change, challenge and creativity…

This was an article I wrote earlier this summer and was first published on City To City, a network of people who bring their experience, ideas and hopes to develop connection, innovation and transformation in the place where they live

Art can often be seen as society’s essential irritant. It can challenge our ingrained perceptions, create emotional responses or stimulate different senses and initiate debate that often transcends our rational understanding. All of which can be really good for us, if we embrace the challenges it can present.

One of the greatest attributes of the human mind, is being able to connect invisible dots, or to take creative leaps in the dark to explore or even create new ground. As Henry Ford famously once said ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’ To me this is a great definition of binary thinking, humans acting like computers. Computers are tools, humans are individuals. The human thought process needs to be unshackled from a status of ‘what is’ to one of ‘what could be’.

beware of artists…

beware of artists…

I remember seeing and experiencing for the first time the ground-breaking conceptual sculpture ‘An Oak Tree’, by  Michael Craig-Martin, in London’s Tate Modern gallery. It was unlike anything I had come across before and I was transfixed. It was a pivotal moment for me in trying to develop my creative thinking.

For those that may have not seen the work, it’s a plain glass of water sitting on a glass shelf 253cm above the ground, with some supporting text mounted on the wall below it. The question and answer format of the text describes changing ‘a glass of water into a full-grown oak tree without altering the accidents of the glass of water’, and explains that ‘the actual oak tree is physically present but in the form of the glass of water’.

At first sight you might feel conned! It really is a glass of water on a shelf – it is most definitely not an oak tree! This is the mind in ‘comfort thinking’ mode. However, push past first impressions and read the accompanying text and see if your perception changes … Craig-Martin considered ‘the work of art in such a way as to reveal its single basic and essential element, belief that is the confident faith of the artist in his capacity to speak and the willing faith of the viewer in accepting what he has to say’ – so if you have faith or belief, anything can be possible. A glass of water can be an oak tree!

You may agree or disagree with the artist, but it has opened a new dialogue in your mind to think about new possibilities, and that is something which is both vital and profound.

My professional creative work is all about generating new ideas, exploring new ways of thinking or approaching an existing problem. For any creative currency to be valid, it has to be challenged. For me it is vital to approach problem-solving from multiple, sometimes contrary, directions, if I am to produce solutions that attempt to rise above stock responses. However, relying solely on an existing reservoir of accumulated ‘comfort zone thinking’ knowledge, the pool of resources I can draw on is fairly shallow and prone to quickly drying up! To avoid this, new experiences, challenges and knowledge need to be embraced on a daily basis.

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious - Albert Einstein

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious – Albert Einstein

It is hard to be creatively inspired in isolation. Hence why I love working collaboratively with different people; clients, coders, printers, team members, etc. Generating an initial concept is comparatively easy, but sometimes it is all too easy to get seduced by your own ideas. Having alternative input and critique is really important to help shape and bring about a more focused solution.

Surrounding yourself with like-minded people with common interests does not challenge ‘comfort zone thinking’ or free the mind from a state of creative inertia. So instead of surrounding myself with the familiar and comforting, I try to embrace change or challenge as part of daily routines. This can be as simple as just choosing or taking different routes instead of familiar journeys. Limitation can also be a great way of providing self-initiated challenges. For example, I recently purchased a new Nikon DSLR camera, and deliberately opted for a 50mm fixed prime lens rather than the general-purpose zoom lens I have always previously used. Quite literally, I will have to change my perspective when taking pictures now! The ‘limitations’ help to push me to think more creatively about the type of shots I can and cannot take.

