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What’s the Secret to Creativity? Simple Strategies to Raise Creative Children

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

How Parents Can Raise Creative Thinkers in the Face of Elementary and Middle School Social Pressures

It’s proven through government studies that creativity is a valuable asset best developed through the arts. Creativity is known as the fundamental driver of innovation. Art education develops the critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities necessary to create our future innovators. However, it can be quite difficult for parents to retain the adventurous free spirit of early childhood in the face of elementary and middle school social pressures. How can parents raise the next generation of creative thinkers?

Unstructured artwork is characteristic of pre-school and kindergarten age children. They draw stick figures and love to splatter paint with fingers onto huge sheets of paper. Parents enjoy the self-expressive free nature found in their child’s art. Exploration and risk-taking are encouraged, even if the kitchen floor is a disaster and there are two loads of laundry afterwards.

By third grade it’s clear something has changed. Children become much more cautious with their artwork. Looking at class presentations shows heightened conformity and a great degree of similarity across student artwork. Many seem too perfect to be a typical third-grader’s. Children seem a bit embarrassed by their work, and more concerned with approval than enjoyment of the process. Unless parents and teachers step in, children will continue to lose their inborn creative spark.

So what can parents do to nurture creativity into adulthood? Here are four strategies:

  •     Children’s physical ability to color inside the lines is seen as a developmental milestone, thus teaching at an early age that creativity has strict rules and expectations. Relying on coloring books leads to the same conformity. Instead of using structured materials such as coloring books, parents should try sketchbooks to help children find their own source of inspiration and ways to communicate through art.
  •     Peer pressure can influence a child’s artwork the same way it controls what clothes a child wears to school. Our society places high value on creativity, yet children instinctively feel that artwork has to be pretty to be praised. Parents need to be aware of their child’s need for social acceptance, even in art class. Asking about projects can give insight into the amount of peer pressure involved. Try “How is your work different from others in class? Or the same? What do you like / not like about your artwork? What would you do differently next time?” Let you child know that being an individual is important, and that you value an ability to be thinking independently.
  •     School administrators face pressure to keep art as part of the school day in the face of rising budget cuts. However, a comprehensive standards-based art curriculum isn’t just about making clay dinosaurs or painting with acrylics. A true study of the visual arts is cross-curricular, uniquely connecting the “core” course of math, history, language arts and science. As a parent, don’t let art get pushed aside as being a “special”. If your child has art class in school or as part of an afterschool program, find out just what topics are being explored. It’s not just about what they have made in class, it’s about learning to ask questions and explore the relationship between subjects. If you want children with critical thinking skills and better grades, it’s proven that you should start with art.
  •     Art needs to stay fun. It develops self-expression that is free from “right and wrong” test-driven coursework. Art explores the basis of human knowledge about our world and is the best way for children to discover their unique place in it. So keep it fun by taking trips to museums, talking about movies or picture books – really anything visual that creates an emotional response, good or bad. Then think, discuss, and ask “Why?” “What did it mean to you?” “Would you change it?” Not only will you have more quality time with your family, you’ll also be developing critical thinking skills.

Teaching children to ask questions is essential towards their creative development. Art should be a place where children can learn, explore and create without right or wrong answers. By nurturing creativity we develop future innovators. So don’t be afraid to teach children to color outside the lines

Color is Overrated – People Have Forgotten Their Values! Or Have They?

Friday, July 6th, 2012

You may be used to the new “3-D” look of the latest Disney films, but what happened to the old line art that you can see in older Pixar movies, such as ‘Mulan’ and ‘Cinderella’? Well, Pixar is bringing back that look with their new animated short, ‘Paperman’, which is scheduled to be run before their new feature film, ‘Wreck-it Ralph’, in November. It’s not unusual for a short to be attached to another film; Disney and Pixar have been doing the same thing with movies such as ‘Brave’ and ‘Monsters, Inc.’.

The line art look that is going to be used in ‘Paperman’ will combine both the “old” and “new” Disney visual art, using shading to make some things look like forms, but still using traditional hand-drawn animation that will be transferred to their art software. They will also use only values of black and white, so color will not be used at all in this short! This makes value a very important feature, and the animators have to pay close attention to how dark they make the shadows. If one area is too light, it might clash with where the light source is coming from, making it look unrealistic. The irony in the color scheme is that the title of the short is ‘Paperman’ – usually we associate paper with being black and white. Since Disney and Pixar are going back to the basics; maybe you can draw some inspiration from them and get some ideas for artwork! Try using only shades of black and white to draw something; make sure you add in some shadows and shades of grey, not just black and white.

