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                                                                                                                                                      11 Future Pen
CONTENTS
   build upon this work! ............... 3

   INTRODUCTION: what DO
   design students need? .............. 5

   Using creative workshop
   in a classroom setting ............ 13


   Teaching the challenges:

    Foundation ............................... 21

   Execution .................................. 30

   Materiality............................... 42

   Instruction ............................... 49

   Observation . ............................. 52
               .

   innovation ................................ 55

   interpretation......................... 62


   about the authors .................... 71

   GET THE BOOK ............................. 72




layout based on a design by Grace Ring, HOW Design Press
Build Upon this Work!
This e-book is an accompaniment to Creative
Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills,
                                                           Creative Commons License Info
published in November 2010 by HOW Design Press.
                                                           The material contained in this eBook is
The print book contains 80 creative challenges that
                                                           ©2011 David and Mary Sherwin. It is offered
will help any designer reach a breadth of stronger
                                                           under a Creative Commons Attribution-
design solutions, in various media, within any set time
                                                           NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
period. Exercises range from creating a typeface in
                                                           License for use internationally. The full details
an hour, to designing a paper robot in an afternoon,
                                                           of the license can be found here: http://
to designing web pages and other interactive
                                                           creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
experiences. Each exercise includes compelling
visual solutions from other designers and background       To quickly summarize the license:
stories to help designers increase their capacity
                                                           You are free to…
to innovate.
                                                           Share: To copy, distribute, and transmit
This e-book was written to work in concert with
                                                           the work
Creative Workshop. It is a work in progress, intended
for teachers of design & creative thinking, but it may     Remix: To adapt the work
also be helpful for designers and creative managers.
                                                           Under the following conditions…
If you have any updates or improvements to the ideas
                                                           Attribution: You must attribute the work in the
contained here—or if we made a mistake—we’d love
                                                           manner specified by the author or licensor
to incorporate your input and promote your thinking
                                                           (but not in any way that suggests that they
to the greater design community. And if you’ve
                                                           endorse you or your use of the work). Please
created a challenge and tried it out with others, we’d
                                                           provide attribution back to the authors as
love to consider it for a future Creative Workshop book.
                                                           follows: “From Creative Workshop: A Teacher’s
Write us at david@changeorderblog.com.
                                                           Guide by David and Mary Sherwin, http://
                                                           www.CreativeWorkshopTheBook.com”

                                                           Noncommercial: You may not use this
   To order copies or have                                 work for commercial purposes. If you’d
   Creative Workshop supplied                              like to, you’ll need to contact us at david@
                                                           changeorderblog.com for permission.
   to your university bookstore,
                                                           Share Alike: If you alter, transform, or build
   call 1-800-289-0963. You can                            upon this work, you may distribute the
   also buy copies online at                               resulting work only under the same or similar
                                                           license to this one.
   http://bit.ly/CWTheBook


Build Upon this Work!                                                                                          3
4   Exercise #
Introduction: What Do
Design Students Need?
“If you want to study something, it’s better
 not to know what the answer is.”
—Shunryu Suzuki, “Find Out for Yourself”


When considering the skills that today’s designers       The answers we received back were surprisingly
need to be successful in today’s job market, we often    consistent, and distressingly integral to the success of
focus on job requirements, which are listed in tidy      any designer working today. The majority of them fell
bullet points on recruitment requests:                   into the following four categories:

   • Experience working in Adobe Creative Suite
     
                                                         1. Big-Picture Ideation  Planning
     version du jour
                                                         the Execution
   • Knows Flash, Dreamweaver, HTML5/CSS3,
     
                                                         Strong conceptual thinking is the root of any well-
     Javascript, and more esoteric flavors of script-
                                                         crafted design execution—and the skill of creating
     ing languages (and theoretically knows how
                                                         concepts through focused brainstorming is often
     to create an interactive experience)
                                                         learned through mentorship or brute repetition on
   • 3 -5+ years of “related” design experience
                                                        the job. Additionally, most designers discover that an
                                                         idea is meaningless if it isn’t delivered on time and
Creative Workshop, both the book and the class,
                                                         executed well. So, effective ideation requires strict
was inspired by a survey we conducted in 2008 with
                                                         time management and structure. Otherwise, we’re just
designers and creative directors with whom David
                                                         creating napkin sketches.
had worked in the past, as well as creative leaders in
the American design community whose paths we had            “My experience working with young designers is
crossed. Specifically, we wanted to know what today’s        that they are excited and interested in present-
creative directors and designers sought in students          ing a technique. Often there is little thought
emerging from design school—what skills students             behind it other than it looks cool. I prefer to
weren’t learning that could be infused back into their       have the cool as the topping for a carefully
course curriculum.                                           planned design.”

The questions in the survey were open-ended, such           — endy Quesinberry, creative director and
                                                             W
as: When working with or managing other designers,           principal of Quesinberry  Associates
what skills do you most actively cultivate? We also
                                                            “Idea generation has become increasingly
asked for anecdotes regarding how they overcame
                                                             important to me. That means no computer!
a difficult design challenge, thereby stretching their
                                                             Just sketches and notes and scribbles and
talent and growing a practical design skill.
                                                             mood boards. These all help keep ideas from




Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?                                                                         5
becoming too precious, and encourages                       with a willingness to share and help each
    exploration of ideas. There’s something about               other… It just doesn’t feel like work when you’re
    sitting down and finessing an idea on the                   doing it right.”
    computer that can make it harder to let go of
                                                                — uane King, principal of BBDK and creator of
                                                                 D
    an idea that’s just not working. Even when you
                                                                 the design blog Thinking for a Living
    know it’s not!”
                                                               “Trust is by far the most important thing. It’s
    —Michel Vrana, book designer
                                                                fragile and takes time to build, but only with
                                                                trust can there be collaboration. And only with
                                                                collaboration will people help each other to
                                                                make the best ideas in the group surface.”


“Technology and                                                 — cott Berkun, author of The Myths of
                                                                 S
                                                                 Innovation and Making Things Happen

tools should not get in                                      3. Sketching Ideas
the way of your ideas.                                       Out of all the tools available to a working designer, the
                                                             humble pencil is often the quickest method to access
The second this happens,                                     one’s intuition. It’s often not listed as a requirement
                                                             in a job listing, but creative directors and designers
you’re screwed.”                                             looking to hire you will listen not only to what comes
                                                             out of your mouth, but also the quality of thought
—David Conrad                                                that you render through design sketching. Only after
                                                             considering a sketch can the design execution take
                                                             place, whether via Photoshop, code, or tempera paint.

                                                               “The ability to sketch an idea before executing
2. Collaboration  Communication                                it is fundamental to any work environment and
                                                                to any economy. Sketching affords designers
Even for solo designers, collaboration is the lifeblood
                                                                the ability to suggest without committing to
of any professional creative endeavor—with your
                                                                marks or grids or any element of design. By
clients, with fellow designers, and with vendors that
                                                                quickly sketching out ideas, the poor ones
support fulfilling your work. But to collaborate well, you
                                                                fade quickly from priority without wasting pre-
have to squelch your ego, speak your mind, bring in
                                                                cious time to execute them. The discerning
partners from other disciplines beyond design, and
                                                                designer uses sketching to rule out as well as
know the business problems you’re trying to solve.
                                                                rule in dominant ideas about the formal ele-
    “Sharing your thoughts isn’t a risk, it’s an asset.         ments of any communication. It is the domain
     Creative kinships with people from a wide                  of the sketch where the concept is nailed
     variety of skill sets serve to expand your views           down as well, instead of massaging more aes-
     of what’s possible. Whether designers, pro-                thetic details, which don’t matter one iota if
     grammers, motion graphics artists, illustrators,           the big idea doesn’t work.”
     copywriters, or photographers, the result will
                                                                —Carrie Byrne, Creative Director, Worktank
     be a mix of cultural, economic, and creative
     energy that can offer true originality while test-        “Technology and tools should not get in the
     ing your assumptions of how things are done…               way of your ideas. The second this happens,
     I love to watch the sparks fly when creative               you’re screwed.”
     individuals meet, match wits, and inspire each
                                                                —David Conrad, Studio Director,
     other. I also thoroughly enjoy participating in
                                                                 Design Commission
     these exchanges myself. These relationships
     require honesty and a lack of ego combined