I also try to allow my passionate curiosity to get the better of me as it often opens the mind to different perspectives or viewpoints. Spending time with those involved in activities outside of my particular sphere of operation, or from different cultures or backgrounds, can bring huge insights and act as a real breath of creative fresh air. I recently attended a PechaKucha night at the De La War Pavillion, where speakers’ topics ranged from The Art and Neuroscience of Lucid Dreaming to Cool Knots, with lots of variety in between! These topics, although random to me, really inspired my thinking on my own current work projects.

the Art Deco magnificence of Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion

the Art Deco magnificence of Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion

Imagine the possibilities if painters mixed with scientists, photographers with mathematicians, linguists with engineers, musicians with sociologists, etc., or better still, they all mix together to work collaboratively on a project! The outcome might initially be some kind of chaotic, creative cacophony! It would be very challenging to manage, but points of difference and commonality would soon be discovered and explored. Creative ideas would soon come to the surface as new thoughts or ideas were considered. Each discipline would be able to offer a unique, external objective perspective by simply asking ‘Why not?’. This in itself can bring a huge release, as accepted traditional ways of thinking within a field are challenged and developed further.

I believe this would resonate with some of the principles of Walter Gropius’s hugely influential Bauhaus School of Art in Germany (1919–1933), a form of education that has proved to be hugely influential ever since.

Often comfort zone thinking is a self-imposed type of mental restriction that we create within our mind. It gives us safe boundaries, a sense of comfort, but beware, these boundaries eventually become a creative prison and ultimately, the death of an inspired mind!

the very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure…

the very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure…

In the words of writer and mountaineer Jon Krakauer from his book/film ‘Into the Wild’.…

So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun

 

 

Happy 30th Mac – my personal reflection on the computer that said ‘Hello’

Happy 30th Mac! On January 24, 1984 the world of home computers was forever changed by the debut of the Apple Macintosh. With a gigantic 9-inch monitor, a keyboard, a mouse and 128 KB of built-in memory, the computer could be yours for the low, low price of US$2,495 dollars. Today marks the Macintosh’s 30th anniversary! 

OK, so I’m not going to get into that perennial Mac v PC debate, life is way too short for that! Love or hate them, from my personal perspective, the Macs simplicity transformed not just the way I worked, but also the type of work I do! The Mac interface and way of working, took my everyday tasks and gave them familiar metaphors, but in a computer context. This computer context was both invisible and accessible at the same time. Suddenly it made sense, The Mac was a useful creative tool, it was a digital drawing board with a set of digital pens and compasses, this I could understand and work with!

Happy 30th Mac - On January 24, 1984 the world of home computers was forever changed by the debut of the Apple Macintosh.

Happy 30th Mac – On January 24, 1984 the world of home computers was forever changed by the debut of the Apple Macintosh.

My initial introduction to computers was during the early 1980’s was just so far removed from this! I still to this day remember being in a computer lessons finding out how to write endless lines of DOS code just to get a rather uninspiring X drawn in green type on a small dark computer screen!

Computer says no… no, no, no!

Computer says no… no, no, no!

If this was what the future of ‘computing’ was all about, you could count me out – I would much rather stick with my trusted Rotring pens and Ecobra compasses thank you very much! Working with these tools seemed way easier…

My now classic ‘retro’ Rotring isograph ink pens

My now classic ‘retro’ Rotring isograph ink pens

What now seems antiquated and obsolete, were my high-tech ‘tools of the trade’ back in the mid 1980’s!

My now classic ‘retro’ Ecobra spring bow compasses

My now classic ‘retro’ Ecobra spring bow compasses

However, for someone like me who saw little use for computers in my line of work, this was all about to change in a very dramatic way! In 1984 Ridley Scott directed the now classic a big-budget (US$900,000) television commercial to launch the Apple Macintosh computer…

The so-called ‘1984 advertisement’ was given a showcase airing in the United States on 22 January 1984, during Super Bowl XVIII, alongside screenings in cinemas. Some consider this advertisement a ‘watershed event’ in advertising and a ‘masterpiece’ The advertisement used its heroine (portrayed by Anya Major) to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by her white tank top adorned with a picture of Apple’s Macintosh computer) as a means of saving humanity from ‘conformity’ (Big Brother)

Another of Apples classic ad campaigns in 1997 praised those that stood out from the crowd and dared to ‘Think Different’ – it’s slightly ironic that now some 30 years after it’s initial launch, Apple products are now the more mainstream devices with the ubiquitous presence and success of their iPhones, iPads and their range of different Macs – so whose crazy now?