A Creative Look at Pixar’s New Animated Feature, ‘Brave’

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

 

As you know, we at Madcap Logic are big fans of animation. That’s why when Pixar’s new big movie, ‘Brave’, came out this past Friday, we were all very excited.

‘Brave’ follows the story of a Scottish princess named Merida and her quest to become free of the responsibilities of being a soon-to-be queen. She had always had a fascination with archery, but her mother became more and more insistent on her education on how to be a proper princess. Soon, it is announced that Merida would have an arranged marriage, at which point Merida becomes furious and takes it into her own hands to change her destiny. However, things don’t go as planned, and she must reverse what she has done before it is too late. Throughout the film, the relationship between Merida, her mother, Queen Elinor, and her father is explored. In addition to the fact that this is Pixar’s first movie with a female lead, it is also the first in which both parents are present in the entirety of the plot.

What is really amazing in this new film is the animation: it took nearly three years and two programs to just make Merida’s hair, which is composed of 1,500 unique strands of hair, each controlled differently. Animators had to study curly hair and the way it moved to make the most lifelike version of the firey mane that Merida sports. The scenery and backgrounds were produced using 350 custom brushes in Photoshop, which were then layered to add depth and realism to the forests in ‘Brave’. Even the weapons used in the movie were studied – employees took archery lessons, and Mark Andrews, one of the directors of ‘Brave’, taught swordfighting to animators. Along with making Merida and the other characters move, the animators also had to work out what colors to use for the film, and they settled on vivid red hair – a warm color – for Merida and some more subdued hues for the nature areas (think about complimentary colors – red and green!). This makes the characters really stand out and adds a lot of variation in the animation. Throughout the production of the film, creativity was essential, as the animators and writers had to come up with solutions to problems and create the entire plotline, script, and scenes!

While ‘Brave’ experienced some difficulties in producing and directing the movie (Brenda Chapman was replaced as director by Mark Andrews), it is an amazing movie. The quality and realism of the animation made it difficult to look away, and the plot was both heartfelt and action-packed. If you haven’t seen it already, you should definitely give it a look!

The Heady Thrill Of Having Nothing To Do

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Is constant stimulation Hurting our creativity and the economy?
Scott Adams pays tribute to tedium.

Scott Adams      All fans of Scott Adams, Dilbert devotees, parents, and a friend/colleague of anyone continuously hooked to an electronic device will love this attack on our current state of information overload.

      Without giving away our ages, most of us can admit that our children are growing up with electronic gadgets we never dreamed possible. However, Adams is clear on the downside of these time fillers – of life without boredom- and their effect on the development of creativity. In his sarcastically amusing style, Adams reminds us that imagination is not the result of  being constantly entertained. Individuality is not developed by playing ‘Angry Birds’. Most critically, he recounts that he attributes his creative success to the somewhat excessive boredom he withstood during both his childhood and his corporate years. The genius behind Dilbert was simple tedium, not an iPad.

      Is America lacking innovation? Here’s a test : ask your children to unplug for a week and find out how much they know how to do on their own, or want to try. Hint – pick up some earplugs first, as you’ll hear more than a few screams along the way. The bonus is finding out what genuinely interests them, without devices giving them ideas.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903454504576486412642177904.html

Enjoy!

Newsweek Reports on the "Creativity Crisis" in America

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Affecting a generation of Americans, both children and adults,
"For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong – and how we can fix it."

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/07/10/the-creativity-crisis.html

If you have school-age children this comes as no surprise. Children are spending more time in front of televisions and computers, and spending days in school being tested rather that taught. The long term effects are now being felt by a society that needs innovation more than ever to solve long-term problems.

What can you do? Read the article, learn, and reach out to the schools and children around you. Stay involved, and use books instead of television. Force your children outside (weather permitting) without electronics. Let them fail so that they understand how to creatively find solutions on their own. Encourage individuality.

