Archive for the ‘Connections’ Category

A shift to empirical learning.

18 Jun

I was browsing Forbes 25 Ideas to Change the World… only two seemed to be diametrically opposed to the others. They are fully in line with the way we work here at Drawing Down the Vision.

The first challenge was by world-renowned Graphic Designer, Milton Glaser. His idea is to ‘Suspend Ideology.’

Milton Glaser, Graphic Designer, Suspend Ideology

“What people have to do is to stop believing and begin to observe.” – Milton Glaser

He commented that Art is an instrument to promote Attentiveness. He states, ‘Art is Whatever,’ as long as it challenges us to observe the situation and ask, ‘What is real?” Art is a tool for human survival, and asks us to question what we’re doing, and why. His idea is to help make the most of our lives, living creatively and seeing infinite options at any moment.

In a recent article in Print, Glaser discussed his role models. One of them happened to be a long-time client, a restaurateur, Joseph Baum, who was capable of looking at a common situation afresh. Even when setting a table, he asked, “OK, where on the table should we put the silverware?’” He was inquisitive to the extreme, basing his actions on an understanding of the current moment. He wasn’t a fan of blindly repeating the past. This constant re-basing allowed him to limit time spent living in the ‘Illusion of Explanatory Depth.”

This ever-creative view of the world reminds me of Melissa Pierce’s quote for her new film Life in Perpetual Beta, “Is the planned life worth living?”

The second reverberating idea was by top consultant, Babson educator, & Harvard Sociologist, Thomas Davenport.

Thomas Davenport, Consultant, Slow Down

“We live in a world in which the capability to deliberate is vanishing.” – Thomas Davenport

He spoke of the power of slowing down. He says we’ve lost the ‘gift of deliberation.’ With the ever increasing presence of information in our lives, we believe we are being more effective, but are instead stuck in a ‘productivity churn.’ We need to break away in order to practice true creative problem-solving, to develop a concise understanding of what we are doing, and why.

Entropy is a fundamental law of engineering. It is the measure of how disorganized a system is. The law states that disorganization will only increase in a complex system. We need to find a way to make our worldly system less complex. We control how complex it is through the focus of our efforts.

Both of these fantastic thinkers showcase a shift to learning empirically. They value observations and intuition over the blind trust for the illusory knowledge we have accumulated from a different time, for a different situation. We are educating ourselves to idiocy. We are looking at how we can trust and make sense of all this information with so many hidden assumptions.

So, as we always say, find some time to get away from your work. Try the Low Information Diet. Use your journal and sketchpad as a way to practice attentiveness, to deliberate on the myriad things you can do every day of your life. Commit to do those things which are fundamentally important to the well-being of you and your community.

Be breakthrough, not busy.

As always, please share any thoughts or tangential articles!

Popularity: 36% [?]


We are all entrepreneurs.

16 Jun

Today’s complex world demands new skills to recognize trends and make sense of them. This demands a new type of thinker with a new series of tools for creating, testing, and learning.

A new thinker you say, what kind?

An ‘Expert Generalist’, someone who can transfer knowledge across domains, someone who can see similarities and analogies others cannot. This is a concept developed by Art Markman, UT Austin Cognitive Scientist.

ABrush-Shaped Being, a person who has a broad specialization and correspondingly broad set of interests. This is a concept developed by Roy Blumenthal, a Visual Facilitator.

Both of these seek to combine breath with depth, the exact opposite of what is asked in most corporations today. This is the natural skill set of an entrepreneur, one who struggles to create a new business, testing and learning along the way, until they successfully execute an idea. An entrepreneur can sit in any organizational structure.

Fahrenheit 212 is a company comprised of these individuals, and is succeeding with this new skillset. It is a new consultancy that develops and executes ideas, straddling the wide divide between a design and management firm. Most interestingly, it has a stake in the profits of these ventures it enters into, much more of a partner, with skin in the game, than a consultant.