Happy 30th Birthday Mac – one of my favourite creative tools (after my pencil of course!)…

http://www.apple.com/30-years/

Thanks for taking the time out to read this, as ever, it is always much appreciated! Please feel free to share any thoughts or comments you might have on it…

Chris

Have a brilliant MMXIV…

At the end of one year and the beginning of another, do you take time out to look back at what has passed, or do you look forward to what is to be in the future? Maybe it is not such a simple either or scenario?

Have a brilliant MMXIV…

Have a brilliant MMXIV…

It can be really useful to look back and take stock on what has been achieved or learnt from events that have taken place in the previous year, but equally it is important to dream dreams of what could be, and to plan where you want to be, and what you want to achieve in the coming next 12 months…

In reality however, it is probably good to have both an overarching perspective gained from looking both back and forward… all whilst making the most of the here and now! All very much par for the course as part of the creative multi-tasking culture!

Whatever way you choose to look at things, I hope you have a brilliant MMXIV…

 

Hope everyone has a great Christmas and a fantastic New Year!

Apologies for not posting anything for a while, it has been a somewhat busy time, and although I have roughed out and saved a few draft posts for the blog, none have quite got to the finished stage ready to post just yet, but rest assured, there are some in the pipeline which I shall be finishing off over the New Year all being well…

If you are on twitter, say hello @Passion_4, or you can subscribe to this blog via email so you can get notified of updates (don’t worry, I would never pass on any of your info to anyone else!) or feel free to add comments to the blog post if you want…

In the meantime however, make sure you all have a great Christmas 2013 and a fantastic New year 2014!

Hope everyone has a great Christmas and a fantastic New Year!

Hope everyone has a great Christmas and a fantastic New Year!

Would having less, make you more creative?

Recently I was looking at a UK designed brochure that had been recently translated and reproduced in Chinese. It was really interesting to see something that on the surface seemed so familiar, suddenly appear so unfamiliar.

As I was casually flicking through the pages, I was suddenly aware of something that, to my shame, should have probably been blindingly obvious, but the typeface used had no visual differential between uppercase or lowercase, all the characters were of the same height. I had just never really noticed or been aware of this previously when looking at translated material, or when looking at design that used Chinese type.

Despite my linguistic ignorance, I have had a long-standing curious fascination with Chinese and Japanese pictographic styled text. To me, it has an instantly appealing graphic and emotive nature to it that is hard not to be fascinated by!

The Passion 4 logo in Traditional Chinese type

The Passion 4 logo in Traditional Chinese type

OK, so my mini Chinese typographic epiphany set my mind thinking. How would my approach to typographic design change, if the whole western concept of upper and lower case type was removed?!

The use of upper/lower case type can often be a key (western design) element in creating an interesting distinctions in type design or in creating logotypes, but would not having it as an option at my disposal, force me into thinking in new and different ways? Would having less, actually make me more creative?

This is why I liked to be creatively and in this case, culturally challenged, it helps to develop the way you think or approach problems from a whole new perspective.

It brings it home that design is often not such a universal cultural language. What resonates in one culture, could easily be seen as being odd, irrelevant, ignorant or even offensive in another. Greater cultural understanding and awareness can bring a richness and diversity to our design.

Some interesting Chinese typeface facts/differences…

  • The English alphabet only has 26 letters.
  • The Chinese language has over 8,000 individual characters, of which about 3,500 are most commonly used.
  • Chinese typographers, would not only need to design 26 alpha characters, but would also need to create at least 3,500 Chinese characters and their traditional/simplified equivalent.

Thanks for taking the time out to read this, as ever, it is much appreciated! Please feel free to share any thoughts or comments you might have on it…

Chris

You can also subscribe (without any catches!) to the Passion 4 blog if you want to keep updated on new blog posts…

PS; With the Passion 4 t-shirt design shown above, I have to give a big thanks to my Taiwanese friend Asha for helping my understand a little more about Chinese type!