Posts tagged ‘creative process’


Recently, after finishing a major piece of work, we took some time out for a creative design exercise. Similar to our previous #100 Shots experiment, we again challenged ourselves to think from a different discipline point of view, and a different topic all together from what we usually spend our days thinking about. We knew we wanted to do physical prototyping, we wanted it to be quick and we wanted it to feel like purposeful play (so not just “fun”).

We were prompted by the CAPITheticAL exhibition currently on at the Gallery of Australian Design. The exhibition shows the entries to the competition to design a hypothetical Australian capital city.

Our challenge: Design a civic square in a capital city in three hours!

We chose not to do any pre-research on urban design and town planning – except for the exhibition and our own experience and exposure to cities around the world.

Our approach
1.    Taking a small burst of inspiration/research move quickly from
2.    Concept and sketching, to
3.    Three dimensional prototype.

Bonus incidental activities also occurred such as sharing travel stories of favourite cities, scalpeling fingers, discussions about the amount of static electricity generated when cutting into Styrofoam.

The result
The People Mega-vista                                                                                             The Nation’s House




What did we learn

  • We are not urban designers.

Physical prototyping

  • Having a concept is critical – regardless of the type of design. It meant that the design could change during implementation (i.e. as we prototyped) but the intent remained true.
  • Making is dictated by the level of skill with material or knowledge – which means unfamiliarity with materials or the subject can end up dictating a design because you do what you can with what you know.
  • Scale is hard – when you’re drawing a building in relation to a lake, and then you try and do that in three-dimensions, it’s a particular skill.

Design is design is design (but it’s still a skill)

  • Thinking in physical dimensions is challenging. While we think it is learnable with study, practice and a design mindset, it is not instinctive (like we’d expect of visualising being a design skill across the board).
  • No research means you spend time changing as you build/prototype because you have no rationale to back you up or give you direction.
  • Where you position your concept informs the build – too much detail too soon may mean you may miss the big picture (because you’re focused on details like getting the little tram right) or miss the concept intent (because you forget that the environment needs to cater for people living nearby).


So what did we learn from all that

Amongst the obvious (such as concept is king in design, prototyping is a way to learn how to make the design better because you understand and can solve implementation challenges quickly) the overwhelming feeling we had was that experimenting with technique is fun for learning, but when something is on the line – like a real outcome or generating a real solution is sought – experienced professionals leading the application of tools and techniques means you will get a better result.

We reckon this is pretty relevant when we go into organisations who question the value of design and have tried to do it themselves without experience or aptitude towards design as a discipline. It makes demonstrating practical design over theory or espousing “design thinking” without contextualising it to actual human and business outcomes even more important.

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We spend a lot of our time deep in exploring and ‘solving’ our clients’ design problems so we like to make sure we take time to engage with creative processes and activity with no link to our work or even sometimes an outcome.

Our goal is simply to be part of a creative process, think differently for a bit and have fun. It’s usually spontaneous and as far as possible, original. Our latest effort was a little exercise we called #100shots.


How it worked (made up the day before)

  • We split up for one hour
  • Take 50 photos on the phone anywhere in Canberra
  • Come back together in the office – print all photos and stick them all up on a wall randomly

  • (Admire how great our job is that we can do this)
  • Reflect on what we’ve taken and look for themes and patterns – visual or content or whatever

  • Whittle the photos down into themes
  • Done.





What happened that was great?

  • Great creative tension thanks to a blank canvas
  • It felt like we were in a reality tv show (think Amazing Race NOT The Shire)
  • Switched off for 2.5 hours with nothing to do but this exercise (no social media, no filters, just take and talk)
  • The themes we developed when talking about the photos were meaningful even though our perspective when taking them was quite different
  • We didn’t set out to create something – in fact we didn’t know what would actually happen.
  • We did create something pretty cool.


What happened that was interesting?

  • It’s hard to take 50 photos without imposing a narrative on yourself
  • Reflecting on how personal it is to have to spontaneously ‘create’, reveal and share (a lesson we can take into our work where we so often call on participants to prototype or create on OUR terms)
  • Getting beeped because one of us was in a rush to get to the next photo op
  • Falling over in a storm water drain and ripping your pants in front of a child
  • Getting yelled at by a garbo for taking snaps of dumpsters
  • Being asked to help someone get their car out of tight spot (and in the process getting to drive a hotted up Skyline with Usher blaring!)
  • Judging just how to take a close up of the person serving you at a café without them knowing (and being successful)


What’s next?

Who knows – we’ll let you know when we make it up.



Since we did this we discovered this Ray Bradbury quote. We won’t be renaming the exercise #100itemsofozone though ; )

“Ideas come from the Earth. They come from every human experience that you’ve either witnessed or have heard about, translated into your brain in your own sense of dialogue, in your own language form. Ideas are born from what is smelled, heard, seen, experienced, felt, emotionalized. Ideas are probably in the air, like little tiny items of ozone.”


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