‘”Having an idea without knowing how it makes money is as valueless as knowing where growth lies without the idea,” says Geoff Vuleta, head of Fahrenheit 212, critiquing the stereotypical design firm and the classic management consultant.’

This interesting critique on the current state of the design and management consulting industry by Vuleta shows that in order to succeed, we must be broader than we have before, both as individuals and as businesses. We must become ‘Expert Generalists’ and ‘Brushed Shaped Beings.’ We must also take risks. We must be entrepreneurs.

There are tremendous opportunities in the world to live fantastic vibrant lives, making in dent in the universe. The traditional management skills won’t take you there. Find ways to make that difference, and bring creative change to the world.

Related: How the creator of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, made his idea real.

Popularity: 14% [?]


The Power of Play

15 Jun

“The most successful people in here have rich hobbies out in the world.” – P&G CEO Bob McDonald

Some of the most successful and creative people I know are also the most playful.

An old friend from our days in the military is now an extremely successful professional. Years ago, Chris was ever the prankster, mixing fun and laughter in to the stresses of day-to-day Navy life.  Eventually his entrepreneurial success afforded him the opportunity to travel the world and develop his photography practice. It began as a simple hobby, but is now his professional work.  The secret to his success is his sense of wonder in the world.  Chris still maintains that playful spirit.

Another successful professional who knows the value of play time is designer Stefan Sagmeister.  He has an unusual approach to productivity. He takes an entire year off every seven years.  He explains that it’s as if he takes five years of his retirement and intersperses them into his working adulthood.  This period off is a lot of fun, tremendously re-invigorating and affords him the opportunity to pursue the ideas he didn’t have time for. Most of the projects he does in the next seven years come from that single year ‘away.’

Like most people, my family and I don’t yet have the freedom to just take a year off to nurture new ideas or to do as much traveling as these adventurers do.  That said, we do play – a lot!  We have music and our love of the outdoors, especially kayaking.  We travel as often as we can on simple road trips or further afield when we can find the time and funds.  We make play time a priority.

In these unsure economic times, it is not only vital to work as hard as we can but also to play hard.  Fostering a sense of play feeds you as a person which makes you better at your job, whether you are a business person or an artist.  What do you do for play?

Popularity: 4% [?]


‘Daydream’ on Purpose

14 Jun

I recently stumbled upon The Energy Project. They’re a cool bunch helping to redefine what it is to be productive at ‘work’.

I was browsing through their practical energy tips and saw our missions overlap with, “Daydream on Purpose.” Here’s what they have to say:

“Schedule at least one hour a week to brainstorm or strategize around some issue at work. You can help access your right hemisphere by doodling, daydreaming, or going for a long walk—anything that lets your mind wander. That’s when breakthroughs and spontaneous connections are most likely to occur.”

So go ahead… try it out, and daydream on purpose. You can see plenty of our tips on doodling, drawing, thinking on paper, daydreaming (whatever you’d like to call it…) in our blog under Practice.

Popularity: 10% [?]



29 May

The Drawing Down the Vision team is constantly striving to connect with others developing a more holistic and creative approach to life and work.

Yesterday we interviewed Donna Burns, Director of Communiversity, the community education wing of the University of Cincinnati.  Communiversity provides lifelong learning opportunities. Whether a student wants to brush up on their financial skills or learn a new language, Communiversity probably has something to offer.

During a Drawing Down the Vision Workshop, students learn the art of keeping a visual journal.  Drawing is one way to broaden your spectrum of communication. But drawing is just one path toward creativity.  To avoid getting bogged down in the day to day and to maintain a sense of creative potential in your work and personal life, it is essential to always be trying new and creative things.

Resources such as Communiversity are a wonderful way to tap into these opportunities. Most metropolitan areas have some form of community education and the classes available range from art to science to business.  As an instructor at the Art Academy’s continuing education program, I have met some amazing people from all walks of life who take a few hours each week to broaden their horizons and do something creative.

We highly recommend checking out all that Communiversity and other programs like it have to offer.  The personal and professional enrichment that lifelong learning can provide is priceless.

Popularity: 10% [?]