Furnace recommends picking up a paintbrush and finding out where your imagination can take you! It’s a great way to spend a summer day. Just try to find a brush your own size…

A Child's Imagination Meets Spring

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

“No amount of skillful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.” – Edward Hopper

Being on the edge of the transition between winter and spring can be a recipe for cabin fever. With opportunities for play and learning, a child’s imagination can convert cabin fever into a search for a rare piece of art, engineering mysterious inventions, a ride on a high wave in a pirate’s ship, or an expedition into a jungle. In a learning context, children’s imaginative antics can moderate cabin fever for both children and adults.

How does cabin fever give way to spring excitement? As green blades of grass or bobbing plants begin to show through the white melting snow, a child wants to know what is happening. Why does this flower bloom first? What is its name? What color will it be? If I pick it now, will it grow in a vase? What if I had a garden of my own? Yes, what if?

Why not have a small indoor or outdoor box garden in a sunny spot so that the children can identify the growth phases and be delighted by the emerging color of flowers in “their” garden? Observing, learning about, and cultivating (planting, watering, fertilizing, weeding) a garden can give children ownership of a process (gardening), and in so doing they can become stewards of it. Stewardship can bring them knowledge, pride, and experience. Two plants that are easily seen and easily grown are the delightful multicolored spring poppy flowers and crocuses.

Another early-growing flower, but one seen less frequently in the Rocky Mountain region is the poppy. In March, these begin to grow in the Colorado front range and, as I write this, our five poppy plants on the south side of our home are now eight inches tall. Children can plant these perennials one year and watch these hardy plants grow tall the next year. Orange red, shell pink, coral, and white are just a few of the poppy colors that can bring satisfaction to young gardeners. Why not spend a few dollars and buy a poppy seed kit and the children can plant them in their garden?

Or, how about planting a plot with only xeric plants? For example, the Colorado Front Range is high desert, with much less snowfall than the mountains just west of it. One way to determine which xeric plants are available so that you can select your favorites for your or your child’s garden would be to check with the experts.

Then again, perhaps it is time for an afternoon fieldtrip? From such a trip, children could learn to identify Colorado’s high desert native prickly pear cactus, several varieties of barrel cactus, and yucca plants.

What were, and are, some of the uses of these plants that we have learned from Native Americans? Prickly-pear cactus can be pickled and eaten. Yucca thread can be used to sew things together and the roots can be eaten. The name “yucca” is derived from “yuca,” a Carib Indian name for the cassava or tapioca plant and is cross-fertilized by a moth.

 Perhaps create a project by having the children take a photo of or sketch the yucca without its flowers as a “Spring-to-Summer Project.” Then, once the yucca begins flowering, have them photo/sketch it at this stage. When a yucca flowers, it’s very delicate flower is exciting to watch unfold. Once dried in late summer, these tall flowers can be picked and put in the classroom or home classroom in a vase. These can last, quite literally, for years.

Spring gardens can bring curiosity to the surface and joy to a child’s face as he or she learns something new about nearby surroundings. They allow us to experience both creation and creativity at the same time and provide a ton of inspiration in terms of projects. You might even be tempted to make a small fairy garden, for example, with a little grass seed, potting soil, random things the kids find in the garden and then some hand-fashioned housing, and so forth! So, time to have some spring fun; feel free to send any projects you have completed our way!

Thank you to Chris Runoff for your photo of children, to JustABigGeek for your crocus photo, to kretyen for your cactus photo, to Fool On The Hill for your yucca fruits photo!

Children in Art Museums

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

In my research in art museums many parents tell me they don’t feel comfortable taking children to the art museum. Their reasons vary. Some don’t feel knowledgeable enough about art and fear looking stupid. Others perceive there is nothing for children to do there and are concerned that either the children will damage something or be bored.

Most art museums offer a variety of enjoyable family programs and that are a good way to become familiar with the museum. Check the museum’s website for the family events schedule. Hint: Sometimes museuum websites hide the family programs under the “Education” tab. In addition, many art museums have interactive family galleries where everyone can have a hands-on, minds-on experience with art. Admittedly some art museums are more “family-friendly” than others but here are a few tips for getting the most out of a visit to any art museum.

1. Be curious. Let go of the idea that you need to be an expert. Children don’t worry about this, they just follow their interests. Keep in mind that typical visitor behavior in art museums is more like haphazard grazing than eating a full meal from start to finish, so let children “graze” according to their interests. Some interests will be momentary and others will be more sustained. Rather than feel you have to answer children’s questions, help them follow up on their own questions, ponder possibilities, and seek answers from someone at the museum, if possible, in books, and online.

