Creative Processes: Workshop and Talk at Qubique 2011, Berlin Tempelhof

Context:

Methods & Deliverables:

  • Concept and delivery of workshop with Marina Ostrowski and Rivka Halbershtadt
  • Talk on designing in Process

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Marina initiated this worskhop on ‘Creative Processes’ with the wise sense that a fresh and much needed take on creative processes should…

a, involve an open view onto the wider context of a person, venture or industry (Marina Os, Concept Development, Brand Consultation & Cross-Cultural Communication for the creative industries)

b, be experienced through the body (Rivka Halbershtadt, Licensed Trainer of the Grinberg Method)

c, and incorporate careful and playful process design (Michele Gauler, Designer Psychologist)

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The Day of the Workshop

Here are some impressions of the workshop day.
(Big thanks to Emanuel Hägglund for these lovely photographs. And thanks very much to Unn Gustafsson, amazing writer at balticworlds.com and politiken.se for providing them!)

Our workshop and talk was a three-part journey:

. Marina spoke of her experience as a brand and strategy consultant for the creative industries.

. Rivka addressed the body in the creative process through exercises which we performed all together (thanks everyone for the courage to wave your arms and legs in public) and which aim to silence our heads in order for new things to arrive and to stop habits and patterns of behaviour which stand in the way of reaching our goals.

. In my part, I showed examples of my ‘design in process’: how I design workshops and processes which are tailored to the people and topics at hand. I also showed examples for design output which evolves out of creative processes. My slides and notes are below… have a look in case you are interested and weren’t able to come.

All in all, I very much enjoyed this workshop and was thrilled with the enthousiasm of all the people who where there (and who nearly all returned for the 2nd part after the ‘creative break’).

A big thanks! to everyone who was there!

For more information on this workshop, on ways of applying this ‘Context-Body-DesignInProcess’ approach to your work, do contact us (Marina, Rivka or me).

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My Talk on Designing in Process

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

Hello. My name is Michele and as Marina said, I am a designer psychologist.



I first to have these two degrees and then I happened to notice that these labels are not just on paper but that I am both and do both: I like to design things and I like to consider the human side of things.



What I want to talk about today is ‘design in process’. - How to design for and in the creative process by using the content, context and people as sources and material for play and thought.



Let me paint the picture of this creative process situation. It’s what we are talking about here and that part that Marina described as having moving start and end points.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

There is us and there is some unknown solution or output that we want to reach... over there somewhere.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

And I think what lies in between looks a bit like this.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

And I think often we feel it more like this.



Now... I would like to say that obviously, we don't want that black blob, the 'unknown' to disappear. We want it. It's where the new comes from. 'From nothing comes something.' as Amy Tan says.



We want the unknown...

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

... but ideally, sometimes, we want to see it as our friend...

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

... who has invited us to a party.



We all know that there are ways of celebrating this space.



And some of the ways of making it a celebration and pleasurable experience are


. to work with the body, like Rivka teaches,


. to consider wide contexts in the way that Marina described.


. And what I additionally suggest is to 'design in process' which means to engage with the content, context and people in a playful and meaningful way.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

So let's enter this space.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

And let's for the moment do this again in monster-mode.



What do we do when we don’t know what to do and are in monster-mode?



. we might give up right away and go back to the 'safe' area


. or we try to get to the exit as fast as possible


. by applying what we know and what has worked in the past or what others say is right


. we loose our sense of joy


. we narrow our view


. we might detach from the topic, as if we don't really care about it


. ...



These are I guess only a few of the things we do in monster-mode...

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

... and it seems these reactions intensify if you are not alone...



A team, much more than an individual maybe, will race as fast as they can to conclusions. Because you don't just have to handle your own fear but the fear and confusion of the entire group.



Especially 'detaching' is common in a group because it is easier to step back from responsibility and action with others around where responsibility might be diffused.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

So, let’s enter the space again... as a group. And let’s see how it works to design in process by playing with content.



I am going to show you 4 examples of workshops I have done with people.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

The first one is a workshop called ‘Buidling Talks’ that I did for design students from Oslo.



They approached us as Beta Tank, when I was running Beta Tank with Eyal, hello Eyal.



From their tutor I heard that they were – as their final degree work – going to design interactive communication solutions for their new university building.



