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This e-book is an accompaniment to the book "Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills," more details here: http://www.davidsherwin.com/creative
"Creative Workshop" contains 80 creative challenges that will help any designer reach a breadth of stronger design solutions, in various media, within any set time period. Exercises range from creating a typeface in an hour, to designing a paper robot in an afternoon, to designing web pages and other interactive experiences. Each exercise includes compelling visual solutions from other designers and background stories to help designers increase their capacity to innovate.
Before the book, however, there was a quarter-long class where design students had to complete 80 projects in just 11 weeks. This Teacher's Guide describes the pedagogical methods behind the book, how to create your own Creative Workshop class or workshop series, as well as how to utilize challenges from the book most effectively in a classroom setting. This text is intended for teachers of design and creative thinking, but it may also be helpful for designers and creative managers.
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CONTENTS build upon this work! ............... 3 INTRODUCTION: what DO design students need? .............. 5 Using creative workshop in a classroom setting ............ 13 Teaching the challenges: Foundation ............................... 21 Execution .................................. 30 Materiality............................... 42 Instruction ............................... 49 Observation . ............................. 52 . innovation ................................ 55 interpretation......................... 62 about the authors .................... 71 GET THE BOOK ............................. 72layout based on a design by Grace Ring, HOW Design Press
becoming too precious, and encourages with a willingness to share and help each exploration of ideas. There’s something about other… It just doesn’t feel like work when you’re sitting down and finessing an idea on the doing it right.” computer that can make it harder to let go of — uane King, principal of BBDK and creator of D an idea that’s just not working. Even when you the design blog Thinking for a Living know it’s not!” “Trust is by far the most important thing. It’s —Michel Vrana, book designer fragile and takes time to build, but only with trust can there be collaboration. And only with collaboration will people help each other to make the best ideas in the group surface.”“Technology and — cott Berkun, author of The Myths of S Innovation and Making Things Happentools should not get in 3. Sketching Ideasthe way of your ideas. Out of all the tools available to a working designer, the humble pencil is often the quickest method to accessThe second this happens, one’s intuition. It’s often not listed as a requirement in a job listing, but creative directors and designersyou’re screwed.” looking to hire you will listen not only to what comes out of your mouth, but also the quality of thought—David Conrad that you render through design sketching. Only after considering a sketch can the design execution take place, whether via Photoshop, code, or tempera paint. “The ability to sketch an idea before executing2. Collaboration Communication it is fundamental to any work environment and to any economy. Sketching affords designersEven for solo designers, collaboration is the lifeblood the ability to suggest without committing toof any professional creative endeavor—with your marks or grids or any element of design. Byclients, with fellow designers, and with vendors that quickly sketching out ideas, the poor onessupport fulfilling your work. But to collaborate well, you fade quickly from priority without wasting pre-have to squelch your ego, speak your mind, bring in cious time to execute them. The discerningpartners from other disciplines beyond design, and designer uses sketching to rule out as well asknow the business problems you’re trying to solve. rule in dominant ideas about the formal ele- “Sharing your thoughts isn’t a risk, it’s an asset. ments of any communication. It is the domain Creative kinships with people from a wide of the sketch where the concept is nailed variety of skill sets serve to expand your views down as well, instead of massaging more aes- of what’s possible. Whether designers, pro- thetic details, which don’t matter one iota if grammers, motion graphics artists, illustrators, the big idea doesn’t work.” copywriters, or photographers, the result will —Carrie Byrne, Creative Director, Worktank be a mix of cultural, economic, and creative energy that can offer true originality while test- “Technology and tools should not get in the ing your assumptions of how things are done… way of your ideas. The second this happens, I love to watch the sparks fly when creative you’re screwed.” individuals meet, match wits, and inspire each —David Conrad, Studio Director, other. I also thoroughly enjoy participating in Design Commission these exchanges myself. These relationships require honesty and a lack of ego combined6 Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
