffalo/Buffalo State getting into the game with classes like “Introduction to Creative Studies” and “Creativity, Innovation and Change.”

Gerald J. Puccio, chairman of the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State explains; “the reality is that to survive in a fast-changing world you need to be creative.” “The marketplace is demanding it,” he says. The article highlights a 2010 IBM survey of 1500 top executives that backs him up. It states that CEO’s believe creativity is “the most important leadership quality,” trumping other characteristics. The reason why is simple; in today’s complex world where ambiguity and complexity are the norm, out-of-the-box thinking and experimentation are essential for building innovative products, processes, and delivery systems.

einstein creativity quote 2How do they teach creativity? At Buffalo State the process involves clarifying, ideating, developing and implementing. Sound familiar? I guess design thinking isn’t just for Industrial Designers after all. Other programs focus on how to learn from failure. As artists already know, failure is just one step in the design process. Just think of the hours building and rebuilding that interior design model; of drawing and redrawing that still life; or of sewing and re-sewing that new jacket for your fashion design course. If at first we don’t succeed, we try, try again, experimenting and learning along the way.

All of this is good news. Businesses are beginning to grasp the value of a creative education.  And they’re starting to realize what we already knew, that creative people are imaginative and capable problem solvers.

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Design Thinking: In The Classroom

design thinkingWhich colleges are integrating Design Thinking into their undergraduate Industrial Design (ID) programs?

Here’s one: The Methods of Design Research at Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) was offered this past fall semester for ID sophomores. Paired with a spring semester studio class, the two courses combine to help students grasp the strategic rationale behind the design of a product and the process required to get to that rationale, in order to design a more successful product. “The goal is to simulate a real-world project scenario that incorporates insights, strategy, and then design,” explained John Youger, Director of Insights and Strategy at WD Partners and CCAD Adjunct Professor. 

Last semester’s project: design a future gas station, something that will exist 5 – 10 years from now. The process includes understanding and defining the challenge, generating ideas, and conducting research, followed by prototyping and testing. The night I sat in on the class had students flushing through their methods for gathering their primary and secondary research.

As if responding to a real-world RFP, students considered myriad details including vehicles of the future, fuel types, technology, and spatial layout of a gas station. They also dialogued over how to conduct their primary research (teams of 2 – 3 were formed), and discussed the market groups that will feel the impact of a design change; consumers, employees, and stakeholders. Finally, they planned for the presentations of their findings.

Excerpt from Alice Smejkalova's research presentation

Excerpt from Alice Smejkalova’s research presentation

End of semester results and presentations for this collaborative group were impressive. Now, engaged in their studio courses, the same students are focusing on the impact their research has made on their design choices, and will have on the look and feel of their future fuel stations.

Their research and the process they utilized to obtain it have provided them with the tools to create good future design decisions, in class and throughout their careers. The process can be repeated and utilized to solve project after project. If ID is on your radar, inquire at other colleges. Ask how they integrate design thinking into their processes. For me, I can’t wait to see what the end of this semester brings.

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Design Thinking: Thinking Design

head of ideas - my colors

Art and design require strategy. Consider Industrial Design (ID); in order to successfully design and create a new product, or redesign an existing one, it’s necessary to understand the environment in which the product will exist. Studying that environment and incorporating what’s learned into the design of the product is commonly known as design research, strategic design, or design thinking. Put another way; take a look at a seat belt, a flash drive, a video game, or a recumbent bicycle. The marketplace in which each of these products exists had to be considered when it was designed. That’s obvious, but not necessarily simple.

 

If you’re considering studying ID in college, you know that it’s more than just drawing cool cars and contemporary coffee dispensers. How those products will be used is critical to their design and construction. Comfort, dexterity, scale, lightness or heaviness of materials used, and the ability to withstand high or low temperatures are just some of the considerations that go into their respective designs. Cultural norms need to be considered, as do the type and size of marketplace they’ll be sold in, material costs, distribution, and competition. And, once a product is created, it needs to be market-tested.