2. Visit frequently. A trip to the art museum is not like a vaccination – once you’ve seen it you don’t need it again. Every time you go you discover something else, even if you look at the same art each time. A family museum membership is a good value and allows you to make many short visits, avoiding fatigue, and children wishing they were somewhere else. Visit often enough to feel comfortable there and learn your way around. Children like to feel an ownership of public institutions.

3. Plan ahead and be picky. Many visitors try to see the entire art museum in one visit. If you take repeated shorter visits then each visit can be focused on one part of the museum. Check on the museum’s website for exhibitions and collections on view. Let children participate in planning what to do. Explore the website further because many art museums, such as the Walters Art Museum, have special child-friend interactive sites.

Families in ArtSparks at the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY

4. Seek inspiration. Even if an art museum has no special family gallery or family programs when you visit, experience the museum as an artist might. Bring along sketchbooks (adults need to do this too) and color pencils. Most museums allow sketching in the galleries with pencils but check the policy. When you tire of standing and looking, find a place to sit and sketch. Some museums even allow you to sit on the floor but check that too. If there is a sculpture garden and the weather is nice, that’s a great place to sketch and maybe even have a snack – but remember, no food or drink in the museum galleries.

These are just a few ideas to get you started but there are many more. For example, Australian researcher, Katrina Weier, has good ideas for taking young children to the art museum. as does Erica Loop and Abby Margolis Newman.

The most important thing is to go, relax, and have a good time. So take your inner artist to an art museum!

Thanks for the great photos to Johnnie Utah, hoyasmeg at the High Museum of Art’s Greene Family Gallery in Atlanta, and the Speed Art Museum, ArtSparks in Louisville KY.

Art: An Artifact with Many Purposes

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Early universities established what faculty considered the four major areas of study: arts, law, medicine, and theology.

Over time, the “arts” evolved to mean more of some things (storytelling, finger-painting) and less of others (stained glass work, cathedral wood carvings), the Latin root for the word “art,” ars, is a base meaning “put together, join, fit.” In any case, the arts are here to stay.

Art can turn the routine of daily life into refreshing adventures in many ways, but three of them are by expressing art as immersion through the imagination or fantasy, art as therapy for healing, and art as community-building engagement in social change. Art can teach us lessons, provoke questions, and help us experience cultures through the lenses of artful eyes.

From the Hogwart Express of Rowling’s Harry Potter to the science fiction of StarTrek to the hobbits’ adventures of J. R. R. Tolkein, it is clear to children (and to the adult’s inner child) that art and fantasy easily partner. In these cases, a continuous thread of stories provided an imersive “reality” that captured millions’ imaginations. However, a child can express one great little story into a singular work of art as well.

Sometimes art is most helpful as a way to heal. Remember the thousands of drawings posted on fences and on Web sites after 9/11? Or children’s drawings from around the world after Princess Diana passed away? Art—storytelling, poetry, music, dance, visual arts, painting, sculpture or other forms of creativity—can serve to help us transform from a difficult experience to a more peaceful one. How? Scientists tell us that art can reduce the experience of stress to one of relaxation. Especially when guided, it can help transform pain into acceptance, sometimes into a work of art.

Art can also be used to build community and, in so doing, help socialize us. As with events around 9/11 or those around Princess Diana, communities came together to share stories, remembrances, and to share their common experience of loss. The art created around these events served as powerful reminders not only of the lost ones but also of possible futures for the surviving ones.

Art can represent evolutionary social issues also.  An example would be the emergence

of art communities around a new social issue—that of  “going green”.

In this case, green art can serve to inspire us about a cleaner future, remind us to

conserve resources, and allow us to understand that we are not alone, that we are one

of many concerned and committed to bring children a cleaner future.

Whether art serves purposes of delightful fantasy, healing, or community engagement,

or just fun, it is one of the elements of a core curriculum that exhibits

individuals’ humanity and talents.  In what way will you use art to move you through

the day today?

Encouraging The Creative Mind: Lessons from Leonardo

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

It’s tempting to think that our intelligence is measured through our verbal reasoning and mathematical capacities but such a narrow version of intelligence has been thoroughly debunked by contemporary psychology.