across the table and told the client that ‘this4. Resilience Under Pressure site will be designed and developed with aTo quote Scott Berkun: “There is nothing like the modern, CSS-based format.’ I had no clueimpossible and the unfair to stretch your talents.” if I’d be able to pull it off. With the addedDesigners who focus their energies on untangling pressure of having given my word I threwextraordinary and seemingly intractable problems myself into the project and succeeded wherelearn design fundamentals more quickly, while before I had not. I’ve never gone back toexposing new domains for future exploration. However, table-based work since. Pressure and fear isthese kinds of “stretch” projects must be balanced an excellent motivator.”with time for reflection, or designers will burn out. — ndy Rutledge, Principal and Chief Design A “There was a time in my career when I worked Strategist, Unit Interactive for an individual who directed a department of a well-known agency. This was a person How Can Students Acquire of questionable character who overstepped These Skills More Quickly? boundaries in every way possible. This Devil wore Prada. The years spent at that place Why aren’t more students graduating with these skills? were my second college education. My but- Can these skills be taught in that setting at all? tons were pushed. My ego was battered and In the classroom, there may be a desire to focus on bruised. Because of this, my creativity/problem deep study of design fundamentals, such as typog- solving was stretched to new levels. This was raphy, layout, and the use of computer programs, the most tortuous yet rewarding experience of rather than exploring various domains of design. But my career. Although it may not seem like it at in analyzing the survey we’d sent out more thoroughly, the time, being pushed beyond what you think we realized that developing a fast-paced sequence of is possible is the best education available.” quick design challenges would force designers to ide- —Jon Lindstrand, designer ate in an improvisational manner. They could illustrate their ideas in collaboration with fellow designers, and communicate them to a client or teacher. Recent thinking by design educators in America is“There is nothing like echoing this desire to create:the impossible and “curricula characterized by flux rather than stability; classrooms that are open and perme-the unfair to stretch able rather than closed and finite; teaching materials understood as participatory plat-your talents.” forms that are modular and extensible; and pedagogical practices founded on perceiving the larger system rather than isolated entities—Scott Berkun within that system.” — olly Willis, “Embracing Flux,” New Contexts/ H New Practices: Six Views of the AIGA Design “I had been studying how to design and devel- Educators Conference, edited by Julie Lasky op web pages without using tables for layout, It can be just as hard to effectively learn the skills I’d instead using divs and CSS entirely, but found identified in two- and four-year design schools as it is it quite difficult. I always had to abandon my in the workplace. But not all of this knowledge must effort and go back to table-layout as I butted come from doing graphic design projects. We’ve up against my knowledge and skill limitations. been following ongoing discussions on the Interaction Shortly after starting my first job at an agency, I Design Association’s website regarding this subject. had a client discovery session where I looked Diversion Media, when queried by a graduatingIntroduction: What Do Design Students Need? 7
student about work experience requirements for across all disciplines of design—many of extraordinarybecoming an entry-level interaction designer, complexity and difficulty. Most of the people in thesaid this: class were also working full-time as designers. Most of them had tool-based skills with the latest and greatest “The only way to acquire all these skills is to do software. The only stipulation was that for each chal- projects… However they don’t all need to be lenge in the class, they would need to turn in a pencil- UX projects. If you’ve been a carpenter, short based sketch of their solution, unless a computer order cook, or theater designer you probably execution was required. have a lot of them already. Plus, of course, you need to demonstrate killer deliverables, The structure of the class was not invented whole- mastery of several software programs, and sale by the two of us. One of our first roommates familiarity with the development process. I’d post-college was a graduate student in poetry. In also like to know that you’ve been on at least the summer of 1999, he took a class called “Instant one successful software project through the Thesis, or 80 Works in 7 Weeks,” which was being full lifecycle (from whiteboard to launch). All taught by the poet Peter Klappert. The class explored of the above is much more important than an collage methods, blot-outs, concrete poetry, metric/ arbitrary number of years...” fixed forms, linked verse, anaphora, dialogue, satire, visual shape, collaborative writing, fixed and looseSo, every student must master new software technolo- rhyme schemes, musicality, tone, and dozens of othergies, old-school design theory, and production meth- approaches. Each student was responsible for fulfillingodologies, while fulfilling more projects. But we think in-class and take-home exercises, as well as comingthe dirty secret is not in that a designer should spend up with their own exercises that could be shared withweeks or months on those projects. The projects the class. Many students