Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

30 NOVEMBER, 2011

The Cult of LEGO

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Inside the world of 8 quadrillion possible combinations.

Who doesn’t love LEGO? (I certainly have a soft spot, and even believe it to be an apt metaphor for combinatorial creativity.) Since LEGO’s dawn in the 1940s, more than 4 billion minifigs have been manufactured — that’s more than one for every two people on the planet — and the love of LEGO has become so cross-cultural and enduring that it might even be called a cult. That’s exactly what MAKE Magazine’s John Baichtal and BrickJournal founder Joe Meno explore in The Cult of LEGO — a sweeping illustrated journey into the world’s love of LEGO and its obsessively devoted community, from the most extravagant and complex models built to the uses of LEGO in therapy, teambuilding, and prototyping to curious factoids about the LEGO universe. (Did you know that more than 4,000 different minifigs have been manufactured since 1978… frustratingly, with a male-to-female ratio of 18:1.)

Here’s a sneak peek of what’s inside:

As much a geek treat of the finest kind as it is a fascinating piece of subcultural anthropology, The Cult of LEGO is an essential staple for your favorite nerd’s coffeetable. (And if you’re particularly brick-bewitched, don’t forget Christoph Niemann’s utterly brilliant I LEGO N.Y.)

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18 NOVEMBER, 2011

How to Get Unstuck in 30 Seconds

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From squiggle to masterpiece in 30 seconds, or how to refill your annual bucket of creative mojo.

“Getting stuck is not a problem. Staying stuck is. Good learners practice getting unstuck,” said education provocateur Alistair Smith in his fantastic recent DoLecture. After last month’s omnibus of creativity-catalyzing activity books for grown-ups, which became an instant hit, here comes a fine new addition from Noah Scalin: Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work & in Your Studio is a handy guide to exactly what it says on the tin, featuring 52 simple creativity-sparking projects for any lifestyle, arranged in order of time commitment (from 30 seconds to several hours) and doable either choose-your-own-adventure style or one per week for a year’s worth of creativity. (Not to be confused with Stuck, the characteristically delightful new Oliver Jeffers children’s book.)

Alongside the activities are 12 profiles of real-life creators, including artist Matt Lively and ImprovEverywhere’s Charlie Todd, who share what they do to stay inspired, productive, and fresh. A series of 30-second videos complement each of the profiles.

Unstuck is a follow-up to Scalin’s 365: A Daily Creativity Journal, based on the “365 method” behind his Skull-A-Day project.

For more on the mechanisms and secrets of creativity, give the Brain Pickings creativity archive a whirl.

via BoingBoing; images courtesy of Noah Scalin

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11 NOVEMBER, 2011

The Universal Traveler: A Vintage Guide to Creative Problem-Solving

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Navigating the “tourist traps” of creativity, or how to finally reconcile ideation and evaluation.

In a recent comment on Stefan G. Bucher’s fantastic 344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself Guide to Insight, Survival, and Artistic Fulfillment, which has quickly become the most popular book on Brain Pickings this year, a reader named Terry tipped me off to The Universal Traveler: A Soft-Systems Guide to Creativity, Problem-Solving, and the Process of Reaching Goals — a curious metaphorical travel guide to creative problem-solving, originally published in 1971 by researchers Don Koberg and Jim Bagnall, offering what’s essentially a blueprint to design thinking nearly four decades before design thinking was a buzzword.

The tome uses the analogy of travel, “an activity already known to all readers,” and the concept of The Travel Agency to explore various elements of and boosts for creative problem-solving — overcoming the blocks to creativity (something we’ve previously examined), avoiding “tourist traps” in the creative process, taking “side trips” that foster serendipity, mastering the art of idea selection, and learning to take criticism. Also included are a handful of hands-on, actionable tools and diagrams, including a beautifully designed “Traveler’s Map” and a procedure for “self-hypnosis.”

The travel vocabulary reinforces the concept that design is more meaningful when it can be visualized and pursued as a logical and planned journey through a series of stopovers called Design Stages. Although chance and random process are not excluded, their application depends on how appropriate they may be in specific situations.”

From the book’s introduction:

The Universal Traveler is more than a guide to creative problem-solving and clear thinking; it is your passport to success. The process described is universally relevant; based on the premise that any problem, dream, or aspiration, no matter its size or degree of complexity, can benefit from the same logical and orderly ‘systematic’ process employed to solve world-level problems.”

This “systematic process” they refer to is based on Cybernetics, an early study of human control systems, forming the foundation of most social, industrial and economic problem modeling. Koberg and Bagnall take the technical terminology of Cybernetics and translate it into everyday language, applied in simplified techniques. They call the resulting “user-friendly” approach to problem-solving “Soft Systems.”

Once learned and internalized with practice, the Universal Traveler ‘soft systematic’ approach will allow anyone to deal more logically and orderly with all manner of problem situations or goals.”

But my favorite part is easily this typographic inscription from the book’s original back cover:

More than a mere vintage gem, The Universal Traveler both presaged and laid the foundation for much of modern thinking on design and creativity, and is bound to become one of the most important books you ever read — had I come across it earlier, I would have certainly included it in my semi-serious omnibus on (almost) everything you need to know about culture in 10 books.

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