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Picture this.

12 Nov

Lynda Barry is a cartoonist, writer and teacher who was featured on NPR’s Talk of the Nation yesterday.  Her new book, Picture This is a wonderful workbook for anyone wanting to inject the drawn line into their daily life. Her drawings create a fun and safe place to experiment with developing your own visual language, and we all have one if we simply put pen to paper and explore it.

Barry’s NPR interview brought to light much of her thinking on the power of drawing to tap into that often unreachable part of our brains; the area we want to reach into for innovative ideas or creative solutions in life and work.  Lynda Barry knows the drawn line is key. One caller to Barry’s interview said drawing in her sketchbook had enabled her to deal with debilitating anxiety without medication.  The relationship between brain chemistry and the simple act of drawing has been documented as a way to focus the attention of people in meetings.

Coming up in December, Adam and I will be working with 24 teen volunteers at the Cincinnati Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.  These are bright and forward thinking students who have been chosen for this program for their potential for leadership in their communities.  We are tremendously excited to meet these future leaders and introduce them to the simple, but life changing, practice of keeping an illuminated sketch journal.

Whether you are looking to change your work life, your personal approach to the world at large, or to learn how to communicate more effectively, a powerful first step is to start drawing.  When you do, let us know how it goes.

Popularity: 18% [?]

 

Working wellness.

25 Oct

There are times in work and life when things are going so well. It seems we’ve got everything under control… nothing could be better. And there are times when that is not the case. Our frenetic, demanding work environments cause a great deal of stress. This stress limits our ability to experience and enjoy life and work, to be creative in the process, to create things and solve problems others.

How can we have more of these days when things are ‘going so well?’

Well, here are a few scenarios elicited by designer Stefan Sagmeister in which he finds himself most satisfied in work and life:

  • Thinking about ideas and content freely – with the deadline far away.
  • Working without interruption on a single project.
  • Using a wide variety of tools and techniques.
  • Traveling to new places.
  • Working on projects that matter to me.
  • Having things come back from the printer done well. (think manufacturer, employee, contractor…)

A simple technique of my own is, ‘Do more of what I love, and less of what I don’t.’ It sounds simple, but to truly put it in practice involves using the word, ‘No,’ more often than were accustomed.

‘No’ is tough for many people who don’t want to hurt or annoy others, we want to be seen as effective citizens of the world. But the reality is that making a choice to do less of something and more of something else is a short-term sting, a necessary evil to allow you to focus on doing bigger and better things that really matter.

Let go of a few things, and be comfortable with it. Some things may fall apart, and some people may get angry, but that’s life. Take some time to think through what you’d really love to accomplish, and do it.

What other techniques have you applied to live and work more creatively?

via TED, Stefan Sagmeister shares happy design.

Popularity: 19% [?]

 

Capturing beauty.

24 Oct

via Brain Pickings

Popularity: 9% [?]

 

Living Differently

22 Oct

A recent article, How To Think Like Steve Jobs, by Carmine Gallo, author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs, got me thinking about how we can all live and work creatively, to be a more worthwhile addition to the communities and live and work in.

Steve Jobs is the pinup boy for successful, simplistic product design. He makes grandmas want gadgets. His success in doing this stems from the Apple slogan, an embodiment of his character, to ‘think different.’

But what does ‘think different’ mean, and how can it help us? Let’s break this problem down, and reassemble it.

Why would we want to ‘think different?’ Thinking differently will help us deliver creative breakthroughs, solutions to people’s problems that weren’t able to be solved with conventional thinking. We all want to do that.

So, if we believe the assumption that your thoughts are a product of everything around you, how can we come up with breakthrough ideas? The answer is simple… live different.