found the class to be oneshould be unfair in their construction, and limited to a transformative creative experience far beyond anyan hour or two at a time, not days or weeks. other classes they had ever taken in college or gradu- ate school. With a little research, we discovered that Peter’s class was adapted from a course taught at the Corcoran School of Art—one where students were only allowed“Without rules, you’ve two weeks for creating 80 artistic works! The artist Angie Drakopoulos said this about her experience ingot no target to aim for. the Corcoran class:Without flexibility, you “The Corcoran encouraged students to work with many different media and explore newhaven’t the freedom to ideas. What I really learned was a way of think- ing about art, not necessarily how to make it,redefine the target.” but how to think about making it. One of my favorite exercises, in my junior year, was a proj- ect to make 80 works in two weeks. We were—Duane King given specific instructions on different media that had to be used, or an idea to be incorpo- rated, or a color, or words for a piece to refer to. It was exhilarating; it really opened my mindcreative overload as a to the possibilities of making art. Also, becausepedagogical approach of the project’s size and deadline, you couldn’t spend too much time on any individual work;To prove this theory, David taught two quarter-long so you achieved a certain degree of detach-classes where recent graduates from design school ment from the end result, which allowed a lotwere tasked with solving 80 creative challenges of latent ideas and tendencies to surface. I8 Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
think that was the first time I experienced art as a mind-game.” challenge You’ve been asked to submit anDesigning Structures for Improvisation identity design for the 2012 OlympicCould design be approached as a similar sort of mind Games in London. The initial sketchgame, fostering a similar sense of detachment, allow- of your logo must be composeding intuition to bubble up from the margins? Would from a single, unbroken line. Onceit possible to cram a set of wildly divergent design you’ve placed your pen or pencilexercises into the course of short time frame, forcing down on the paper, you can’t take itdesigners to exercise the full breadth of their abili- off the page until the logo is complete. Don’tties in a finite period of time—learning critical skills go back for corrections—embrace mistakes!more quickly? Would people in such an environmentbecome better designers at an exponentially fasterrate, with substantially better output? Almost everyone knows what the Olympics are, so a design brief isn’t required to understand what charac-During 2009, we worked to construct the challenges teristics may comprise a great logo for the event.that would serve as the foundation of this “80 Works”class for designers. What made this a difficult challenge was the con- straint around how you exercise a critical, almostWhen considering what would comprise these commonplace skill for any designer: sketching.design challenges, one of Duane King’s responses to Becoming more mindful of what ideas flow out ofour survey best summarized the spirit of our approach: a set of intuitive pencil gestures, and using those “There are various factors in creating an ade- gestures as finished material rather than polishing quate space for a creative team to work within, and refining identity concepts with tighter sketches but I tend to focus on the definition of struc- helped students begin to trust their initial ideas and tures for improvisation, simplicity in complex- their hand-crafted nature. ity and freedom of will. Without rules, you’ve We also had students try out a variant where teams got no target to aim for. Without flexibility, you of people had to create Olympic logo ideas with a haven’t the freedom to redefine the target.” different constraint:We loved the notion of “structures of improvisation”and how it encouraged a push and pull between take it furtherrules and flexibility. We knew that each challengewould have to combine open-ended flexibility with Get into a team of four people. Together, you willrigid rules. The time limit for each challenge would sketch a new logo for the upcoming Olympics. Thealso have to force an immediate confrontation of the design will be passed from one person to the next.problem at hand, rather than letting solutions rumble Each person, using a permanent-ink marker or col-around in the subconscious for a few days. ored pencil, can contribute one element to the design at a time. If you’re crafting type, you can dot an i orAs an example, one of the first challenges David cross a t, but only one word can be written per persontaught in the class was “One Line Logo,” which has a (unless it’s a run-on, if you really want to bend the30-minute time limit: rules). Altering the paper in any way can also consti- tute an element of your design. Keep in mind: once you’ve started, you can’t crumple it up and start over again. And when you’re done, your team will share your work with the class.Introduction: What Do Design Students Need? 9
