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Creativity (104 posts)
"When you get a job – say [to design] an ad for a dry cleaner – many images come to mind, we all have preconceptions. My suggestion is to forget every image that comes to mind, forget everything you know about dry-cleaning.
"Instead of sitting at your computer, and looking at books, go to a dry cleaner, and sit there. The way to get an interesting idea is to go to the source. Stay there until you have thought of something interesting about dry-cleaning. Then, listen to that idea and it will design itself."
This, from Bob Gill, creative industry great and co-founder of D&AD, a British educational organization that celebrates excellence in design and advertising. Good timing too, this advice coming at the brink of spring. You have our permission to tell your boss: "Sorry, I was trying to have a brilliant idea so I just had to get outside this afternoon and go straight to the source."
Hey, has anyone noticed that that whole Harry Potter series thing has gotten really popular? I think I have a theory as to why. Instead of using this powerful knowledge to launch my own mega-successful line of books and films, though, I'm going to share this theory here in this blog post (you're welcome!). I think it's that whole "muggle" thing. In these books, as in most whimsical children's fiction, there is an implication that most of the grownup world is dull and unmagical and without imagination—they just don't get it—and that only a chosen few are sensitive enough to know magic when they see it. So every reader has the chance to say to themselves (or out loud, if they are reading along someplace or else exceptionally unmuggly and free-spirited), "But I get it! I would believe! I would understand!"
And yet, most of us don't make nearly enough space in our lives for the whimsical.
Emily Dickinson said, "If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry." By that criteria, the artwork of Motoi Yamamoto is pure poetry; ever since I first saw photographs of his evocative mazes and sculptures, I've felt as if I were walking around with a nothing to me above the nose. And get this, the images below are made out of salt. That's right, salt.
If there is a somber, haunting quality to these images, it's intentional. Motoi Yamamoto told The Japan Times that he started working with salt after the death of his sister of brain cancer at age 24: "I draw with a wish that, through each line, I am led to a memory of my sister. That is always at the bottom of my work. Each cell-like part, to me, is a memory of her that I call up, like a tiff I had with her over a pudding cake she took from the fridge. My wish is to put such tiny episodes together." According to this article, "Salt has a special place in the death rituals of Japan, and is often handed out to people at the end of funerals, so they can sprinkle it on themselves to keep evil spirits away."
This new product was just introduced at TED, and it really is brilliant: a combination pack of adhesive bandages and a bone marrow registry kit. People with diseases like leukemia need bone marrow transplants to save their lives, but the lack of donors to the National Marrow Donor Program makes finding a match unlikely, especially for people of non-white ethnicities. Registering to be a match only takes a few seconds and a drop of blood. Admit it: the joy of saving a life may even make you look forward to those paper cuts.
Read about the origin story of this genius product, and about how you can obtain one yourself, at co.EXIST.
The 60-Person Kidney Donation Chain
High-Tech Ways to Live Longer
We can all say "I don't have time for that" all we want, but in the end, do we have time not to learn something new? Hey, I want to make origami bird thingies! I want to pick up ordering in Spanish! Most of all, I want to regain that "I can't wait to get back to my new project" feeling that's so energizing and exciting. You know what I want to learn about first? Don't laugh—it's crock pot cooking.
Make your life sparkle! Master something new.
Why it's important to be a lifelong learner.
Well, not so Benjamin Franklin. Not only did he have much cooler hair and glasses than I do, not only did he invent bifocals, the lightning rod, the odometer, and, like, the United States of America when to date I have invented exactly, hm, nothing, but old Ben had a daily plan. I guess that's how big thinkers work. His daily schedule is enlightening—structured, but not too—and I dare say we could all learn a thing or two from it.
I very much enjoy the break in the middle of the day to read over lunch, and the exhortation to spend part of each evening putting "things in their places." I imagine a harried Ben scurrying around putting away kids' toys and unpacking the diaper bag, you know, so to speak. And I especially love the morning question— "What good shall I do this day?"—and the evening question— "What good have I done today?" This is the kind of checking-in most of us don't do enough in our daily lives. Not just, How will I check all the to-do's off my to-do list? But, What good shall I do? And not just, Let me go over all the things I didn't get to today, but I must have done something good today. Let me take a moment to reflect on it.
