Parting with tradition may yield fresh greatness

This post from Patty O'Mara-Croft, the usually quieter half of Visual Congruence:

As a full-time educator and part-time advisor to this business on design issues, I am sometimes asked how I promote creative, out-of-the-box thinking. I'm always seeking new ways to help others be more creative and thoughtful in their compositions, including how to effectively break the traditional "rules" of art and design. For instance, if students are drawing portraits that involve mapping the proportions of the face, I may require that my charges use a non-traditional color scheme to render their drawings, or that they abstract the images by applying an interesting Photoshop filter (we used the stained glass option recently) that then becomes their guide.

When students are forced to let go of preconceived notions of what something is supposed to look like, they often create surprisingly well-conceived compositions that adhere more to the principles of good design and less to an adolescent sense of what looks “good” -- a perspective which too often translates into a rather dull attempt to recreate the photographically realistic.

Perhaps we can all learn something from this exercise. Perhaps our own preconceptions of the direction an innovation should take limit the range of options possible. Instead, maybe we need to approach a solution from a different perspective so that we might see it most clearly, and can then come up with the most creative ideas. Consider this: You are charged with planning a function to entertain and impress visiting clients. Do you stick with the traditional, to play it safe and reduce the risks you may offend? A steak dinner, a couple of cocktails and some polite conversation? Or could you move beyond the norm, and try something that might get the creative juices flowing for discussion later? What about a gallery tour? An urban scavenger hunt? A performance of Blue Man Group? Might not inspiration grow out of thinking about things from a different approach? Out of seeing the world through a slightly different lens?

Ask yourself, and others in your circle, to pose and answer unusual questions. What would this look like in a different color, shape or texture? Will looking at it from different angles tell us anything new? Will different people see different things? Before you let yourself apply limiting thoughts, really try to abandon what is in favor of what, in a world without boundaries, could be.

My students seem to enjoy projects that break the mold of what is literal in pursuit of what is compelling, and often love the results that come from doing something out of the norm. If everyone in the working world could be happy with their work assignments, in part because their creativity was put into play, wouldn't we all reap richer rewards from our work?


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