This is the opposite of the previous constraint: instead Throughout each class, the students learned toof completing an idea in one gesture, the idea must use timeboxing both in solving individual challengesbe painstakingly communicated or collaboratively and in team collaboration, working in short sprintscreated. And with only one shot to put the idea down tempered by pauses for evaluation and reflection.on paper, the students had to be clever about inte- When solving design problems, the studentsgrating any mistakes into their final identity sketch. would use the first timebox as a place to use unorthodox brainstorming methods to kickstart This is only one example of how we constructed their creative process. the challenges. In the last section of this e-book,“Teaching the Challenges,” we provide further By repeating this process over and over again— thoughts around what makes the challenges sometimes in as little as 15 to 20 minutes—students in Creative Workshop so, for lack of a better had a chance not only to exercise their own talents word, challenging. under pressure, but to also gain an appreciation of the ways fellow designers solved the same problems. Structuring the Design Process Needless to say, during the first few weeks the stu- Through Timeboxing dents struggled. They were putting in sleepless nightsIn the process of brainstorming the challenges, perfecting design executions instead of following thewe realized the following: If a designer knew which skill provided class instruction and focusing on simplethey want to learn, almost any kind of problem could pencil sketches of their ideas. By the end of the class,be designed to help them acquire it. But the way stu- however, they were exploring strong design ideas fromdents tried to solve the challenges, and the specific sketchbooks filled with possible design directions andprocesses they used to arrive at a solution quickly, spending less time sweating under their deadlineswould require an explicit structure if they were going in class and at work. They learned to collaborateto succeed in the time frames they were provided. with each other effectively; with such short deadlines,And this structure needed to start with a designer there wasn’t time for ego. And, most importantly, theyidentifying strong ideas, before she or he became explored domains of design they had never experi-lost in the flow of polishing an executed design. enced before, which redirected many of their career paths dramatically.In researching and testing different design processes,the one that stood out as an exemplary model for the You can read more about timeboxing and using light-class was timeboxing. This technique is often used in weight brainstorming methods beginning on page 4the world of software development, but it’s just as use- of Creative Workshop.ful when creating design solutions. It also keeps design-ers from moving too quickly into a design execution,before they’ve brainstormed a broad range of ideas.“Pretending you know what you’re doing is almostthe same as knowing what you are doing, so justaccept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.”—Bre Pettis and Kyo Stark, “Cult of Done Manifesto”10 Introduction: What Do Design Students Need?
The rest of this e-book outlines how this more agileDesigning (and Teaching) with philosophy for design instruction was implemented inDirty Hands a classroom setting. It’s our hope that there is mate-When design curricula is slow to change, and it rial from this text that you can adapt, explore, andrequires great effort to learn and understand the improve as part of your teaching efforts.new and ever-changing technologies we must useas designers and teachers of design, it’s tempting tocling to what we’ve learned and “what works” as theend-all, be-all of design practice. Yet in schools, we’reseeking to keep our students’ hands dirty all the time.Perhaps we’re just turning over the same plot of land.In having taught the 80 Works class twice, and inhaving solved all of the challenges in the CreativeWorkshop book—some multiple times—we’ve dealtwith a lot of ambiguity in the design process, aswell as many blind spots in training and working asa designer. It would be impossible for us to professexpertise in many of the focus areas we tackled inclass. In many cases, constructing a challenge andplacing it in the hands of multiple designers has beena leap of faith: sometimes leading to highly successfuland exciting design thinking, and sometimes fizzlinginto a muted failure.But in all cases, we noticed that as the class (andby extension, the teachers) settled into not knowingwhere the next turn would take us, we became morecreative and more willing to take risks. “Pretending youknow what you’re doing is almost the same as know-ing what you are doing, so just accept that you knowwhat you’re doing even if you don’t and do it,” say BrePettis and Kyo Stark in their “Cult of Done Manifesto.”They add: “People without dirty hands are wrong.Doing something makes you right.”Flipping our fear of doing something wrong into adesire to experiment and take risks is what we thinkour student’s employers truly desire from the designersthat they hire. We should be even more purposeful inhow we cultivate these next generations of designerswith the right thinking tools.This requires us to surprise ourselves, and by extensionour students and co-workers. Time spent teachingtools and craft must be balanced with the time neces-sary for students to gain tacit knowledge in ideation,collaboration, sketching, and remaining nimble andcreative under pressure. That is, if we want studentsto be employable and successful in their first roles asdesigners, out in the world.Introduction: What Do Design Students Need? 11