Howard Gardner in his work Frames of Mind, believes we have 7 major forms of intelligence.

Here they are, as listed by Michael Gelb, from his work ‘How to think like Leonardo da Vinci’, complete with examples of each intelligence in action:


1. Logical-mathematical
— Stephen Hawkings, Isaac Newton, Marie Curie
2. Verbal-Linguistic — William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson and Jorge Luis Borges
3. Spatial-Mechanical — Michelangelo, Georgia O’Keefe
4. Musical — Mozart, Ella Fitzgerald
5. Bodily-Kinesthetic – Muhammad Ali, Martha Graham
6. Interpersonal-Social — Nelson Mandela, Queen Elizabeth I
7. Intrapersonal (Self-Knowledge) — Thich Nhat Hanh, Mother Teresa.

Of course, given such a list of intelligences that we possess, intelligence does not/cannot exist solely in your head! Neuro-scientists insist that we are intelligent at our very cellular level, and as a result, the mind-body-spirit separation that occurred over time in history does not serve us well. Moreover, as we get older, our brains are capable of making increasingly more complex new connections if we encourage them to do so. And this is the rub. In order for our intelligences to become developed equally, we must take a holistic approach to their development, only then do we have a chance of becoming, like Leonardo da Vinci, gifted, multi-talented individuals. Renaissance men and women.

Michael Gelb, based on a study of Leonardo and his methods, offers 7 Da Vincian principles to be remembered, developed and applied (across all ages!):

1. Curiosita – a perpetual curiosity and willingness to ask questions, continually learning about the world around you
2. Dimostrazione – the application of knowledge to experience and being willing to learn from mistakes
3. Sensazione – the refinement and development of sensory intelligence, especially sight as a way of enlivening experience
4. Sfumato – to go up in smoke – the willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty
5. Arte/Scienza – whole brain thinking — balancing science and art, logic and imagination
6. Corporalita – the cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness and poise
7. Connessione – systemic thinking – the ability to recognize and appreciate the interconnectedness of all phenomena.

Renaissance men and women are not restricted to any societal period. Indeed, many people demanding educational reform to create citizens more capable of living and thriving in an interdependent world believe that we need a new form of Renaissance individual for these times. Our current educational systems demand us to specialize, when really, a more general and generous understanding of the holistic nature of our world would serve us better. At the very least, contemporary and future citizens need to be digitally literate as well as globally aware.

In this new year, consider how you can expand your repertoire of intelligences — what would you like to learn this year? what would your kids like to learn? How can you begin to craft a creative mind and life based on Da Vinci’s principles?

With thanks to maven and Dave ‘Coconuts’… for their images!

Kids on Computers : When to Start?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

During Randy Parker’s Seattle radio interview, the issue of age appropriateness came up.

Yes, we hear stories of eighty-year-olds having a grand old time with Creativity Express, but what about on the other end?  When is a child ready to play with the program?

This can be puzzling. The animated software program suggests ages 7-97. Dr. Toy, which has recognized Creativity Express as one of this year’s “Top 10 Creative Products” suggests 6-12. (Thanks also to Homeschool Blog for an award).

Really, when can kids get the most value out of Creativity Express and other programs? If we say Let’s Start With Art, when do we start?

We probably all know a family (or three!) that are all over tech. The parents are engineers or web developers. The kids are writing code by eight. They design games for each other for fun. But what about the rest of us?

Well know that you are probably not the first to ask. Daniel D. Shade wrote his oft-quoted piece, Developmentally Appropriate Software back in 1991. Some of us weren’t even “launched” then. He developed, with Dr. Susan Haugland, a criteria scale, that measures the value of software programs for kids.

Some of the criteria are obvious.

* Does the software offer clear instructions?
* Age appropriate in terms of realistic concepts?
* Appropriate methods?
* Expanding complexity?  “low entry, high ceiling.”

He also writes, “Please do not think, however, that we have reached the pinnacle of early childhood computer applications. The majority of software produced for early childhood is still drill-and-practice, software improvements continue to center on graphics and sound rather than content.”

So, as we have heard before, in other contexts, content is key. What are kids being asked to do?  Chase things around to groovy sounds and lights? Or is there value in the program?  Frustration or mastery?