 

I’m guessing these aren’t the first things you’d consider relevant to creating good design. And they might not cross your mind when choosing ID college courses. But they are extremely relevant. Today, design thinking has become part of the vernacular in contemporary architecture, design and engineering practices, and is gaining recognition in the business community. It’s a way of understanding the context of a problem and designing a more innovative solution. design thinking

 

Professors and administrators at colleges across the country are incorporating design thinking into their curricula as well. By doing so, they’re providing students with a real-world view of the industrial design process, and setting them up for career success.

 

My suggestion: inquire about design thinking when you tour college campuses. It’ll show the ID professors that you know what you’re getting into, and that you’re serious about it. You’ll probably learn more about it along the way. I’ll share more of what I’ve learned on the subject next week.

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SAIC: A Clear Mission

fvnma_taping2 from SAIC websiteEvery institution of higher education has its own mission; a singular statement of purpose that speaks to their raison d’être, or reason for existence. How they interpret that mission, and deliver their educational objectives to their students is what intrigues me. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, SAIC, follows their own path. And, as a consistently top-ranked art college they must be doing something right.

Here are some distinct, core characteristics that caught my eye:

  • SAIC believes in exploration. That’s why their students don’t declare majors. They choose to focus their studies in one area or create their own concentration from among 18 intermingled departments. If graphic novels and critical studies are a passion, combine them here. If writing and fashion design is your preference, that’s possible too. Students are encouraged to stretch and experiment across disciplines. The sky’s the limit.
  • Art is subjective. You know that, I know that, and so does SAIC. That’s why their students are graded on a credit/no credit basis. The college utilizes frequent critiques and portfolio development to help build independent, creative thinkers in its studio courses. A strict class attendance policy ensures focus and participation.
  • logo -Right from the start freshmen at SAIC jump in with both feet. The college’s rigorous program is comprised of 16.5 credit hours the first semester and 15 the second. Students gain an “overview of surface, space and time, and how they interplay and connect with each other in year-long Core Studies and Research Studies classes,” explained Andrea Tarry, Associate Director for Undergraduate Admissions. A complementary, one semester course, Wired, teaches students how to use their computers as artistic and design tools. Additional requirements are English First Year Seminar, Art History Survey, and a studio elective in a department of their choosing. “We want students to begin exploring their personal interests right away,” offered Alexander Zak, Assistant Director for Undergraduate Admissions.
  • A new perspective is a good thing, and the school wants its students to see the world from different perspectives. So much so, that six credit hours of off-campus study are required for graduation. They could come in the form of a study abroad program, a co-op internship, a three-week study trip, or classes at another university. Inspiration is the goal here. Experiencing the world from varied vantage points will affect how you think, how you act, and how you create. Numerous scholarships are available to help pay for the experience.

 SAIC offers vast resources to its students and alumni, and I’ve only skimmed the surface here. I hope to explore more in the future, but in the meantime I’d suggest you go exploring yourself. Visit the Windy City. Get inspired and see what this creative institution has to offer.

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A New Tool For The Artist In You

pencil

Clearly I have some tech geek hidden somewhere in my soul. I just learned about a hot new app for the I-Pad, and I can’t sit still about it. Pencil is designed to communicate directly with the app, Paper, increasing opportunities for digital creativity in the real world.

Here, users get the chance to create endlessly without the mess of traditional materials. A stylus designed to look like an actual carpenter’s pencil; it uses Bluetooth technology to act like a pencil, paintbrush, or even charcoal. Without switching tools it provides the freedom to write, draw, sketch, color, and paint to your heart’s content. The added benefit of course, is that with digital drawing and painting you can experiment with new ideas and colors without affecting your original design. Want to try a different color? Experiment. Not the right medium for your creation? Switch it up. This new tool lets you erase it, smear it, smudge it, and try again.

Artists of every age can spend countless hours getting lost here. With no brushes to clean afterwards, no charcoal smears on your fingers and hands. And with the holidays around the corner, the designers and engineers at Fifty-Three might have just delivered the perfect gift for artist, student and teacher alike.

Go unleash your creativity, and let me know how you like it.

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