The Creative Commandments of Henry Miller
Schedule Tweaks for Simplified Mornings
But as creative as I thought I was, the truth was: my lattes always looked like plain old cups of sad boring beige. Try as I might, I never figured out how to make those lovely leafy designs that elevate a coffee into a liquid work of art. I love them, though, and as it turns out, I'm not the only one: there is actually a World Latte Art Competition. As Jeshurun Webb writes for Salon.com this week, the judges at this competition assess the milky masterpieces based on the following criteria: "Balance and Symmetry (dividing lines are even and show no hesitation), Harmony (between the size of the cup and the size and position of the design), Clarity of Design (contrast), Quality of Milk Texture (yes, it takes a lot of practice to perfectly texture milk)."
It's not just my fiendish need for caffeine that makes this list sound like poetry, right? Because these are qualities I'd like to have in everything I do. Balance and Symmetry? I love the idea that creating something beautiful involves showing "no hesitation" It's all about doing things with confidence, whether it's presenting at a meeting or painting a picture or creating a cup of coffee. Harmony? May we all match the scope of our creations to the size of our cups, so to speak. Clarity of design? May we all have vision (please). Even the phrase "quality of milk texture" seems to me to apply to everything—because shouldn't we all master whatever materials we choose to work with?
Plenty of us toil away at jobs that, like slinging java, don't immediately suggest creativity, but we can all strive to achieve balance and symmetry, harmony and clarity, in every day. Even the dullest task can become a canvas. I wish I'd been able to see this while I was sullenly concocting endless cappuccinos myself, but that's okay—when it comes to my day-to-day now, there's no end to mundane tasks that I can try to make creative. Here I come, Slow Cooker Casserole Art Competition!
You must see the rosettes gathered on the Salon site, which are displayed alongside the barsita/artists' signatures, as a study of line quality.
Three Ways To Tune Out and Get Creative
How Everyone is a Creative Person
Learn more about Beat 2012 and watch the trailer here. (And come August, check out the athletes performing the song at the Olympics!)
The Spiritual Side of Extreme Sports
Top Moments from the 2010 Olympics
Men! What are they thinking? We can't always answer that, but we'll be posting our favorite glimpses into their world in this space every Thursday.
* Writer David Foster Wallace would have turned 50 this week. The Awl has compiled a fantastic list of things you can read if you'd like to mark the occasion. (The Awl)
* Come on, baby, don't you want to go... President Obama got bullied into singing Sweet Home Chicago at a concert on Tuesday, and it was very charming. (Videogum)
* Irving Wardle explains everything an 82-year-old man needs to know about Zumba. (More Intelligent Life)
"And what more can you say about books? They're the greatest things ever, and everyone should have more."—John Locke, a designer who's turning New York City phone booths into guerrilla libraries. (The Atlantic Cities)
We all have some thing we yearned for in childhood that still makes the heart ache a bit. For my sister, ponies made an appearance on a staggering number of birthday and holiday wish lists. For me, it was sleepaway camp. I was a sucker for young adult novels that revolved around cabin bunk beds and macramé, and I watched The Parent Trap on a near-constant loop as a preteen.
Overnight camp—as opposed to the tepid day camp I attended one summer with other kids from my neighborhood—promised the possibility of reinvention. You could be anyone you wanted, far from home and stripped of your usual surroundings. Friendships seemed easier and deeper. Learning some cool skill, a given.
But attending camp isn’t a dream I have to pack up and stow next to "be a famous tap dancer" and "invent a no-brush hairbrush." Attending camp as an adult can be a powerful tool for expressing yourself. In fact, packing your bag as an adult means more than the friendship, skills-building, and personal freedom I coveted as a kid. As an grown-up, you can choose a camp that fits your interest—whether that’s surfing the seas or cooking up seafood. Check out these six retreats worth writing home about...
How to Find Your Creative Voice and Tune Out the World
7 Ways to Spark Your Creativity