This blog was initially set up for a recent university module, called ‘Play & Creativity‘. As this module is made up of students from different disciplines such as Product Designers, Graphic Designers, Fine Artists, Illustrators, Textles etc. our project is to make something from recycled materials and to apply it to our subject area. The main benefit of this module is that it directly applies to most of us at Cardiff School of Art & Design. Seeing as we are all in the creative industry, we need to know the factors that affect us and help us in becoming more creative. One of these factors is in the title of the module, Play. Play is directly linked to creativity. The ability to switch off from the working world and to relax helps spark creative thoughts, and so throughout the coming lectures and activities I will keep this blog up to date.
Session 1: Creative Workspaces
During our first lecture, I learnt that the concepts of creativity, inspiration, innovation and play are becoming more popular and more recognised. This is because big companies have noticed a link between financial success and creative innovation. Companies based in California like Facebook, Google, Apple & IBM, and whole nations such as Korea are developing techniques to improve creativeness in their employees. We learnt how these companies are changing their office environments to create a creative and inspiring place for their workers, to get the most out of them.
“78% of people in the UK agree that creativity is the key to driving economic growth”
Our lecturer Gareth Loudon gave us his definition on creativity:
“The ability to come up with ideas or artefacts that are novel, valuable and substantive”
Whereas the Oxford Dictionaries definition is slightly different:
“an activity engaged in for enjoyment, relaxation and recreation, especially by children, rather than a serious or practical purpose”
We learnt what affects creativity, including emotions, actions and environments, some being positive and some negative. Some examples of negative factors include habits, tradition, prejudice, insecurity and lack of support. One positive factor was repeatedly encouraged and that was to step outside of your comfort zone, to explore and to experience new things.
I then participated in some activities. In the first we were given a sheet of paper with multiple circles on it and within a small time frame we had to draw as many ideas as we could to fit the shape, for example a football or a car wheel. Another activity was to take a product, mine being a plastic drinks bottle, and finding as many uses for it as possible. I came up with over 25 ideas within a short time period ranging from a light, fish tank, playing football to a plant pot.
We then discussed many ideas and theories exposing peoples views on creativity, play and the surrounding environment. One particularly interesting subject we discussed was how the national education system doesn’t encourage creativity. Currently it evaluates and tests students on a mass system, judging intelligence on finding the single “right” and “wrong” answers. This doesn’t benefit or encourage creativity as creativity thrives on new experiences, trial and error and multiple solutions. I think the current education system should learn how to encourage creativeness through how big companies like Google and Lego have. By having an inspiring environment and to encourage play and relaxation often. There is evidence backing this as there is significantly less neural connections in a 14 year old than in a 6 year old as creativity has been suppressed. As Picasso once said, “All Children are born Artists”.
The four P’s of creativity: 1. Process 2. Person 3. Place 4. Environment (not a P, I know…)
Extra research: Rhodes, Wallas, Guilford, Csikzenmihalvy
As this lecture was about creative workplaces I researched creative interiors and collected them on my Pinterest. Check it out on my Pinterest board “Bricks” which is based on architecture and interiors. You can see the images on the link below, all images related to this module are captioned “Field Module ‘Creativity & Play'”.
Mood Board: Creative Workplaces
Mood Board for Creative Workplaces, includes Google, Pixar, Facebook, Twitter offices.
Session 2: Motivation
In this lecture we learnt about how motivation affects creativity and how we value our life decisions to do what we love and need. We were asked to write down 15 valued experiences (either from the our past or future) and had to remove the least important until we were left with 5. It was incredibly hard trying to balance out my personal, social life between a professional, financial life. I found that there was an even balance with my results which I was happy with. In another activity which I found harder, we were given a sheet with multiple sections and a budget of £100. Each section concentrated on a different aspect of life, such as family life, personal health, sex life, relationships, professional life etc. Then within those sections were 5 choices, all billing from £1 to £8. We then had to pick various choices on what mattered to us most and within our budget. However I was happy with my results as it showed me what I valued most in life and what I wanted to get out of it.
Session 3: The Marshmallow Challenge
In this session we had a challenge, to build a tower from 20 pieces of spaghetti and a metre of string and tape. However, the structure had to withstand the weight of a single marshmallow. We worked in groups, and as this was a module based on creativity there were numerous creative outcomes. Our structure was a pyramid shape, and as we were product design students we found this project fairly easy, using the string to pull the weight of the marshmallow away from the structure. Although we didn’t win (a group which cheated did) it was interesting to find out following the activity by watching a TED talk that other than architects and engineers, children succeed at this challenge more than adults. As adults from different disciplines try to find one outcome, children learn from trial and error and therefore succeed.
After the challenge we looked at different activities and rated them on how creative they were and how they benefited us personally.
Session 4: Exploration
In this lecture we discussed different creative processes. Some examples were mental relaxation, distraction and to realise what helps you relax. The most frequent examples are bed, showers and travelling. Being “present” or “in the moment” also helped. As did sensing (seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting) empathizing (connecting with other people and other things), making connections and not thinking about the past or future which can create stress and anxiety.