24 May

Recently on a trip to New York City, I had the privilege to meet up with an old friend and fellow art student Stephanie Koenig. Koenig and I were sculpture majors together at the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP School of Fine Art a number of years ago. While there we shared a love of all things involved in the creative process; drawing, research, materials, processes and tools. We both have gone on to follow our love and passion for Fine Art in many ways through teaching and by continuing to pursue our own studio work.

Koenig is based in Philadelphia these days and like most artists, she wears many hats. One of her jobs is studio manager at NextFab Organization where innovators go to translate new ideas into physical prototypes. NextFab is a place where business innovation directly intersects with artistic creativity. The organization employs industrial designers, mechanical engineers, animators as well as artists to create a team of individuals who can solve most problems on route to producing new products. Stephanie and I spent a good bit of our conversation sharing our anecdotes of the intersection of art and business. It seems the more people we meet in the entrepreneurial world, the more we realize how artists can contribute to the creative side of business.

I am extremely excited to hear that other artists are dipping their toes into the business pool. I find that developing my own inner entrepreneur is strengthening my career as a working artist. Working with Adam on Drawing Down the Vision has shown us both how tapping into creativity and maintaining a vibrant sketchbook can enhance his professional career. We should all step outside of our self imposed labels and make a point to connect and intersect with those in other fields.

At this intersection lies true creative potential.

Popularity: 9% [?]


The Sketchbook Tour

16 May

A stack of Amy's sketchbooks. Different from Adam's pocket journals.

Starting, keeping and maintaining a sketchbook is daunting.  This is the case whether you are an artist working out ideas or a business person keeping track of trends and projects.  Even a seasoned keeper of a sketchbook can find themselves staring at that empty page and thinking “what next?”

There are many ways to get around this predicament and maintain an interesting and engaging collection of drawings and impressions over time.  One way is to give yourself daily exercises to do in your sketchbook that enable you to put pen to paper.  Even just writing out a grocery list or a to-do list is something.  Add some images and you are well on your way!  But this may not be enough.  For drier times in your book, outside help is available.

Years ago, Danny Gregory, author of Everyday Matters, created the Every Day Matters Challenge where each day you could find a suggestion, a nudge, of what to try in your sketchbook.   EDM is now a huge collection of ideas that have inspired even the most timid newcomers to begin drawing.  And that is all it takes, beginning.  I recommend to all of my students to join this group if they need ideas on what to draw and support on maintaining their sketchbook work.

Recently I heard of something called The Sketchbook Tour where sketchers are challenged to fill up a moleskin journal with sketches and then return it to them where it will then go on tour to various cities and finally back to Brooklyn to be cataloged and kept there for all to see.   Adam and I both have signed up to be a part of this.  It will be a fun opportunity to create a themed journal and become part of a lasting public art project.  Even better, it will give us more reasons to draw.  Drawing begets drawing.  The more we draw, the more we draw and the more comfortable with drawing you will become.

So whether you are starting small with the day to day or want to tackle a whole themed journal for an art show, just draw.  You’ll be amazed at how much you like it.

Popularity: 37% [?]


Promoting diversity of thought.

09 May

Creative Thinking

Amy and I had the great opportunity to meet with Nate Zeisler. He is the co-founder of Arts Enterprise, an organization dedicated to promoting entrepreneurial and creative thinking through the intersection of art and business.

Nate’s work is closely related to ours here at Drawing Down the Vision. Arts Enterprise is building a university network of dedicated leaders in this burgeoning field promoting diversity of thought: new ways to think through solutions to the complex, multi-faceted problems our world faces.

The time is ripe for this shift in thinking for both the academic and business worlds, applying best practices from all walks of life. Richard Florida, author of ‘The Rise of the Creative Class‘, dubs today, ‘The Great Reset‘ (the name of his new book). We’re all challenged to find new and relevant ways to contribute to the ever-changing communities we live in, to make the most of the myriad resources we are presented with. This demands skills native to the traditional artist and entrepreneur, a new way of looking at the world. It demands people who can combine and teach creative and professional success.