So I designed a workshop for them around a building.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

Using a building and barrier tape, I asked them to create communication links between the people in the buildings. Ask questions and give answers from one window to the other.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

The point of this workshop was to have them experience a building with their bodies, walk up and down, become out of puff, open and close doors. To interact with the real people in the building and represent communication in a physical and tangible way.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

Another project I want to show is this ‘interior decoration’ workshop.
I did this together with a colleague of mine, David Marx for a small technology start-up in digital and print publishing.
This was about their identity, the product’s identity and their clients.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

In order to inject a sense of beauty and care into the way they were approaching their brand, product and clients, we decided to start from the inside and decorate their offices. So, unexpected to them, we turned up with all the equipment and got them all to paint the walls.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

These were 'user-profile' newspapers. For them to describe their clients.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

Again, this was supposed to create a high engagement level, working with the bodies, touching and painting surfaces, bringing your business away from the abstract to the concrete and tangible and understanding that if you want to create a beautiful, high-value product for your client you might want to start with your own interior.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

The next example for creating playful and meaningful engagement with content is work I did for a schoolbook publisher who wanted to develop an educational software.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

The software was supposed to help kids do their homework so to make the topic more personal, part of the concept workshop was for all team members to tell their own stories of doing homework.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

In a later, different phase, I used plates as whiteboard-post-it hybrids for a workshop in which we distilled their digital product content as 'menu offerings'.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

The last example is from a project I did last year at the Science Museum in London.



Lottolab was conducting a programme called 'i,scientist', where kids experienced being scientists and thinking as scientists.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

I decided to create very simple DIY lab books for them. Out of A4 card and paper and metal binding rings. The idea was to keep it so simple that they could change them themselves.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

After showing them examples of lab books of famous scientist and then asking them to surprise me with their notebooks throughout the 5-week program, this is exactly what they did: they surprised me :)

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

They carried their lab books along everywhere.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

They used wool to 'draw'.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

They invented egg frying machines.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

These 'things' that are designed for the process: the plates, the barrier tape, the homework stories, the lab books...



...these things are the play balls in the process.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

My sense is that these process play balls best support creative processes (the walk through the unknown) if they are bespoke, specific and open.



By being bespoke, they are like gifts that the people in the process are happy to give and receive which raises the level of emotional relevance and connection.



By being specific, they have anchors to the topic and context.



By being open, they give room for ideas and participation.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

Throwing these process play balls into the process...

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

... allows us to play in an open and meaningful way, with anchors to the people, topic and context...

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

... which lets us travel through this unknown space, at least part of the time, in a balance between what we know and what we don't know, which opens us up for discovery.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

Although the path might not look that straight but more like this.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

Before we go for a break I would like to mention why in the first place I find it important to 'design in process' in this way... and not just use Flipcharts in meeting rooms to discuss an idea.



I think this kind of work addresses 3 aspects:



* durability and meaningfulness (sustainability): creating things which we don't throw away



* finding new ways of production and new ways of using and reusing resources in the space of 'not knowing'



* emotional health: attachment to our work/doing and things rather than detachment + happiness and well-being through full engagement.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011
'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

The play balls are thrown INTO the process.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

And of course there are ideas and results that come OUT of the process.



This OUTPUT can be part of the process, also a wider process, so the output itself might be unfinished, in process, has room for development.



I want to give two examples.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

One is some work I did for Lottolab in London.



They wanted to create a new kind of school curriculum and design and asked me to join into the 'visionary phase' where they started with having conversations with inspiring and inspired people.



I took note and distilled the conversations with them.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

This is one of the conversations, with Steven Gage at the Bartlett.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

These are my notes and drawings of that conversation.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

This is the conversation with Wayne McGregor at the Royal Opera House.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

I started making process cards and a web page from the conversations.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

These are the process cards which we used for summarising results but also as process tools for working with thoughts and material that was generated.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

The other example for process output is my final year project at the Royal College of Art, called Digital Remains.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

This could be called a 'digital urn' which contains the data of a deceased person.



It belongs to a loved one who is remembering the person through their data.



Although this looks quite refined, it is a concept. It is a physical sketch of a product that might exist in the future. The project is a piece of 'design for debate' as it's intention is for us to discuss the role of data when we die and how we make data precious and tangible.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

These two examples were examples for output that can come out of the creative process.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

The output can be quite unexpected and a bit ambiguous too... is it art or design? A product or prototype? A sketch or a finished illustration?



They have different levels of refinement. With the cards it was clearer that this was work about a process. Digital Remains is also 'in process' but for a wider audience, in a debate.



The level of refinement becomes a design decision, depending on the purpose of the output.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

This is one of my favourite books: Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. It is a book about how comics work but really it is about how our brains and perception work.
So regarding this 'degree of refinement'...

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

Scott McCloud speaks about how the degree of abstraction in comic figures can be used to influence how much the reader will identify with a figure. If the abstraction is high, the identification is high, the own participation and involvement is high.



In terms of the 'design process play balls': The barrier tape and the plates have a very high abstraction, they allow for a high degree of participation, they become 'part of us'.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

On the other hand, a low abstraction (high detail) makes us look at a thing as an 'object', with its own identity and character. - The Digital Remains urn has high detail and refinement, which makes us react to it as consumers and users. We don't think that we can add to it or change it but we think about whether we want it or not, whether we like it or not. This makes this design output ideal for triggering a debate rather than generating ideas.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

I think that the 'design process play balls'...

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

... and the 'output' (especially if it becomes a new play ball) pose their own interesting design questions.



And they have the potential of transforming ideas and intensifying thought and work processes in a playful and meaningful way.

'Design in Process' at Qubique 2011

Thank you.

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