The mission of the Creative Education Trust in London is to empower kids through creativity and design thinking. Partnering with Princeton Architectural Press, they created A Few Minutes of Design, which offers 52 activities to encourage inventiveness. This well-crafted little packet of fun may work just as well for inspiring creativity among children and young adults as it does for rekindling the spark of a semi-burnt-out designer confronting endless deadlines.
The trust believes “creativity is the ability to find connections between the things we know and to turn these connections into new ideas and action. The academic arts and the sciences, practical subjects and life skills all need creativity. Creativity is highly valued by employers. With knowledge, skills, and creativity, every young individual is equipped to succeed in the knowledge economy of the 21st century.”
To appeal to as broad a group of people as possible, Emily Campbell — who is director of programs at the trust and a former graphic designer and design director at a government agency — clearly devised activities with many design disciplines in mind. There are engaging exercises not only for budding graphic and industrial designers, but also landscape architects, urban planners, and architects.
Campbell thinks the 52 activities, which are found on small note cards with instructions on the front and information or images on the back, are deeper than they first appear.
“The cards evoke what it’s like to be a designer through a series of accessible, concise exercises. Some ask you to draw and write; some ask you to classify, others to distinguish or explain. Some tasks are singular; others have several variations. All of them ask you to perform a rudimentary act of design by following plain-language instructions. Although the lessons in these exercises may at first seem minor in comparison to the grand vision — the ‘killer concept’ or ‘problem solved’– small moves and decisions such as these have a powerful influence on the success of any design.”
Some intriguing activities for landscape-minded creators:
Simplify, Then Multiply: “Identify a shape within the photo. Draw or trace the shape, leaving out shadows, highlights, and complicated details so that you have a simplified version. You may to need to invent parts of the shape that are not in view. Imagine that your simplified shape is no. 1 in a series or family of 3. What rules would govern the shape of nos. 2 and 3? Draw them.”
Joint Endeavor: “Explain in a drawing how you would join the objects or materials. You can cut them and/or multiply them if you need to. Label the drawing with instructions.”
Organizing Rules: One of my favorites — and easy for those with messy drawers, bags, or purses: “Empty onto a surface the contents of your bag, pencil case, desk drawer, or any other container that holds a variety of small, handheld objects. Think of a method or rule for organizing the objects. Organize them into a composition following your own rule. Take a photo of your composition.”
Lastly, there is a well-known landscape architect who asks her employees and interns to do a similar exercise — also 100 times (!) — when confronted with a design challenge:
Object 100 Ways: Draw as many uses as you can think of for the object. What qualities, or properties, does this object have? How else could these properties be used? You can multiply the basic unit, add materials, cut the object, reshape it, or otherwise modify it.”
On second thought, that may take more than a few minutes.