If you know of other groups working towards a similar goal, please share below! We all have a lot to learn.

“We are all artists now.” – Dalton Conley, Elsewhere USA
‘The MFA is the new MBA.’ – Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind

Popularity: 35% [?]


Trajectory of the creative mind

24 Mar
The Seed of a New Business: These sketches evolved into Dan's current product, artwork for offices. Every successful business starts small.

The Seed of a New Business: These sketches evolved into Dan's current product, artwork for offices. Every successful business starts small.

Notes that don't fall away: Dan shifted from legal pads and post-its to have a central journal where he could track, develop, and revisit his ideas.

Notes that don't fall away: Dan shifted from legal pads and post-its to have a central journal where he could track, develop, and revisit his ideas.

In our working culture, creative people are perceived to be ‘born.’ They’re creative just because they are! Unless we’re studying art history… seldom do we hear about how someone’s creative abilities changed over time. At Drawing Down the Vision, we believe that everyone has tremendous innate creative capacity, and would like share stories of how others have strengthened, and continue to strengthen their creative thinking. To begin, Denver Faulk and I had some fun talking with Dan Wallace of Ideafood. Here’s what we learned…

Dan is a creative journaler. He’s been successfully self-employed in the marketing industry for the last 23 years; using his unique  perspective, skills and network to deliver the results his clients needed. Those experiences, and a desire to succeed, have put his creativity on trajectory starting as a legal pad note-taker, and growing into the creative journaler he is today.

Dan originally used journaling as a bucket for his thoughts when he started his career at Fallon in 1984 (then Advertising Age’s Ad Agency of the Year). He had been burdened by the note-taker sickness of too many pieces of paper, always in a jumbled mess which would one day ‘just fall away.’ He shifted to one central place to collect those notes, his journal. This way, Dan could continue capturing his thoughts, but also have a record to return and explore his growth. He could make connections between the different states of mind he had working with different people in different environments.

The journal was a form of knowledge gathering. It helped him to practice active learning, applying his thoughts immediately in creative ways… always trying to come up with a concise visual way to document his thoughts. This process supported him as he moved on to build his digital marketing business in the late 90s and early 00s. The journal enabled Dan to seize more understanding of the world around him… to be able to critically analyze it, with open eyes, and to share his thoughts on client projects and the digital marketing industry.

Then, the dot-com-bomb blasted. Dan’s digital marketing suffered a significant decline in 2000, and he was put in a position where he had to reinvent himself and his business. With newfound time on his hands, and a passion to come up with new fresh ideas, he dove deeper into his journal, trying to build his creativity. What had once been his tool for active learning, on the side from his day-to-day business, but a core component of success… now became his full-time job! Discovering the next venture would consume Dan, and his search for ways to serve his customers drove a shift to journaling new product concepts, rather than just marketing ideas.

With a large collection of developed ideas and hand-rendered prototypes, Dan needed to find a way to make them real. He connected with Robyn Waters, who was VP of Trend at Target. Being astounded by the content of the journal, and his creative methodology, she offered to co-present his original idea, artwork for offices, at the national Innovation Convergence. Today, this initial concept of artwork for offices has morphed into a product that helps companies hire, educate, and motivate employees.

The focus on product development versus active learning in Dan’s journal was inversely related to the amount of time he devoted to his work. When his business was booming, he learned in the journal… when his business was struggling, his journal was booming… helping him to find his way. Today, Dan is actively developing the product line that sprung from his exploratory product development journals, with five sales to Fortune 500 companies under his belt.

Now that product development is occupying much of his time, he uses his journal to flex his creative muscles, keeping them active for the next time he needs them. Being in a more entreprenurial mode… he’s looking to continue that creative momentum. The journal, one of 30 over his career, serves to keep him fresh.

To close, we asked Dan a question… what would you say to those who have never journaled before? His response:

‘Do anything… ugly or poorly written, set the bar low. Get started. You can only go up from there.’

Popularity: 18% [?]


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