6                                                                       Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
across the table and told the client that ‘this
4. Resilience Under Pressure
                                                             site will be designed and developed with a
To quote Scott Berkun: “There is nothing like the            modern, CSS-based format.’ I had no clue
impossible and the unfair to stretch your talents.”          if I’d be able to pull it off. With the added
Designers who focus their energies on untangling             pressure of having given my word I threw
extraordinary and seemingly intractable problems             myself into the project and succeeded where
learn design fundamentals more quickly, while                before I had not. I’ve never gone back to
exposing new domains for future exploration. However,        table-based work since. Pressure and fear is
these kinds of “stretch” projects must be balanced           an excellent motivator.”
with time for reflection, or designers will burn out.
                                                            — ndy Rutledge, Principal and Chief Design
                                                             A
  “There was a time in my career when I worked               Strategist, Unit Interactive
   for an individual who directed a department
   of a well-known agency. This was a person
                                                         How Can Students Acquire
   of questionable character who overstepped
                                                         These Skills More Quickly?
   boundaries in every way possible. This Devil
   wore Prada. The years spent at that place             Why aren’t more students graduating with these skills?
   were my second college education. My but-             Can these skills be taught in that setting at all?
   tons were pushed. My ego was battered and
                                                         In the classroom, there may be a desire to focus on
   bruised. Because of this, my creativity/problem
                                                         deep study of design fundamentals, such as typog-
   solving was stretched to new levels. This was
                                                         raphy, layout, and the use of computer programs,
   the most tortuous yet rewarding experience of
                                                         rather than exploring various domains of design. But
   my career. Although it may not seem like it at
                                                         in analyzing the survey we’d sent out more thoroughly,
   the time, being pushed beyond what you think
                                                         we realized that developing a fast-paced sequence of
   is possible is the best education available.”
                                                         quick design challenges would force designers to ide-
   —Jon Lindstrand, designer                             ate in an improvisational manner. They could illustrate
                                                         their ideas in collaboration with fellow designers, and
                                                         communicate them to a client or teacher.

                                                         Recent thinking by design educators in America is
“There is nothing like                                   echoing this desire to create:


the impossible and                                          “curricula characterized by flux rather than
                                                             stability; classrooms that are open and perme-

the unfair to stretch                                        able rather than closed and finite; teaching
                                                             materials understood as participatory plat-

your talents.”                                               forms that are modular and extensible; and
                                                             pedagogical practices founded on perceiving
                                                             the larger system rather than isolated entities
—Scott Berkun
                                                             within that system.”

                                                            — olly Willis, “Embracing Flux,” New Contexts/
                                                             H
                                                             New Practices: Six Views of the AIGA Design
  “I had been studying how to design and devel-              Educators Conference, edited by Julie Lasky
   op web pages without using tables for layout,
                                                         It can be just as hard to effectively learn the skills I’d
   instead using divs and CSS entirely, but found
                                                         identified in two- and four-year design schools as it is
   it quite difficult. I always had to abandon my
                                                         in the workplace. But not all of this knowledge must
   effort and go back to table-layout as I butted
                                                         come from doing graphic design projects. We’ve
   up against my knowledge and skill limitations.
                                                         been following ongoing discussions on the Interaction
   Shortly after starting my first job at an agency, I
                                                         Design Association’s website regarding this subject.
   had a client discovery session where I looked
                                                         Diversion Media, when queried by a graduating


Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?                                                                       7
student about work experience requirements for            across all disciplines of design—many of extraordinary
becoming an entry-level interaction designer,             complexity and difficulty. Most of the people in the
said this:                                                class were also working full-time as designers. Most of
                                                          them had tool-based skills with the latest and greatest
    “The only way to acquire all these skills is to do
                                                          software. The only stipulation was that for each chal-
     projects… However they don’t all need to be
                                                          lenge in the class, they would need to turn in a pencil-
     UX projects. If you’ve been a carpenter, short
                                                          based sketch of their solution, unless a computer
     order cook, or theater designer you probably
                                                          execution was required.
     have a lot of them already. Plus, of course,
     you need to demonstrate killer deliverables,         The structure of the class was not invented whole-
     mastery of several software programs, and            sale by the two of us. One of our first roommates
     familiarity with the development process. I’d        post-college was a graduate student in poetry. In
     also like to know that you’ve been on at least       the summer of 1999, he took a class called “Instant
     one successful software project through the          Thesis, or 80 Works in 7 Weeks,” which was being
     full lifecycle (from whiteboard to launch). All      taught by the poet Peter Klappert. The class explored
     of the above is much more important than an          collage methods, blot-outs, concrete poetry, metric/
     arbitrary number of years...”                        fixed forms, linked verse, anaphora, dialogue, satire,
                                                          visual shape, collaborative writing, fixed and loose
So, every student must master new software technolo-
                                                          rhyme schemes, musicality, tone, and dozens of other
gies, old-school design theory, and production meth-
                                                          approaches. Each student was responsible for fulfilling
odologies, while fulfilling more projects. But we think
                                                          in-class and take-home exercises, as well as coming
the dirty secret is not in that a designer should spend
                                                          up with their own exercises that could be shared with
weeks or months on those projects. The projects
                                                          the class. Many students found the class to be one
should be unfair in their construction, and limited to
                                                          a transformative creative experience far beyond any
an hour or two at a time, not days or weeks.
                                                          other classes they had ever taken in college or gradu-
                                                          ate school.

                                                          With a little research, we discovered that Peter’s class
                                                          was adapted from a course taught at the Corcoran
                                                          School of Art—one where students were only allowed
“Without rules, you’ve                                    two weeks for creating 80 artistic works! The artist
                                                          Angie Drakopoulos said this about her experience in
got no target to aim for.                                 the Corcoran class:


Without flexibility, you                                     “The Corcoran encouraged students to work
                                                              with many different media and explore new

haven’t the freedom to                                        ideas. What I really learned was a way of think-
                                                              ing about art, not necessarily how to make it,

redefine the target.”                                         but how to think about making it. One of my
                                                              favorite exercises, in my junior year, was a proj-
                                                              ect to make 80 works in two weeks. We were
—Duane King
                                                              given specific instructions on different media
                                                              that had to be used, or an idea to be incorpo-
                                                              rated, or a color, or words for a piece to refer
                                                              to. It was exhilarating; it really opened my mind
creative overload as a                                        to the possibilities of making art. Also, because
pedagogical approach                                          of the project’s size and deadline, you couldn’t
                                                              spend too much time on any individual work;
To prove this theory, David taught two quarter-long
                                                              so you achieved a certain degree of detach-
classes where recent graduates from design school
                                                              ment from the end result, which allowed a lot
were tasked with solving 80 creative challenges
                                                              of latent ideas and tendencies to surface. I