Between the ages of 1 and 2, cause and effect makes sense to a child. They also start getting computer basics around now. Be gentle with the keyboard. Don’t sit on it. Don’t throw it. There are games that offer magic by simply touching a key. Since this age group can’t recognize letters, keyboarding is limited to forward and back arrows. Full-on assistance please.
There are programs like Baby Smash that don’t even ask for fingers. My boys loved this one.

At around 3 or 4, your child will start showing readiness for “real” software. Simple stories. Puzzles. No complicated scenarios. No timed games. They need to work at their own pace.
They also still need a helper, since few children are reading at this age. A parent or teacher on hand is a good way to learn.

There is software that supports learning numbers, colors, shapes, letters. It’s also a good age for music and artistic software. Make sure there is a  balance between structured learning, right/wrong stuff, and open play.
It’s all good.

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, when used appropriately, technology can enhance children’s cognitive and social abilities. Computers are compelling. Colors. Sounds. Little people see us big ones working on computers, they want to do that too. (They want cel phones too, but that’s another story).

The right software programs engage them in creative play, problem solving, some sort of conversation. And control! How cool for them to control pacing. Repeat games as often as they want.

Again! again! again! heard that before?

NAEYC also recommends, “Just as parents continue to read to children who can read themselves, parents and teachers should both participate with children in computer activities and encourage children to use computers on their own and with peers.”

So they are on their own, but they aren’t. Be with them to offer help, encouragement, praise.

In terms of choice, Dr. Hoagland offers these sage words of advice.
“The instructions should be clear and easy to understand and the software should provide the kids with visual prompts and/or a help option they can refer to when needed, minimizing adult supervision. Software should contain no violent objects, characters or activities, and should include positive social values, such as cooperating, sharing, communicating and expressing feelings.   Advertisement is visibly reduced and the children are exposed to concrete representations of objects, sounds and settings that belong to the real world, since children tend to believe without much questioning that what they see and hear is true.”

And there will be merchandise targeting the little people.
There are scaled-down versions of mice that claim to work from ages 2-10.
Or why not just shoot for the whole FunKey Board Fun Mouse Bundle.
And what about a pre-school computer desk, “comfortably fits a child from 2 to 6.” But maybe we don’t need to shell out the big bucks to create our Mini Me.

Dr. Hoagland sums up by saying ” in their early ages, children need to engage in activities that require the use of their hands, hearts, bodies and minds.”

So true. Let’s not make the computer, like the TV, in Stephen Spielberg’s assessment, “the third parent.”

Also, don’t forget to introduce healthy computing habits.

* Posture (Did we all just straighten up?)
* Seat comfort.
* Take breaks to rest the body and eyes.
* No food or drinks within dangerous proximity.
* Clean screen. Just like grownups.

Also, realize that kids will be online more as they age. But don’t worry. That’s a good thing. According to a recent Macarthur Foundation study, it turns out that America’s youth are developing important social and technical skills online. They are hanging out, but they are also learning. So that’s good, right?

It’s what we do.

So there is no right time to start with art. Just let the little bots play, explore, and see what happens. Years from now, who knows what they will be doing with computers?

But if we help them now, they will help us later, when the latest technology confounds us oldsters.

Photo by machado17

Design is Everywhere

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Check out that monitor you’re looking at? Ever wonder who designed it? Or how about that mouse you’re clicking? The pen sitting on your desk. The desk itself. The clothes you’re wearing, the car you’re driving. Or even still—the seats in your car, all the way down to the springs, in the seat, in the car you’re driving. All designed by someone.

Design is everywhere—we just tend to take it for granted. We really don’t notice how everything is designed, but we’re drawn to the design—either consciously, or subconsciously. We don’t really know why we want the cool new cell phone, or the latest fashions. We just do. It’s all about the design.

Try this test. Take a minute out of your day to pick an object—could be anything, a radio, tv, shampoo bottle, coffee cup, a spoon, a fork—anything. Then consider the design. The shape/contour/materials/color, etc. Then, think about how design ties into that object on multiple levels.

Example: a designer designed the plastic earpiece from the phone on my desk, which required a mold (which required a designer), made by a machine (which required a designer), which has a bunch of crazy parts (which required a designer)…. you get my point. The links become nearly infinite.

Now, consider the power of design, how it influences your life and how it ties in to creativity. Design is everywhere.