Using Creative Workshopin a Classroom SettingThe core of a Creative Workshop class is a set of students will become faster and faster at solving chal-instructor-provided challenges, which is then supple- lenges, so you’ll need to further shorten their dead-mented by a set of student-created challenges. lines or increase the number of deliverables requiredThe teacher then constructs “story arcs” out of the as you progress.challenges for each class (and its accompanying No challenge should have a time limit longer thanhomework assignments), conveying larger lessons two hours—especially for take-home assignments,about creativity, craft, teamwork, process, and other where students will be tempted to lavish days on pol-fundamental skills. ishing design executions. They can do that when the class is over.What Makes a Great Creative Challenge?For a challenge to succeed, it needs to contain the True Goals for Growthfollowing attributes: There’s what you’re asking your classes to create in a focus area, and then there’s what you want themAn Area of Focus to learn.When considering which challenges to use in a For example: Challenge #3, “Time Machine,” requiresclass—or creating your own challenges—make sure students to take an old advertisement and executethere is a clear, stated area of focus as part of the it as if it had been published in a modern magazine.challenge statement. This ranges across the various While this is the goal for class output, what the chal-domains of design, from branding to packaging to lenge is actually teaching students is how to assessadvertising to user interface design. This will help the the strategy behind an advertisement, analyze theclass gauge what kinds of design outputs are neces- societal and artistic trends that helped to shape itssary while solving the challenge. A list of focus areas is execution, and translate all of those details into aincluded in the Creative Workshop book. modern design execution.Tangible Creative Output This is no small feat—especially in 90 minutes.Each challenge requires tangible output, from a SITS Outside Everyone’s Comfort Zonedesign sketch to a high-fidelity design execution. (Including Yours)Sharing an idea verbally when time is up does notcount for credit. Truly inspiring creative challenges aren’t bread-and- butter design problems. When constructing a chal-An (Almost) Impossible Time Limit lenge, think about how you can add variables or unusual constraints to an everyday project to pushIn class, the time limits for challenges from Creative your class (and the teacher) into uncharted andWorkshop can be cut in half, or even shorter. If stu- risky territory.dents aren’t rushing to the last second to completethe stated deliverables required at the end of a If you don’t feel comfortable leading an exercise inchallenge, you’ve given them too much time. Your an area of design you haven’t explored before, inviteUsing Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting 13
in other instructors or working professionals to help real-world situations down into their constituent com-facilitate those challenges. ponents, then analyzing them for ways in which they can be reconstructed and improved.Contains Content Your Students Observation: Requiring students to step outside theCare About classroom and their studio into the real world, usingEach time we taught a Creative Workshop class, their senses to observe and reflect on how otherwe provided the students with a brief survey at the people behave—then using this insight as the fuel forbeginning where we asked them what types of proj- design solutions.ects and what kinds of clients they’d like to work with Innovation: Working with design problems specificallyin the future. This information was incorporated into in the domain of product design, service delivery,many of the class challenges and increased and social innovation—forcing designers to grapplestudent engagement. with how to reinvent businesses and reshape humanIn addition, we asked for each student to provide at behavior.the start of every class period a challenge that they’d Interpretation: Open-ended problems whose solu-created. This can be for credit, or for students to tions require designers not only to determine whathave input into the class content. Depending on how needs to be designed, but also to answer an evenyou’ve structured the class, you can select the more important question: Why does something needstudent-suggested challenges that fit the arc of to be made?upcoming classes and incorporate them. An important additional category to note isBased on student suggestion, we’ve included at least “Unsolvable Problems.” Students often find ways to20% student-inspired challenges over the life of each approach lose-lose situations with creativity and freshclass we’ve taught. perspectives that provide new ways of influencing major societal issues. We often throw one unsolv-VARYING LEVELS OF DIFFICULTY able problem into the mix as a final assignment forThe challenges in Creative Workshop are ordered from the class, for all of us to understand exactly how farcraft-oriented problems that hone making skills to a designer’s reach can truly extend in dealing withdesign problems that are open-ended, highly compli- wicked problems.cated, and fraught with ambiguity. When brainstorm- Tasking students with an insoluble problem maying challenges for the class and the book, Mary hit