8                                                                    Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
think that was the first time I experienced art
   as a mind-game.”
                                                                         challenge
                                                                         You’ve been asked to submit an
Designing Structures for Improvisation
                                                                         identity design for the 2012 Olympic
Could design be approached as a similar sort of mind                     Games in London. The initial sketch
game, fostering a similar sense of detachment, allow-                    of your logo must be composed
ing intuition to bubble up from the margins? Would                       from a single, unbroken line. Once
it possible to cram a set of wildly divergent design                     you’ve placed your pen or pencil
exercises into the course of short time frame, forcing                   down on the paper, you can’t take it
designers to exercise the full breadth of their abili-         off the page until the logo is complete. Don’t
ties in a finite period of time—learning critical skills       go back for corrections—embrace mistakes!
more quickly? Would people in such an environment
become better designers at an exponentially faster
rate, with substantially better output?                    Almost everyone knows what the Olympics are, so a
                                                           design brief isn’t required to understand what charac-
During 2009, we worked to construct the challenges
                                                           teristics may comprise a great logo for the event.
that would serve as the foundation of this “80 Works”
class for designers.                                       What made this a difficult challenge was the con-
                                                           straint around how you exercise a critical, almost
When considering what would comprise these
                                                           commonplace skill for any designer: sketching.
design challenges, one of Duane King’s responses to
                                                           Becoming more mindful of what ideas flow out of
our survey best summarized the spirit of our approach:
                                                           a set of intuitive pencil gestures, and using those
  “There are various factors in creating an ade-           gestures as finished material rather than polishing
   quate space for a creative team to work within,         and refining identity concepts with tighter sketches
   but I tend to focus on the definition of struc-         helped students begin to trust their initial ideas and
   tures for improvisation, simplicity in complex-         their hand-crafted nature.
   ity and freedom of will. Without rules, you’ve
                                                           We also had students try out a variant where teams
   got no target to aim for. Without flexibility, you
                                                           of people had to create Olympic logo ideas with a
   haven’t the freedom to redefine the target.”
                                                           different constraint:
We loved the notion of “structures of improvisation”
and how it encouraged a push and pull between
                                                           take it further
rules and flexibility. We knew that each challenge
would have to combine open-ended flexibility with          Get into a team of four people. Together, you will
rigid rules. The time limit for each challenge would       sketch a new logo for the upcoming Olympics. The
also have to force an immediate confrontation of the       design will be passed from one person to the next.
problem at hand, rather than letting solutions rumble      Each person, using a permanent-ink marker or col-
around in the subconscious for a few days.                 ored pencil, can contribute one element to the design
                                                           at a time. If you’re crafting type, you can dot an i or
As an example, one of the first challenges David
                                                           cross a t, but only one word can be written per person
taught in the class was “One Line Logo,” which has a
                                                           (unless it’s a run-on, if you really want to bend the
30-minute time limit:
                                                           rules). Altering the paper in any way can also consti-
                                                           tute an element of your design. Keep in mind: once
                                                           you’ve started, you can’t crumple it up and start over
                                                           again. And when you’re done, your team will share
                                                           your work with the class.




Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?                                                                         9
This is the opposite of the previous constraint: instead    Throughout each class, the students learned to
of completing an idea in one gesture, the idea must         use timeboxing both in solving individual challenges
be painstakingly communicated or collaboratively            and in team collaboration, working in short sprints
created. And with only one shot to put the idea down        tempered by pauses for evaluation and reflection.
on paper, the students had to be clever about inte-         When solving design problems, the students
grating any mistakes into their final identity sketch.      would use the first timebox as a place to use
                                                            unorthodox brainstorming methods to kickstart
 This is only one example of how we constructed
                                                            their creative process.
 the challenges. In the last section of this e-book,
“Teaching the Challenges,” we provide further               By repeating this process over and over again—
 thoughts around what makes the challenges                  sometimes in as little as 15 to 20 minutes—students
 in Creative Workshop so, for lack of a better              had a chance not only to exercise their own talents
 word, challenging.                                         under pressure, but to also gain an appreciation of
                                                            the ways fellow designers solved the same problems.
 Structuring the Design Process
                                                            Needless to say, during the first few weeks the stu-
 Through Timeboxing
                                                            dents struggled. They were putting in sleepless nights
In the process of brainstorming the challenges,             perfecting design executions instead of following the
we realized the following: If a designer knew which skill   provided class instruction and focusing on simple
they want to learn, almost any kind of problem could        pencil sketches of their ideas. By the end of the class,
be designed to help them acquire it. But the way stu-       however, they were exploring strong design ideas from
dents tried to solve the challenges, and the specific       sketchbooks filled with possible design directions and
processes they used to arrive at a solution quickly,        spending less time sweating under their deadlines
would require an explicit structure if they were going      in class and at work. They learned to collaborate
to succeed in the time frames they were provided.           with each other effectively; with such short deadlines,
And this structure needed to start with a designer          there wasn’t time for ego. And, most importantly, they
identifying strong ideas, before she or he became           explored domains of design they had never experi-
lost in the flow of polishing an executed design.           enced before, which redirected many of their career
                                                            paths dramatically.
In researching and testing different design processes,
the one that stood out as an exemplary model for the        You can read more about timeboxing and using light-
class was timeboxing. This technique is often used in       weight brainstorming methods beginning on page 4
the world of software development, but it’s just as use-    of Creative Workshop.
ful when creating design solutions. It also keeps design-
ers from moving too quickly into a design execution,
before they’ve brainstormed a broad range of ideas.




“Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost
the same as knowing what you are doing, so just
accept that you know what you’re doing even if you
 don’t and do it.”
—Bre Pettis and Kyo Stark, “Cult of Done Manifesto”




10                                                                     Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
The rest of this e-book outlines how this more agile
Designing (and Teaching) with
                                                            philosophy for design instruction was implemented in
Dirty Hands
                                                            a classroom setting. It’s our hope that there is mate-
When design curricula is slow to change, and it             rial from this text that you can adapt, explore, and
requires great effort to learn and understand the           improve as part of your teaching efforts.
new and ever-changing technologies we must use
as designers and teachers of design, it’s tempting to
cling to what we’ve learned and “what works” as the
end-all, be-all of design practice. Yet in schools, we’re
seeking to keep our students’ hands dirty all the time.
Perhaps we’re just turning over the same plot of land.

In having taught the 80 Works class twice, and in
having solved all of the challenges in the Creative
Workshop book—some multiple times—we’ve dealt
with a lot of ambiguity in the design process, as
well as many blind spots in training and working as
a designer. It would be impossible for us to profess
expertise in many of the focus areas we tackled in
class. In many cases, constructing a challenge and
placing it in the hands of multiple designers has been
a leap of faith: sometimes leading to highly successful
and exciting design thinking, and sometimes fizzling
into a muted failure.

But in all cases, we noticed that as the class (and
by extension, the teachers) settled into not knowing
where the next turn would take us, we became more
creative and more willing to take risks. “Pretending you
know what you’re doing is almost the same as know-
ing what you are doing, so just accept that you know
what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it,” say Bre
Pettis and Kyo Stark in their “Cult of Done Manifesto.”
They add: “People without dirty hands are wrong.
Doing something makes you right.”

Flipping our fear of doing something wrong into a
desire to experiment and take risks is what we think
our student’s employers truly desire from the designers
that they hire. We should be even more purposeful in
how we cultivate these next generations of designers
with the right thinking tools.

This requires us to surprise ourselves, and by extension
our students and co-workers. Time spent teaching
tools and craft must be balanced with the time neces-
sary for students to gain tacit knowledge in ideation,
collaboration, sketching, and remaining nimble and
creative under pressure. That is, if we want students
to be employable and successful in their first roles as
designers, out in the world.




Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?                                                                      11
12   Exercise #
Using Creative Workshop
in a Classroom Setting
The core of a Creative Workshop class is a set of            students will become faster and faster at solving chal-
instructor-provided challenges, which is then supple-        lenges, so you’ll need to further shorten their dead-
mented by a set of student-created challenges.               lines or increase the number of deliverables required
The teacher then constructs “story arcs” out of the          as you progress.
challenges for each class (and its accompanying
                                                             No challenge should have a time limit longer than
homework assignments), conveying larger lessons
                                                             two hours—especially for take-home assignments,
about creativity, craft, teamwork, process, and other
                                                             where students will be tempted to lavish days on pol-
fundamental skills.
                                                             ishing design executions. They can do that when the
                                                             class is over.
What Makes a Great Creative Challenge?
For a challenge to succeed, it needs to contain the          True Goals for Growth
following attributes:
                                                             There’s what you’re asking your classes to create in
                                                             a focus area, and then there’s what you want them
An Area of Focus
                                                             to learn.
When considering which challenges to use in a
                                                             For example: Challenge #3, “Time Machine,” requires
class—or creating your own challenges—make sure
                                                             students to take an old advertisement and execute
there is a clear, stated area of focus as part of the
                                                             it as if it had been published in a modern magazine.
challenge statement. This ranges across the various
                                                             While this is the goal for class output, what the chal-
domains of design, from branding to packaging to
                                                             lenge is actually teaching students is how to assess
advertising to user interface design. This will help the
                                                             the strategy behind an advertisement, analyze the
class gauge what kinds of design outputs are neces-
                                                             societal and artistic trends that helped to shape its
sary while solving the challenge. A list of focus areas is
                                                             execution, and translate all of those details into a
included in the Creative Workshop book.
                                                             modern design execution.

Tangible Creative Output                                     This is no small feat—especially in 90 minutes.

Each challenge requires tangible output, from a
                                                             SITS Outside Everyone’s Comfort Zone
design sketch to a high-fidelity design execution.
                                                             (Including Yours)
Sharing an idea verbally when time is up does not
count for credit.                                            Truly inspiring creative challenges aren’t bread-and-
                                                             butter design problems. When constructing a chal-
An (Almost) Impossible Time Limit                            lenge, think about how you can add variables or
                                                             unusual constraints to an everyday project to push
In class, the time limits for challenges from Creative
                                                             your class (and the teacher) into uncharted and
Workshop can be cut in half, or even shorter. If stu-
                                                             risky territory.
dents aren’t rushing to the last second to complete
the stated deliverables required at the end of a             If you don’t feel comfortable leading an exercise in
challenge, you’ve given them too much time. Your             an area of design you haven’t explored before, invite


Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting                                                                       13
in other instructors or working professionals to help      real-world situations down into their constituent com-
facilitate those challenges.                               ponents, then analyzing them for ways in which they
                                                           can be reconstructed and improved.
Contains Content Your Students
                                                           Observation: Requiring students to step outside the
Care About
                                                           classroom and their studio into the real world, using
Each time we taught a Creative Workshop class,             their senses to observe and reflect on how other
we provided the students with a brief survey at the        people behave—then using this insight as the fuel for
beginning where we asked them what types of proj-          design solutions.
ects and what kinds of clients they’d like to work with
                                                           Innovation: Working with design problems specifically
in the future. This information was incorporated into
                                                           in the domain of product design, service delivery,
many of the class challenges and increased
                                                           and social innovation—forcing designers to grapple
student engagement.
                                                           with how to reinvent businesses and reshape human
In addition, we asked for each student to provide at       behavior.
the start of every class period a challenge that they’d
                                                            Interpretation: Open-ended problems whose solu-
created. This can be for credit, or for students to
                                                            tions require designers not only to determine what
have input into the class content. Depending on how
                                                            needs to be designed, but also to answer an even
you’ve structured the class, you can select the
                                                            more important question: Why does something need
student-suggested challenges that fit the arc of
                                                            to be made?
upcoming classes and incorporate them.
                                                            An important additional category to note is
Based on student suggestion, we’ve included at least
                                                           “Unsolvable Problems.” Students often find ways to
20% student-inspired challenges over the life of each
                                                            approach lose-lose situations with creativity and fresh
class we’ve taught.
                                                            perspectives that provide new ways of influencing
                                                            major societal issues. We often throw one unsolv-
VARYING LEVELS OF DIFFICULTY
                                                            able problem into the mix as a final assignment for
The challenges in Creative Workshop are ordered from        the class, for all of us to understand exactly how far
craft-oriented problems that hone making skills to          a designer’s reach can truly extend in dealing with
design problems that are open-ended, highly compli-         wicked problems.
cated, and fraught with ambiguity. When brainstorm-
                                                           Tasking students with an insoluble problem may
ing challenges for the class and the book, Mary hit
                                                           seem a bit sadistic, but it’s one of the best ways for
upon the following categories for the different types of
                                                           designers to understand what it feels like to grapple
problems designers solve in their daily work, indepen-
                                                           with—and identify in the future—whether a problem
dent of disciipline:
                                                           is wicked (i.e. influenceable, but not solveable). For
Foundation: The fundamentals of being a designer           more on this topic, see our rationale for Challenge #79
from a craft-based perspective. This includes typog-       on page 69 of this e-book.
raphy, layout, grid systems, design history, research,
illustration, and sketching.                               Using Exercises in Your Existing Classes
Execution: Moving from fundamentals to real-world          When David taught Creative Workshop classes, each
design deliverables, while being forced to explore a       class period was four hours and consisted of solving
range of design solutions in a faster timeframe than       five challenges in a row. This was a great way to intro-
they may have attempted in the past.                       duce a range of brainstorming methods, focus on a
                                                           series of challenges that teach a specific skill, or break
Materiality: The tangible act of making things as
                                                           a large-scale project into digestible chunks.
part of the design process—often without comput-
ers—yielding design executions that rely on the hand-      It’s also possible to string out challenges over a series
made touch for their power.                                of weeks in a recurring fashion. At frog design’s Seattle
                                                           studio, David set up a biweekly lunchtime series to
Instruction: Cultivating the crucial skill of breaking
                                                           explore different methods of physical prototyping,


14                                                                   Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting
using challenges from the book and timeboxing to           We required the students to show an artifact for each
teach different ways of building and evaluating com-       client review, usually in sketch form. Sharing a solution
plicated systems in a low-fidelity format.                 verbally is not acceptable to the client. (When was the
                                                           last time you walked into a client review and told them
Solution Structures                                        about your design idea without some tangible render-
                                                           ing of it?)
What is a solution structure? It’s a method of engineer-
ing social situations around specified challenges that     This is a solution structure we have used in every
makes them much harder to solve—forcing student            Creative Workshop class period, continually varying
designers to learn how to collaborate more effectively.    the challenges and the unique deliverables required
                                                           during each sprint; it forces students to work in parallel
In teaching classes involving Creative Workshop, we
                                                           and quickly divide large design problems into smaller
invented the following solution structures. See which
                                                           sub-tasks, which is a crucial skill for any work setting.
ones you can come up with as well!

                                                           STRUCTURE 2: the Round-robin
STRUCTURE 1: 30 Days in 30 Minutes
                                                           It’s useful to teach at least one class period in a quar-
Teams of three or four students are provided with
                                                           ter or semester where the output from one challenge
a challenge, which they must solve in 30 minutes.
                                                           is directly inputted into the next challenge they’ll need
Those 30 minutes are divided up into the following
                                                           to solve, while rotating the students into an entirely
timeboxes:
                                                           lateral design domain.
    8 minutes: Each team reaches a goal that is set
                                                           As an example: in collaboration with the designer
    by the teacher.
                                                           Scott Scheff, we created a five-challenge sequence
   2 minutes: The teacher serves as the client, provid-    where one of my classes had to create a “record store
   ing quick feedback to the teams and providing           of the future.”
   the next milestone.
                                                           In the first challenge, the students came up with the
   8 minutes: Each team scrambles to incorporate           name of the store and its logo.
   the feedback and reach the next milestone.
                                                           In the second challenge, they planned out the store
   2 minutes: The teacher/client gives another round       space in Manhattan based on a defined set of con-
   of feedback and sets the final milestone.               straints provided by their real estate broker.

   8 minutes: Each team incorporates the final feed-       The third challenge required them to brainstorm user
   back and completes the final solution(s) for the        flows for a mobile application necessary to buy and
   challenge.                                              download music while in the space.