Chris Stevenson
Madcap Logic Graphic Designer

Meet the Players….Randy Parker

Thursday, November 13th, 2008


Randy Parker, Founder Madcap Logic

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after growing up.”
Pablo Picasso

How many of us start out as creative little beans, slapping colors around, mucking with clay, paste, crayons? Happy. Yet at some point, we start to feel inadequate. Maybe someone said something unkind. Maybe no one said anything at all.

This is one of the reasons Parker created Creativity Express.

“My main goal was to open that back up. Kids are wild, fearless at a young age. Yet at some point, that shuts down.” By using the animated software, kids get to learn about artists, their techniques, their tools, and become artists themselves.
“I contend that everyone has artistic abilities.”

The whole idea started as a museum guide for kids. Parker wanted to create a bridge between museums and schools, he worked with the staff at The National Gallery of Art to develop the program. . Kids would learn about the art in advance, then walk the great halls with enhanced perspective and information. However, the teachers noted the value of the software, in and of itself.  Nothing like it existed, so the project grew into a more structured tool, with a full curriculum. Parker and team brought in the Institute for Learning Innovation. Full on art 101.”I didn’t even know what the word pedagogy meant.” says Parker.
Together they built a fun tool that teaches kids everything art, from Anasazi culture to wax resist technique.
The program also encourages creativity through games and activities.
Everyone should express their inner artist, we are now finding important links between expression and the brain. Yet kids either don’t have opportunities to be creative, or feel like they have to excel, in this go go age.

“We stigmatize ourselves,” says Parker.  “Yet we all have the capability to be creative.”
Parker knows creative. At the helm of Disney’s famed computer animation department, he worked with teams of gifted graphic artists for twelve years. Although his own background was film study, he was immersed in a world of visual literacy.
The studio is known for intense preparation, each film undergoes a 3-4 year process of detailed research. For the film, Mulan, several dozen artists went to China to absorb firsthand, cultural traditions, the landscape, color palettes, quality of light. This depth of experience informs Creativity Express. Parker seeks to hone a child’s senses of observation and context through the software program. One theme running throughout is artists observing other artists, techniques, cultures and emotional states.

The current trend towards arts integrative learning is being welcome by many champions of the whole brain.
“Our education system doesn’t encourage right brain thinking, and that’s a shame.,” says Parker. Think Pink.
“However, I do think there is a wave picking up here,”says Parker, who has witnessed the teachers’ enthusiasm for early creativity.
“I have heard teachers say ‘If we don’t teach kids art in second grade, we’re going to have a really hard time teaching them physics in eleventh grade.’”
Parker agrees –our brains work holistically – the challenge for parents and teachers is how to bring these two capacities back together.
“They are both important, the left brain holds the factoids, the right brain tells it what to do with all that.” says Parker.  “Imagination, it’s more important than knowledge.”

Great Minds….

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

The Information Age has brought us to an amazing place where we can be anywhere, anytime, with anyone.  Talking, recording, viewing anything. Heady stuff, but what kind of head? According to Daniel Pink, a whole lot of “left brain” got us here, but we need to shift towards “right brain”.

In his book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future, he outlines a world where right-brain qualities rule.
-inventiveness
-empathy
-meaning

This new model applies to education, careers, life.
In Pink’s view, students and employees are operating within a dated model of needing to please authority figures. External validation mode. From early ages, we have all been conditioned to come up with correct answers, leading to reward. We blindly work hard for a gold star, high grades, a bigger desk, a corner office.  But there is little room for creativity within this model. In fact, in his experience, it can lead to burn out, lack of motivation, worse.

He had been a successful political speechwriter, but found that he somehow lacked motivation. And as he travels around the world conducting interviews and speaking engagements, he spreads the word of self fulfillment through doing what you enjoy. Sound familiar? In my earlier post, Sir Ken Robinson also outlines the many ways the human brain can learn and operate. There is no one right way of learning, teaching, thinking. The key, we seem to be hearing, is to find your own unique self. And embrace it. And as we teach our children, we should allow them to find it as well. Early and often.

In all phases of life, everyone should be encouraged to blossom and thrive. The responsibility lies with the teachers, the employers and of course, the self.

Pink urges us to find out what we enjoy doing. Forget external rewards. “Do what you do because you like it.”

Seek fun. Interesting. Challenging. Meaningful.

Clip and save this recipe for success.

Thanks to Daniel Pink for the image.

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