seem a bit sadistic, but it’s one of the best ways forupon the following categories for the different types of designers to understand what it feels like to grappleproblems designers solve in their daily work, indepen- with—and identify in the future—whether a problemdent of disciipline: is wicked (i.e. influenceable, but not solveable). ForFoundation: The fundamentals of being a designer more on this topic, see our rationale for Challenge #79from a craft-based perspective. This includes typog- on page 69 of this e-book.raphy, layout, grid systems, design history, research,illustration, and sketching. Using Exercises in Your Existing ClassesExecution: Moving from fundamentals to real-world When David taught Creative Workshop classes, eachdesign deliverables, while being forced to explore a class period was four hours and consisted of solvingrange of design solutions in a faster timeframe than five challenges in a row. This was a great way to intro-they may have attempted in the past. duce a range of brainstorming methods, focus on a series of challenges that teach a specific skill, or breakMateriality: The tangible act of making things as a large-scale project into digestible chunks.part of the design process—often without comput-ers—yielding design executions that rely on the hand- It’s also possible to string out challenges over a seriesmade touch for their power. of weeks in a recurring fashion. At frog design’s Seattle studio, David set up a biweekly lunchtime series toInstruction: Cultivating the crucial skill of breaking explore different methods of physical prototyping,14 Using Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting
using challenges from the book and timeboxing to We required the students to show an artifact for eachteach different ways of building and evaluating com- client review, usually in sketch form. Sharing a solutionplicated systems in a low-fidelity format. verbally is not acceptable to the client. (When was the last time you walked into a client review and told themSolution Structures about your design idea without some tangible render- ing of it?)What is a solution structure? It’s a method of engineer-ing social situations around specified challenges that This is a solution structure we have used in everymakes them much harder to solve—forcing student Creative Workshop class period, continually varyingdesigners to learn how to collaborate more effectively. the challenges and the unique deliverables required during each sprint; it forces students to work in parallelIn teaching classes involving Creative Workshop, we and quickly divide large design problems into smallerinvented the following solution structures. See which sub-tasks, which is a crucial skill for any work setting.ones you can come up with as well! STRUCTURE 2: the Round-robinSTRUCTURE 1: 30 Days in 30 Minutes It’s useful to teach at least one class period in a quar-Teams of three or four students are provided with ter or semester where the output from one challengea challenge, which they must solve in 30 minutes. is directly inputted into the next challenge they’ll needThose 30 minutes are divided up into the following to solve, while rotating the students into an entirelytimeboxes: lateral design domain. 8 minutes: Each team reaches a goal that is set As an example: in collaboration with the designer by the teacher. Scott Scheff, we created a five-challenge sequence 2 minutes: The teacher serves as the client, provid- where one of my classes had to create a “record store ing quick feedback to the teams and providing of the future.” the next milestone. In the first challenge, the students came up with the 8 minutes: Each team scrambles to incorporate name of the store and its logo. the feedback and reach the next milestone. In the second challenge, they planned out the store 2 minutes: The teacher/client gives another round space in Manhattan based on a defined set of con- of feedback and sets the final milestone. straints provided by their real estate broker. 8 minutes: Each team incorporates the final feed- The third challenge required them to brainstorm user back and completes the final solution(s) for the flows for a mobile application necessary to buy and challenge. download music while in the space. Last 2 minutes: Each team has 30 seconds to In the fourth challenge, they created a 30-second present their solutions. TV ad for their store that had to include handmade puppets.As an example that describes how this works in action:We provided a class with the “Storybook Ending” chal- For the fifth and final challenge, they had to craftlenge in Creative Workshop, in which they had 30 min- a pitch for investment capital based on everythingutes to come up with the plot and character studies they’d created in the first four challenges.for a children’s book. STRUCTURE 3: Variable Client FeedbackOver the first 8 minutes of solving the challenge, theyhad to ideate around the theme of their book. In the For certain challenges, we’ve stopped the studentssecond 8 minutes, they had to move from the theme midway through solving a challenge and providedto a full-blown plot and characters. In the last 8 min- them “client feedback” as an additional constraint.utes, they had to create a character study and a Another fun way to deliver “client feedback” is tomoral for their book. isolate a student from the overall class, take themUsing Creative Workshop in a Classroom Setting 15