   Last 2 minutes: Each team has 30 seconds to             In the fourth challenge, they created a 30-second
   present their solutions.                                TV ad for their store that had to include handmade
                                                           puppets.
As an example that describes how this works in action:
We provided a class with the “Storybook Ending” chal-      For the fifth and final challenge, they had to craft
lenge in Creative Workshop, in which they had 30 min-      a pitch for investment capital based on everything
utes to come up with the plot and character studies        they’d created in the first four challenges.
for a children’s book.
                                                           STRUCTURE 3: Variable Client Feedback
Over the first 8 minutes of solving the challenge, they
had to ideate around the theme of their book. In the       For certain challenges, we’ve stopped the students
second 8 minutes, they had to move from the theme          midway through solving a challenge and provided
to a full-blown plot and characters. In the last 8 min-    them “client feedback” as an additional constraint.
utes, they had to create a character study and a
                                                           Another fun way to deliver “client feedback” is to
moral for their book.
                                                           isolate a student from the overall class, take them



Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting                                                                     15
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide
Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide

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Creative Workshop Teacher's Guide

  • 1. i e D M il- et T le ce, hat um mer pp Ma ate k Me dab P, EP, Pu or e Gam by N inking O ing W ne A ess ec re wn rmy gra ino ter ed Chec Se CD, L Sto Is L de i, V See ot A ,R iPho Go nd rd Pos re se op 51 Tour de H 52 Wacky Ve 50 Patien Bio Vid 53 Excuse to 49 Th 54 Th Rob co . da Sh 48 eu 55 Mo a I ni, 47 .O e ,R 56 Re e nte og 46 Ve yp 57 ce for V.O oY 45 re Pri tot re n 58 du E. uA ro 44 OBSERVATION he ch o on P Re 59 N ti ,T y Te 43 0 CTIO nY 6 mo TRU ink he tM h 42 ro ing s INS W P IT 61 dd Ju INN dy e ff a neles 41 Cr rW and OV 62 R ea h It O AT Dis ite oo C IO ’s r td aid 63 Wr olla N Let 40 Ou Up, t Pl w ar Wo en r aD ITY 64 39 I He L’ Oh List t Fo Tha IAL pe 38 rom part 65 uy ? I’d B T tore Us A TER ar 37 er Te 6 6 t’s in S MA Wh a Nev 36 d 67 rs Diape t Goo U rban Lick I 68 35 mut t of Ga pe Face 9 Ou 34 Ty ke a Nap 6 33 Let’s Ta -Casting 70 Future 32 Sell Me a Bridge 71 This Is for Your Health 31 Going to Seed 72 Paper, Plastic, Glass, Vapor 30 Flappin 73 Free Tib et Blog g in the Win d DAVID SHERWIN & INTERPRETATIO 29 I’v 74 Bli N e Got a nded b MARY PAYNTER SHERWIN y the Lig Golden 75 28 ht Ticket teacher’s guide Ten-S econ Touch 76 27 d Film Scree Crea Sniff n of D ION Festiv 26 ture al 77 Test eaf R ock UT Feat Can Ima ure EC 78 25 WORKSHOP gin You creative EX ar y He a Tot 24 Film 79 Ben rM ally Ce din eN gG He 80 Wh 23 rea ow? l at eog Sh 01 Do rap 22 Bo We ave IK hy 21 ok s, S no 02 He ll, in Op Re he 20 po Sh FOU llo My w? De 03 po ,M rt Ea NDA 19 Bo ad sit ave 04 s TION sy T yN ok es 18 … a Ph 05 im am At 17 ryb ilo It S sA 06 tra On B o 16 sp eM oo eI 07 C s ct 15 I’m 0 08 eL he I’m ac kE h rs in Sto unds Mr. Free nd Fee ine Dra Ro eL Hey, Be Grid ing Blu ck 14 10 Ass 9 Tra og ling e tte Sixty- win o Spray You g lock ro 13 Three ocia 10 Grung Rea x 10 ed aB nV Seco lly, Mad Paint tion gic San e in O iny 12 Strange C R nd lan evet s 11 Future Pen
  • 2. CONTENTS build upon this work! ............... 3 INTRODUCTION: what DO design students need? .............. 5 Using creative workshop in a classroom setting ............ 13 Teaching the challenges: Foundation ............................... 21 Execution .................................. 30 Materiality............................... 42 Instruction ............................... 49 Observation . ............................. 52 . innovation ................................ 55 interpretation......................... 62 about the authors .................... 71 GET THE BOOK ............................. 72 layout based on a design by Grace Ring, HOW Design Press
  • 3. Build Upon this Work! This e-book is an accompaniment to Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills, Creative Commons License Info published in November 2010 by HOW Design Press. The material contained in this eBook is The print book contains 80 creative challenges that ©2011 David and Mary Sherwin. It is offered will help any designer reach a breadth of stronger under a Creative Commons Attribution- design solutions, in various media, within any set time NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported period. Exercises range from creating a typeface in License for use internationally. The full details an hour, to designing a paper robot in an afternoon, of the license can be found here: http:// to designing web pages and other interactive creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ experiences. Each exercise includes compelling visual solutions from other designers and background To quickly summarize the license: stories to help designers increase their capacity You are free to… to innovate. Share: To copy, distribute, and transmit This e-book was written to work in concert with the work Creative Workshop. It is a work in progress, intended for teachers of design & creative thinking, but it may Remix: To adapt the work also be helpful for designers and creative managers. Under the following conditions… If you have any updates or improvements to the ideas Attribution: You must attribute the work in the contained here—or if we made a mistake—we’d love manner specified by the author or licensor to incorporate your input and promote your thinking (but not in any way that suggests that they to the greater design community. And if you’ve endorse you or your use of the work). Please created a challenge and tried it out with others, we’d provide attribution back to the authors as love to consider it for a future Creative Workshop book. follows: “From Creative Workshop: A Teacher’s Write us at david@changeorderblog.com. Guide by David and Mary Sherwin, http:// www.CreativeWorkshopTheBook.com” Noncommercial: You may not use this To order copies or have work for commercial purposes. If you’d Creative Workshop supplied like to, you’ll need to contact us at david@ changeorderblog.com for permission. to your university bookstore, Share Alike: If you alter, transform, or build call 1-800-289-0963. You can upon this work, you may distribute the also buy copies online at resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one. http://bit.ly/CWTheBook Build Upon this Work! 3
  • 4. 4 Exercise #
  • 5. Introduction: What Do Design Students Need? “If you want to study something, it’s better not to know what the answer is.” —Shunryu Suzuki, “Find Out for Yourself” When considering the skills that today’s designers The answers we received back were surprisingly need to be successful in today’s job market, we often consistent, and distressingly integral to the success of focus on job requirements, which are listed in tidy any designer working today. The majority of them fell bullet points on recruitment requests: into the following four categories: • Experience working in Adobe Creative Suite 1. Big-Picture Ideation Planning version du jour the Execution • Knows Flash, Dreamweaver, HTML5/CSS3, Strong conceptual thinking is the root of any well- Javascript, and more esoteric flavors of script- crafted design execution—and the skill of creating ing languages (and theoretically knows how concepts through focused brainstorming is often to create an interactive experience) learned through mentorship or brute repetition on • 3 -5+ years of “related” design experience the job. Additionally, most designers discover that an idea is meaningless if it isn’t delivered on time and Creative Workshop, both the book and the class, executed well. So, effective ideation requires strict was inspired by a survey we conducted in 2008 with time management and structure. Otherwise, we’re just designers and creative directors with whom David creating napkin sketches. had worked in the past, as well as creative leaders in the American design community whose paths we had “My experience working with young designers is crossed. Specifically, we wanted to know what today’s that they are excited and interested in present- creative directors and designers sought in students ing a technique. Often there is little thought emerging from design school—what skills students behind it other than it looks cool. I prefer to weren’t learning that could be infused back into their have the cool as the topping for a carefully course curriculum. planned design.” The questions in the survey were open-ended, such — endy Quesinberry, creative director and W as: When working with or managing other designers, principal of Quesinberry Associates what skills do you most actively cultivate? We also “Idea generation has become increasingly asked for anecdotes regarding how they overcame important to me. That means no computer! a difficult design challenge, thereby stretching their Just sketches and notes and scribbles and talent and growing a practical design skill. mood boards. These all help keep ideas from Introduction: What Do Design Students Need? 5