We also explored the role of meditation and mindfulness within creativity, as the traditional Buddhist methods of meditation have been “modernised” and used effectively, as companies such as Google and Facebook encourage mindfulness and meditation among their employees. This interested me as I have mediated before and it was good to know the results of how the relaxation of the mind benefits creativity. Due to finding out more about meditation and creativity, I will meditate more as there are major benefits.
We then explored the theories of Carl Jung:
Jung suggests our mind has 3 main levels
- The conscious mind: our ego, our self identity, our thoughts, feelings, memories, perceptions
- The personal unconscious: repressed wishes, subliminal perceptions, forgotten experiences
- The collective unconscious: inherited knowledge, common to all (instincts, archetypes)
In the following afternoon I chose to take part in a creativity task which our lecturer Gareth Loudon would use for his research and organisation. I had to change a formation of glasses on the table into another formation with only one movement of the glasses. I had 5 minutes to complete the task, and I completed it in 47 seconds which was quite fast by Loudon’s findings. As there was competition among course mates I was pleased to find only 4 had completed the task faster than me. To finish the last lecture, I was inspired by a quote: “play requires both boundaries (order, harmony) and the impulse to cross them (chaos, growth)“.
At the end of these 4 sessions we were given a brief.
This brief was to “Design a piece of art or a product which was made purely from recycled materials.”
At first I found this brief quite challenging due to it being so open, but after some research and development the ideas began flowing. Especially after trying to use some of the techniques we learned during this process.
Mood Board – Recycled Materials:
This is a mood board based on recycled materials, recycled products and upcycled products.
This is my development for the current Field project. The brief was very open, and wasn’t defined to having any specific outcome, other than showing development of ideas. The brief was simple “Make (design) something from recycled materials”. So I began with the brief and listing sustainable and recyclable materials and then moving onto a mind map to gather thoughts.
I then developed some other ideas which can be seen below
Different designs of bus stops incorporating different sustainable and recyclable materials e.g wooden pallets, recycled glass, recycled aluminium, upcycled steel etc. Another point to some of these designs was to try and get a natural feel across the design which would benefit society and the users.
This is where most of us come into contact with the recycling process. It’s almost a lottery, trying to guess if your waste will be in the right bin etc. There is a huge litter problem in the UK and not enough people take the responsibility to get rid of something the correct way. So I wanted to design something that promotes the idea of recycling through having a bin made of recycled materials and also being able to see the contents of the bin, to encourage recycling. Promoting recycling would encourage people to fill up the bin. By being able to see the contents of the bin, it would deter littering because the moral responsibility of recycling would be visible.
I’ve had this idea on my mind for a while, and would like to take it further. I was hoping this brief would allow that but the brief is restricted to recycled materials. I came across this new manufacturing methods called Botcanical Fabrication, and it simply uses Gourd plants (beetroot) to create shells and skins of products. It does take months to complete, but its part of the Slow Design movement and it probably the most environmentally friendly way to create products. Botanical Fabrication is essentially growing gourd into a mould the shape you desire, and once its fully grown you cut off the from the stem and let the mould dry for months. It will eventually harden almost to the density of wood. Some designers have already created torches, radios and plug sockets from this method. So I thought I’d approach this manufacturing method and introduce it to a bigger market. As mobile phones are manufactured in millions and often thrown into landfill, there has to be a better option. Each mould would contain 2 cases and then be CNC’d into the correct shape.
I think designing a door handle is challenging for any designer. As a door handle is traditionally the same design, people have tweaked and modernised them, however it’s hard to make your mark. So I thought it would be interesting to add another element to them – a recycled door handle. I immediately thought a Coca Cola bottle due to it’s ergonomically designed recognition. It is after all a design classic, but I thought it would be interesting to apply it to a different use. The door handle could also use other types of glass bottles, beer bottles, milk bottles, even wine bottles if you wanted a door handle that big.
I had another idea to potentially make a radio/portable speaker from recyclable and sustainable materials. I thought this was interesting as it would let me use different materials and processes such as recycled woods, pulp, cork and sheet metals.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this module. The university offered something different, as this subject interested me and my course mates. I thought the lectures were inspiring and helpful towards creatives, and helps to get ahead when working professionally due to many design studios and companies leaning towards creative and innovative methods. If I could I would like to take this subject further, do my own research and meditate in my own time due to it’s benefits. The evidence behind such studies helps realise how helpful these techniques can be, to create a healthy mind.
The project brief I found was too open, yet I suppose that was the point due to our subject. To use the creative methods to help us be inspired and creative something recyclable and unique. With my work I didn’t produce one final outcome, as I would like feedback first to know what to develop. I explored many options, designs including recyclable materials, upcycled & downcycled, sustainable manufacturing methods, sustainable materials and other new ideas like botanical fabrication. Some of these ideas may not fulfil the brief yet they might interest my lecturer due to their creativeness and environmentally friendly factor.
Overall, I enjoyed this subject and the brief provided and found it inspiring and helpful.