Steve Jobs has always made an effort to surround himself with non-conventional people and search for answers in non-conventional places. For example:

  • When hiring the original Mac team, he hired musicians, artists, poets, and historians. This made it work for everyone, not just techies.
  • When designing the original Mac, he integrated Calligraphy he learned after dropping out of college. This made it the first computer with beautiful fonts.
  • When he wanted the Apple II to be the first personal computer used in the home, he went to the Macy’s kitchen department. This made it easy to plug and play.
  • When starting Apple Stores, he didn’t hire a tech guy, he hired former Target executive Ron Johnson. This made Apple Stores world-class retail.
  • When developing the service model for Apple Stores, he didn’t analyze Dell.com or Gateway Stores, he emulated the concierge at the Four Season Hotels. This created accessible, comfortable, world-class service.

How can you break away and ‘think different’ to bring new solutions to today’s problems?

For starters… find some new people, try to learn some new tools, and try to get inspiration from new places. Be dramatic. And have fun with it.

via Oxstones Investment Club

Popularity: 16% [?]

 

Every country on Earth is reforming education and learning.

21 Oct

Sir Ken Robinson, world-renowned education and creativity expert, gave an enlightening talk about education reform around the world. Education reform is happening less through legislation, and more through an awakening of what creativity, knowledge-gathering, and motivation really are.

Education reform is a critical topic as Thomas Friedman (of the NYTimes and ‘The World is Flat’) recently opined that, ‘America’s core competency is is ability to attract, develop and unleash creative talent.

Is that competency in danger? Are other countries struggling as well?

Sir Ken Robinson challenges a few key assumptions that stem from the intellectual culture of the  Enlightenment and the economic circumstances of the Industrial Revolution.

  • Why do we batch students by age or year? Shouldn’t we batch students by their respective skill in a certain topic?
  • Why do we educate students in the same class sizes? Don’t some learn better in large groups, small groups, or even alone?
  • Why are all students forced to learn during the same hours? Some students are geared towards morning, afternoon, or evening learning.

The most alarming statistic Sir Ken Robinson provides is from a study on divergent thinking published in Breakpoint and Beyond. Divergent thinking is the ability to think of many answers to a specific problem… this is the first step to problem solving… before we get analytical and make THE BEST decision (this latter process if where business education focuses today). 98% of 1500 kindergartners scored at the genius level for divergent thinking. Their scores went down as they progressed in the education system.

What examples have you seen of successful education reform? What programs are creating vibrant students who are making a difference in the world?

Related:

Popularity: 37% [?]

 

Warm-ups

20 Oct

Before heading into the studio to attempt any ‘serious’ art work, I often need to warm up by drawing something in my sketchbook.

These little drawings are typically unrelated to any project at hand.  Working at home, I tend to draw the nearest dog.  I find this exercise to be an amazing warm up to thinking clearly.  It’s like meditation, only without so much tedium.  But what if you work in a more traditional office environment?  This exercise can still be a valuable one, provided you have on hand some simple drawing tools and ‘objects de art’ that you find interesting.  These can take the form of found items from nature, or an interesting coffee mug or pen that you like the look of.  It can really be anything.

Place your chosen object on your desk, not too far from view and open your sketchbook.  Now spend a few minutes looking at the object.  Pick it up and find your favorite angle of it.  Can you identify simple shapes in the object that might simplify it at first glance, such as circles, triangles, rectangles, etc?  Now, without too much thought, pick up a pen or pencil and without looking too closely at your paper and keeping your eye mostly on the object, begin making a line drawing that traces these broad shapes.  Try to get a basic outline and then continue to fill in where one shape moves to another.

This may feel (and look) ridiculous at first, but it is truly the first step in learning to draw.  You can practice this simple exercise in about 5 minutes, with the same object, each day, and see how it progresses.   You will see progress in what your drawings look like.  But beyond that, you will notice a little something about how you feel as you make these little drawings.  You might find that your mind gets into a different groove and that you are thinking differently.  A little less restless.  You may even find that sometimes great ideas pop into your head as you draw.  Even a simple drawing exercise such as this one can get your mind working in a new way.  Practicing this can be a valuable tool in pushing the boundaries of your normal day to day modus operandi.