  • 6. becoming too precious, and encourages with a willingness to share and help each exploration of ideas. There’s something about other… It just doesn’t feel like work when you’re sitting down and finessing an idea on the doing it right.” computer that can make it harder to let go of — uane King, principal of BBDK and creator of D an idea that’s just not working. Even when you the design blog Thinking for a Living know it’s not!” “Trust is by far the most important thing. It’s —Michel Vrana, book designer fragile and takes time to build, but only with trust can there be collaboration. And only with collaboration will people help each other to make the best ideas in the group surface.” “Technology and — cott Berkun, author of The Myths of S Innovation and Making Things Happen tools should not get in 3. Sketching Ideas the way of your ideas. Out of all the tools available to a working designer, the humble pencil is often the quickest method to access The second this happens, one’s intuition. It’s often not listed as a requirement in a job listing, but creative directors and designers you’re screwed.” looking to hire you will listen not only to what comes out of your mouth, but also the quality of thought —David Conrad that you render through design sketching. Only after considering a sketch can the design execution take place, whether via Photoshop, code, or tempera paint. “The ability to sketch an idea before executing 2. Collaboration Communication it is fundamental to any work environment and to any economy. Sketching affords designers Even for solo designers, collaboration is the lifeblood the ability to suggest without committing to of any professional creative endeavor—with your marks or grids or any element of design. By clients, with fellow designers, and with vendors that quickly sketching out ideas, the poor ones support fulfilling your work. But to collaborate well, you fade quickly from priority without wasting pre- have to squelch your ego, speak your mind, bring in cious time to execute them. The discerning partners from other disciplines beyond design, and designer uses sketching to rule out as well as know the business problems you’re trying to solve. rule in dominant ideas about the formal ele- “Sharing your thoughts isn’t a risk, it’s an asset. ments of any communication. It is the domain Creative kinships with people from a wide of the sketch where the concept is nailed variety of skill sets serve to expand your views down as well, instead of massaging more aes- of what’s possible. Whether designers, pro- thetic details, which don’t matter one iota if grammers, motion graphics artists, illustrators, the big idea doesn’t work.” copywriters, or photographers, the result will —Carrie Byrne, Creative Director, Worktank be a mix of cultural, economic, and creative energy that can offer true originality while test- “Technology and tools should not get in the ing your assumptions of how things are done… way of your ideas. The second this happens, I love to watch the sparks fly when creative you’re screwed.” individuals meet, match wits, and inspire each —David Conrad, Studio Director, other. I also thoroughly enjoy participating in Design Commission these exchanges myself. These relationships require honesty and a lack of ego combined 6 Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
  • 7. across the table and told the client that ‘this 4. Resilience Under Pressure site will be designed and developed with a To quote Scott Berkun: “There is nothing like the modern, CSS-based format.’ I had no clue impossible and the unfair to stretch your talents.” if I’d be able to pull it off. With the added Designers who focus their energies on untangling pressure of having given my word I threw extraordinary and seemingly intractable problems myself into the project and succeeded where learn design fundamentals more quickly, while before I had not. I’ve never gone back to exposing new domains for future exploration. However, table-based work since. Pressure and fear is these kinds of “stretch” projects must be balanced an excellent motivator.” with time for reflection, or designers will burn out. — ndy Rutledge, Principal and Chief Design A “There was a time in my career when I worked Strategist, Unit Interactive for an individual who directed a department of a well-known agency. This was a person How Can Students Acquire of questionable character who overstepped These Skills More Quickly? boundaries in every way possible. This Devil wore Prada. The years spent at that place Why aren’t more students graduating with these skills? were my second college education. My but- Can these skills be taught in that setting at all? tons were pushed. My ego was battered and In the classroom, there may be a desire to focus on bruised. Because of this, my creativity/problem deep study of design fundamentals, such as typog- solving was stretched to new levels. This was raphy, layout, and the use of computer programs, the most tortuous yet rewarding experience of rather than exploring various domains of design. But my career. Although it may not seem like it at in analyzing the survey we’d sent out more thoroughly, the time, being pushed beyond what you think we realized that developing a fast-paced sequence of is possible is the best education available.” quick design challenges would force designers to ide- —Jon Lindstrand, designer ate in an improvisational manner. They could illustrate their ideas in collaboration with fellow designers, and communicate them to a client or teacher. Recent thinking by design educators in America is “There is nothing like echoing this desire to create: the impossible and “curricula characterized by flux rather than stability; classrooms that are open and perme- the unfair to stretch able rather than closed and finite; teaching materials understood as participatory plat- your talents.” forms that are modular and extensible; and pedagogical practices founded on perceiving the larger system rather than isolated entities —Scott Berkun within that system.” — olly Willis, “Embracing Flux,” New Contexts/ H New Practices: Six Views of the AIGA Design “I had been studying how to design and devel- Educators Conference, edited by Julie Lasky op web pages without using tables for layout, It can be just as hard to effectively learn the skills I’d instead using divs and CSS entirely, but found identified in two- and four-year design schools as it is it quite difficult. I always had to abandon my in the workplace. But not all of this knowledge must effort and go back to table-layout as I butted come from doing graphic design projects. We’ve up against my knowledge and skill limitations. been following ongoing discussions on the Interaction Shortly after starting my first job at an agency, I Design Association’s website regarding this subject. had a client discovery session where I looked Diversion Media, when queried by a graduating Introduction: What Do Design Students Need? 7
  • 8. student about work experience requirements for across all disciplines of design—many of extraordinary becoming an entry-level interaction designer, complexity and difficulty. Most of the people in the said this: class were also working full-time as designers. Most of them had tool-based skills with the latest and greatest “The only way to acquire all these skills is to do software. The only stipulation was that for each chal- projects… However they don’t all need to be lenge in the class, they would need to turn in a pencil- UX projects. If you’ve been a carpenter, short based sketch of their solution, unless a computer order cook, or theater designer you probably execution was required. have a lot of them already. Plus, of course, you need to demonstrate killer deliverables, The structure of the class was not invented whole- mastery of several software programs, and sale by the two of us. One of our first roommates familiarity with the development process. I’d post-college was a graduate student in poetry. In also like to know that you’ve been on at least the summer of 1999, he took a class called “Instant one successful software project through the Thesis, or 80 Works in 7 Weeks,” which was being full lifecycle (from whiteboard to launch). All taught by the poet Peter Klappert. The class explored of the above is much more important than an collage methods, blot-outs, concrete poetry, metric/ arbitrary number of years...” fixed forms, linked verse, anaphora, dialogue, satire, visual shape, collaborative writing, fixed and loose So, every student must master new software technolo- rhyme schemes, musicality, tone, and dozens of other gies, old-school design theory, and production meth- approaches. Each student was responsible for fulfilling odologies, while fulfilling more projects. But we think in-class and take-home exercises, as well as coming the dirty secret is not in that a designer should spend up with their own exercises that could be shared with weeks or months on those projects. The projects the class. Many students found the class to be one should be unfair in their construction, and limited to a transformative creative experience far beyond any an hour or two at a time, not days or weeks. other classes they had ever taken in college or gradu- ate school. With a little research, we discovered that Peter’s class was adapted from a course taught at the Corcoran School of Art—one where students were only allowed “Without rules, you’ve two weeks for creating 80 artistic works! The artist Angie Drakopoulos said this about her experience in got no target to aim for. the Corcoran class: Without flexibility, you “The Corcoran encouraged students to work with many different media and explore new haven’t the freedom to ideas. What I really learned was a way of think- ing about art, not necessarily how to make it, redefine the target.” but how to think about making it. One of my favorite exercises, in my junior year, was a proj- ect to make 80 works in two weeks. We were —Duane King given specific instructions on different media that had to be used, or an idea to be incorpo- rated, or a color, or words for a piece to refer to. It was exhilarating; it really opened my mind creative overload as a to the possibilities of making art. Also, because pedagogical approach of the project’s size and deadline, you couldn’t spend too much time on any individual work; To prove this theory, David taught two quarter-long so you achieved a certain degree of detach- classes where recent graduates from design school ment from the end result, which allowed a lot were tasked with solving 80 creative challenges of latent ideas and tendencies to surface. I 8 Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
