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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

This Is Your Brain On Fun

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

One way to reach kids, to teach kids, is to engage their imagination, their eyes, ears and senses. Regardless of the subject matter, if children are connected, they are open to receiving incoming info.
Actually, this is true of anyone, young or old, two legs or four.

Dr. Marion Diamond, the first woman on the science faculty at Berkley elaborates in her Response of the Brain to Enrichment.

“In 1874 Charles Darwin mentioned that the brains of domestic rabbits were considerably reduced in bulk in comparison with those from the wild because, as he concluded, these animals did not exert their intellect, instincts, and senses as much as did animals in the wild. However, it was not until the 1960s, that the first controlled studies in animals demonstrated that enriching the environmental condition in which they were confined could alter both the chemistry and anatomy of the cerebral cortex and, in turn, improve the animals’ memory and learning ability.”

So if brain morphology actually changes as a result of experience, wouldn’t we want to expand and vary teaching experiences?

As educator/author, Dee Dickinson writes:

“The human brain is the most complex system on earth, yet it is too often used in schools primarily as a simple device for storage and retrieval of information.” So true, as information is poured out of one human’s mouth, the teacher, sometimes with the sole visual aid of written words, numbers, diagrams on a board. Students are then expected to absorb and repeat data, facts upon command (testing).
Dickenson says, “New neural connections that make it possible for us to learn and remember and problem-solve and create can continue to form throughout life, particularly when human beings are in environments that are positive, nurturing, stimulating and that encourage action and interaction. Such environments are opposite from dull, boring, rigid environments in which students are the passive recipients of information. Well designed arts programs provide just the kinds of environments that Diamond describes.”
Aha, the arts again. Looks like an artistic environment really does encourage children to engage their imaginations, open up to information. Wouldn’t you prefer a brain on fun?

Image courtesy of ParaScubaSailor via Flickr

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.”

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