Find an object that you find interesting and give sketching it out a try.  Then try it again the following day. Let us know how it goes.

Here are a couple more fossils of mine to inspire….

Related: How changing your perspective changes your results.

Popularity: 15% [?]

 

Where do good ideas come from?

19 Oct

A recent article on Steven Johnson’s new book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From‘ offers support for our practice of ‘paying attention to what you pay attention to,’ something which can only be achieved through journaling.

Steven debunks the myth that ‘Ideas just pop into people’s heads.’ Contradictory to the examples of how an apple hit Newton’s head and lighting struck Benjamin Franklin’s kite, ideas do not arrive in one fell swoop of glory isolated from the rest of our work. There is no muse.

But some may argue… ‘I definitely had the idea ‘click.’ Yes, there is a certain moment when we become aware of ideas… but they have been in our mind in some hidden form all along. I can often find precursors of thoughts posted in my journal 3, 6, 9 months before I realize what they really meant. After building enough of a critical mass in one specific subject or problem, the solutions begins to take shape and you can see all the other pieces merging into the final outcome.

Ideas are woven combinations of all the people, places, and things we encounter and work with, slowly burgeoning until we become aware of them.

So go ahead and pay attention to what you pay attention to. Spend a few minutes each day for the next few weeks journaling and drawing… and see what happens when you look back at it all. If you already journal, share back any interesting events you’ve had in being retrospective.

via CNN: ‘Eureka moments’ and other myths about tech innovation

Popularity: 26% [?]

 

Virtual office… sharing sketches instantly, digitally.

15 Oct

A week ago, a friend said to me, “I’m going to get an iPhone so I can get stuff done.” I responded instinctively, “It’s actually a distraction.” Then I disagreed with myself. Here’s why.

Yes, I do find myself sucked into email or some app occasionally, but who doesn’t?! I’m human and I make mistakes. I’m working on that. However, one new tool, JotNot, has given me a way to break loose of my office, and still share back professional results from creative critical thinking sessions easily.

JotNot is the easiest way to turn pictures into documents. Sketching with a pen and paper is the most liberating way for me to think through a complex problem. Its limitless, and balling up and tossing bad ideas is a great stress reliever.

I’ve always been tied down by completing my creative work with a scanner, or sending out a lame photo of my sketch. JotNot changed that. Now I take a photo and JotNot converts it to a PDF or image. Really awesome. Check it out…

Here is JotNot capturing my sketch…

Here is JotNot about to process the photo…

And here is the output 30 seconds after snapping the photo. (Shrunken to fit on the page, download the original PDF here.)

I then publish to my free online storage at DropBox which I can access from any computer or send it to my teammates directly via email.

Yes my friend, that’s getting stuff done.

Download JotNot for your iPhone/iPod Touch at the iTunes store.

Popularity: 10% [?]

 

Drawing is Seeing.

09 Oct

James McMullan teaches basic drawing skills every Friday, through writing. His New York Times series, ‘Line by Line,’ showcases the value of drawing as a way to see the world, and the relationships of objects within it.

Try his lessons to help make your sketches, drawings, notes that much more engaging.

Also, checkout our posts on templates for drawing out ideas, drawing a landscape, and how changing perspective changes your results.

Popularity: 26% [?]

 

Drawing how the internet works.

08 Oct

What a small world.

I stumbled upon an article about ‘Drawing how the internet works,’ an assignment given by a former Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student I met in Troy, NY who is now teaching an online class, “Web 200: Anatomy of a Request.”

He asked the global, virtual students to ‘draw how the internet works.’ They created simple models of this complex series of relationships to help think through the ‘problem’ and share what they learned with others in the class. This is Drawing Down the Vision.

How the internet works may not be your forte or interest… but you can apply this technique in your day to day life and work. The intersection of text and visuals helps you think through a problem in new ways, what we call diversity of thought.

Checkout our practice articles for help getting started.

via @azaaza

Popularity: 15% [?]

 
 



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