  • 9. think that was the first time I experienced art as a mind-game.” challenge You’ve been asked to submit an Designing Structures for Improvisation identity design for the 2012 Olympic Could design be approached as a similar sort of mind Games in London. The initial sketch game, fostering a similar sense of detachment, allow- of your logo must be composed ing intuition to bubble up from the margins? Would from a single, unbroken line. Once it possible to cram a set of wildly divergent design you’ve placed your pen or pencil exercises into the course of short time frame, forcing down on the paper, you can’t take it designers to exercise the full breadth of their abili- off the page until the logo is complete. Don’t ties in a finite period of time—learning critical skills go back for corrections—embrace mistakes! more quickly? Would people in such an environment become better designers at an exponentially faster rate, with substantially better output? Almost everyone knows what the Olympics are, so a design brief isn’t required to understand what charac- During 2009, we worked to construct the challenges teristics may comprise a great logo for the event. that would serve as the foundation of this “80 Works” class for designers. What made this a difficult challenge was the con- straint around how you exercise a critical, almost When considering what would comprise these commonplace skill for any designer: sketching. design challenges, one of Duane King’s responses to Becoming more mindful of what ideas flow out of our survey best summarized the spirit of our approach: a set of intuitive pencil gestures, and using those “There are various factors in creating an ade- gestures as finished material rather than polishing quate space for a creative team to work within, and refining identity concepts with tighter sketches but I tend to focus on the definition of struc- helped students begin to trust their initial ideas and tures for improvisation, simplicity in complex- their hand-crafted nature. ity and freedom of will. Without rules, you’ve We also had students try out a variant where teams got no target to aim for. Without flexibility, you of people had to create Olympic logo ideas with a haven’t the freedom to redefine the target.” different constraint: We loved the notion of “structures of improvisation” and how it encouraged a push and pull between take it further rules and flexibility. We knew that each challenge would have to combine open-ended flexibility with Get into a team of four people. Together, you will rigid rules. The time limit for each challenge would sketch a new logo for the upcoming Olympics. The also have to force an immediate confrontation of the design will be passed from one person to the next. problem at hand, rather than letting solutions rumble Each person, using a permanent-ink marker or col- around in the subconscious for a few days. ored pencil, can contribute one element to the design at a time. If you’re crafting type, you can dot an i or As an example, one of the first challenges David cross a t, but only one word can be written per person taught in the class was “One Line Logo,” which has a (unless it’s a run-on, if you really want to bend the 30-minute time limit: rules). Altering the paper in any way can also consti- tute an element of your design. Keep in mind: once you’ve started, you can’t crumple it up and start over again. And when you’re done, your team will share your work with the class. Introduction: What Do Design Students Need? 9
  • 10. This is the opposite of the previous constraint: instead Throughout each class, the students learned to of completing an idea in one gesture, the idea must use timeboxing both in solving individual challenges be painstakingly communicated or collaboratively and in team collaboration, working in short sprints created. And with only one shot to put the idea down tempered by pauses for evaluation and reflection. on paper, the students had to be clever about inte- When solving design problems, the students grating any mistakes into their final identity sketch. would use the first timebox as a place to use unorthodox brainstorming methods to kickstart This is only one example of how we constructed their creative process. the challenges. In the last section of this e-book, “Teaching the Challenges,” we provide further By repeating this process over and over again— thoughts around what makes the challenges sometimes in as little as 15 to 20 minutes—students in Creative Workshop so, for lack of a better had a chance not only to exercise their own talents word, challenging. under pressure, but to also gain an appreciation of the ways fellow designers solved the same problems. Structuring the Design Process Needless to say, during the first few weeks the stu- Through Timeboxing dents struggled. They were putting in sleepless nights In the process of brainstorming the challenges, perfecting design executions instead of following the we realized the following: If a designer knew which skill provided class instruction and focusing on simple they want to learn, almost any kind of problem could pencil sketches of their ideas. By the end of the class, be designed to help them acquire it. But the way stu- however, they were exploring strong design ideas from dents tried to solve the challenges, and the specific sketchbooks filled with possible design directions and processes they used to arrive at a solution quickly, spending less time sweating under their deadlines would require an explicit structure if they were going in class and at work. They learned to collaborate to succeed in the time frames they were provided. with each other effectively; with such short deadlines, And this structure needed to start with a designer there wasn’t time for ego. And, most importantly, they identifying strong ideas, before she or he became explored domains of design they had never experi- lost in the flow of polishing an executed design. enced before, which redirected many of their career paths dramatically. In researching and testing different design processes, the one that stood out as an exemplary model for the You can read more about timeboxing and using light- class was timeboxing. This technique is often used in weight brainstorming methods beginning on page 4 the world of software development, but it’s just as use- of Creative Workshop. ful when creating design solutions. It also keeps design- ers from moving too quickly into a design execution, before they’ve brainstormed a broad range of ideas. “Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.” —Bre Pettis and Kyo Stark, “Cult of Done Manifesto” 10 Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
  • 11. The rest of this e-book outlines how this more agile Designing (and Teaching) with philosophy for design instruction was implemented in Dirty Hands a classroom setting. It’s our hope that there is mate- When design curricula is slow to change, and it rial from this text that you can adapt, explore, and requires great effort to learn and understand the improve as part of your teaching efforts. new and ever-changing technologies we must use as designers and teachers of design, it’s tempting to cling to what we’ve learned and “what works” as the end-all, be-all of design practice. Yet in schools, we’re seeking to keep our students’ hands dirty all the time. Perhaps we’re just turning over the same plot of land. In having taught the 80 Works class twice, and in having solved all of the challenges in the Creative Workshop book—some multiple times—we’ve dealt with a lot of ambiguity in the design process, as well as many blind spots in training and working as a designer. It would be impossible for us to profess expertise in many of the focus areas we tackled in class. In many cases, constructing a challenge and placing it in the hands of multiple designers has been a leap of faith: sometimes leading to highly successful and exciting design thinking, and sometimes fizzling into a muted failure. But in all cases, we noticed that as the class (and by extension, the teachers) settled into not knowing where the next turn would take us, we became more creative and more willing to take risks. “Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as know- ing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it,” say Bre Pettis and Kyo Stark in their “Cult of Done Manifesto.” They add: “People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.” Flipping our fear of doing something wrong into a desire to experiment and take risks is what we think our student’s employers truly desire from the designers that they hire. We should be even more purposeful in how we cultivate these next generations of designers with the right thinking tools. This requires us to surprise ourselves, and by extension our students and co-workers. Time spent teaching tools and craft must be balanced with the time neces- sary for students to gain tacit knowledge in ideation, collaboration, sketching, and remaining nimble and creative under pressure. That is, if we want students to be employable and successful in their first roles as designers, out in the world. Introduction: What Do Design Students Need? 11
  • 12. 12 Exercise #
  • 13. Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting The core of a Creative Workshop class is a set of students will become faster and faster at solving chal- instructor-provided challenges, which is then supple- lenges, so you’ll need to further shorten their dead- mented by a set of student-created challenges. lines or increase the number of deliverables required The teacher then constructs “story arcs” out of the as you progress. challenges for each class (and its accompanying No challenge should have a time limit longer than homework assignments), conveying larger lessons two hours—especially for take-home assignments, about creativity, craft, teamwork, process, and other where students will be tempted to lavish days on pol- fundamental skills. ishing design executions. They can do that when the class is over. What Makes a Great Creative Challenge? For a challenge to succeed, it needs to contain the True Goals for Growth following attributes: There’s what you’re asking your classes to create in a focus area, and then there’s what you want them An Area of Focus to learn. When considering which challenges to use in a For example: Challenge #3, “Time Machine,” requires class—or creating your own challenges—make sure students to take an old advertisement and execute there is a clear, stated area of focus as part of the it as if it had been published in a modern magazine. challenge statement. This ranges across the various While this is the goal for class output, what the chal- domains of design, from branding to packaging to lenge is actually teaching students is how to assess advertising to user interface design. This will help the the strategy behind an advertisement, analyze the class gauge what kinds of design outputs are neces- societal and artistic trends that helped to shape its sary while solving the challenge. A list of focus areas is execution, and translate all of those details into a included in the Creative Workshop book. modern design execution. Tangible Creative Output This is no small feat—especially in 90 minutes. Each challenge requires tangible output, from a SITS Outside Everyone’s Comfort Zone design sketch to a high-fidelity design execution. (Including Yours) Sharing an idea verbally when time is up does not count for credit. Truly inspiring creative challenges aren’t bread-and- butter design problems. When constructing a chal- An (Almost) Impossible Time Limit lenge, think about how you can add variables or unusual constraints to an everyday project to push In class, the time limits for challenges from Creative your class (and the teacher) into uncharted and Workshop can be cut in half, or even shorter. If stu- risky territory. dents aren’t rushing to the last second to complete the stated deliverables required at the end of a If you don’t feel comfortable leading an exercise in challenge, you’ve given them too much time. Your an area of design you haven’t explored before, invite Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting 13
  • 14. in other instructors or working professionals to help real-world situations down into their constituent com- facilitate those challenges. ponents, then analyzing them for ways in which they can be reconstructed and improved. Contains Content Your Students Observation: Requiring students to step outside the Care About classroom and their studio into the real world, using Each time we taught a Creative Workshop class, their senses to observe and reflect on how other we provided the students with a brief survey at the people behave—then using this insight as the fuel for beginning where we asked them what types of proj- design solutions. ects and what kinds of clients they’d like to work with Innovation: Working with design problems specifically in the future. This information was incorporated into in the domain of product design, service delivery, many of the class challenges and increased and social innovation—forcing designers to grapple student engagement. with how to reinvent businesses and reshape human In addition, we asked for each student to provide at behavior. the start of every class period a challenge that they’d Interpretation: Open-ended problems whose solu- created. This can be for credit, or for students to tions require designers not only to determine what have input into the class content. Depending on how needs to be designed, but also to answer an even you’ve structured the class, you can select the more important question: Why does something need student-suggested challenges that fit the arc of to be made? upcoming classes and incorporate them. An important additional category to note is Based on student suggestion, we’ve included at least “Unsolvable Problems.” Students often find ways to 20% student-inspired challenges over the life of each approach lose-lose situations with creativity and fresh class we’ve taught. perspectives that provide new ways of influencing major societal issues. We often throw one unsolv- VARYING LEVELS OF DIFFICULTY able problem into the mix as a final assignment for The challenges in Creative Workshop are ordered from the class, for all of us to understand exactly how far craft-oriented problems that hone making skills to a designer’s reach can truly extend in dealing with design problems that are open-ended, highly compli- wicked problems. cated, and fraught with ambiguity. When brainstorm- Tasking students with an insoluble problem may ing challenges for the class and the book, Mary hit seem a bit sadistic, but it’s one of the best ways for upon the following categories for the different types of designers to understand what it feels like to grapple problems designers solve in their daily work, indepen- with—and identify in the future—whether a problem dent of disciipline: is wicked (i.e. influenceable, but not solveable). For Foundation: The fundamentals of being a designer more on this topic, see our rationale for Challenge #79 from a craft-based perspective. This includes typog- on page 69 of this e-book. raphy, layout, grid systems, design history, research, illustration, and sketching. Using Exercises in Your Existing Classes Execution: Moving from fundamentals to real-world When David taught Creative Workshop classes, each design deliverables, while being forced to explore a class period was four hours and consisted of solving range of design solutions in a faster timeframe than five challenges in a row. This was a great way to intro- they may have attempted in the past. duce a range of brainstorming methods, focus on a series of challenges that teach a specific skill, or break Materiality: The tangible act of making things as a large-scale project into digestible chunks. part of the design process—often without comput- ers—yielding design executions that rely on the hand- It’s also possible to string out challenges over a series made touch for their power. of weeks in a recurring fashion. At frog design’s Seattle studio, David set up a biweekly lunchtime series to Instruction: Cultivating the crucial skill of breaking explore different methods of physical prototyping, 14 Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting
  • 15. using challenges from the book and timeboxing to We required the students to show an artifact for each teach different ways of building and evaluating com- client review, usually in sketch form. Sharing a solution plicated systems in a low-fidelity format. verbally is not acceptable to the client. (When was the last time you walked into a client review and told them Solution Structures about your design idea without some tangible render- ing of it?) What is a solution structure? It’s a method of engineer- ing social situations around specified challenges that This is a solution structure we have used in every makes them much harder to solve—forcing student Creative Workshop class period, continually varying designers to learn how to collaborate more effectively. the challenges and the unique deliverables required during each sprint; it forces students to work in parallel In teaching classes involving Creative Workshop, we and quickly divide large design problems into smaller invented the following solution structures. See which sub-tasks, which is a crucial skill for any work setting. ones you can come up with as well! STRUCTURE 2: the Round-robin STRUCTURE 1: 30 Days in 30 Minutes It’s useful to teach at least one class period in a quar- Teams of three or four students are provided with ter or semester where the output from one challenge a challenge, which they must solve in 30 minutes. is directly inputted into the next challenge they’ll need Those 30 minutes are divided up into the following to solve, while rotating the students into an entirely timeboxes: lateral design domain. 8 minutes: Each team reaches a goal that is set As an example: in collaboration with the designer by the teacher. Scott Scheff, we created a five-challenge sequence 2 minutes: The teacher serves as the client, provid- where one of my classes had to create a “record store ing quick feedback to the teams and providing of the future.” the next milestone. In the first challenge, the students came up with the 8 minutes: Each team scrambles to incorporate name of the store and its logo. the feedback and reach the next milestone. In the second challenge, they planned out the store 2 minutes: The teacher/client gives another round space in Manhattan based on a defined set of con- of feedback and sets the final milestone. straints provided by their real estate broker. 8 minutes: Each team incorporates the final feed- The third challenge required them to brainstorm user back and completes the final solution(s) for the flows for a mobile application necessary to buy and challenge. download music while in the space. Last 2 minutes: Each team has 30 seconds to In the fourth challenge, they created a 30-second present their solutions. TV ad for their store that had to include handmade puppets. As an example that describes how this works in action: We provided a class with the “Storybook Ending” chal- For the fifth and final challenge, they had to craft lenge in Creative Workshop, in which they had 30 min- a pitch for investment capital based on everything utes to come up with the plot and character studies they’d created in the first four challenges. for a children’s book. STRUCTURE 3: Variable Client Feedback Over the first 8 minutes of solving the challenge, they had to ideate around the theme of their book. In the For certain challenges, we’ve stopped the students second 8 minutes, they had to move from the theme midway through solving a challenge and provided to a full-blown plot and characters. In the last 8 min- them “client feedback” as an additional constraint. utes, they had to create a character study and a Another fun way to deliver “client feedback” is to moral for their book. isolate a student from the overall class, take them Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting 15