Cultivating Creativity

I was looking over some of my past pins (probably for some recipe or something) and got distracted by my board “Entrepreneurship”. What did I put on this? Well among a bunch of pins of creative business cards, I found this gem – an e-book about how you can create an environment that encourages creativity rather than solving issues without thinking.

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This is inspiring to me as an innovator, maker, and educator since I am always striving for creative solutions to problems. This book really looks at the obstacles to finding those solutions and how you can go about avoiding them.

“Today,” says Tony Wagner, an education specialist at Harvard, “the capacity to innovate – the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilites to life – and skills like critical thinking, communication, and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge”.

Read the whole e-book here.

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Creative Tech -> Computer Science & Multimedia Arts

I originally started this blog to document my trip to New Zealand since I was going to be starting a really exciting, interdisciplinary program in the Creative Technologies Department and haven’t written since I was a part of that.

But that needs to change. 

If anything my combination of Computer Science and Multimedia Arts is as Creative Tech as it gets.

While I’m learning about how programming languages are constructed, I’m utilizing the languages in my multimedia arts project along with all my design knowledge. If anything what I’m doing here forces me to reach further into the extremes of each program.

I may not have needed to learning about algorithms in creative tech, but now that I’m learning, everything that I’ll be able to create in the future will be much more optimal. I may not have needed to analyze film in creative tech, but now that I’ve looked at it objectively, when I create in the future I’ll be able to use that knowledge subjectively.

So yeah, it’s about time I started writing about my creative education again.

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Custom Load Animations: Good or Bad?

WOOT my monthly “eWebDesign” newsletter just came bearing fruits. Here’s an article worth noting and commenting:

The Psychology of Waiting, Loading Animations, and Facebook

I was really excited about this since I have been thinking a lot lately about incorporating some loading transitions into a couple of my websites. Also, with Facebook Paper being recently released (although not to Android, grrr) the article seemed quite relevant.

And it was – It’s a known fact that people hate waiting. Shit, I’m impatient myself. So the use of “transition” states or loading pages is quite important. The author Mitchell references Why Waiting Sucks in order to explain how giving a user something to do while he waits, even if it ends up taking the same amount of time, can sometimes be more beneficial than getting somewhere quickly and having to wait there. In fact, a psychological experiment was conducted to see just that:

Alex Stone discusses the psychology of waiting and notes how high levels of customer complaints at a Houston airport dropped to nothing after the airport extended the distance between the terminals and baggage claim. This forced travelers to walk six times further, but although overall wait time increased, the occupied time of walking felt shorter than the unoccupied time associated with standing around at the baggage carousel.

So here’s what’s really interesting: When Facebook experimented with two different loading images on their app, users frustration changed depending on the image. 

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Facebook’s Custom Image: Blamed on the app. 

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Standard Loading Image: Blamed on the device.

Makes sense right? If you an image that is considered “standard” or has been utilized in other scenarios (i.e. OS’s spinning wheel of death) you naturally link that instance to when you’ve seen it before (recognition). As soon as that link is made, the past experience that object extends itself onto the context of the new object. And viola! Now you’re current frustration again becomes the result of whatever was causing it before (in this case iOS). 

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Mac OS Spinning Wheel and “Standard” Loader. Similar? I think yes.

So for me this news is a huge bummer. I mean, think of all the awesome loading image gifs you can make that expand past a circle. I mean, you could even go as far as creating something interactive to keep them entertained rather that let them think about the fact that they are waiting (ie. a mini-game for them to play while the content is generated)! 

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Interactive Loading Screen Concept

And that’s when I disagree. At that point, when the loading image deviates so far from the “standard” that it’s not even recognizably a loading image, the user again forgets about the wait, and somewhat like the long walk through the airport, is more entertained by the process than if they would have reached their destination 5 minutes earlier. 

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Fun Custom Image Transitions

Maybe that “something” would have to be interactive, but for me, I always appreciate something customized. What do you think?

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Creative block eh? Well thankfully I came across a pretty darn good article about how you can hurtle over that blockade. Here it is in all it’s glory. But if you want the spark notes version you need only reference below:

1. Find someone inspirational – friend or famous

“Combination is creation”

2. Take a break and talk it out

“A problem shared is a problem halved”

3. Check into an expensive hotel

“Think about all the money you’re wasting procrastinating”

4. Reverse Psychology

“Force yourself to procrastinate”

5. Keep a full plate

“Avoid trying to use brute force”

6. Coffee before bed

“turn that mental traffic jam into a high-speed demolition derby”

7. Do something monotonous

“get up and go do something relatively mindless and repetitive”

8. Read lots and sketch quickly

“the act of drawing…helps you sort through all those random elements and make random connections”

9. Ask questions

“It’s all about determining the soul of a product before laying down the first pixel or pen stroke”

10. Stop fretting and just do it

“stop playing around, sit down, shut up, go off-line, focus single-mindedly on executing the work, and make it real”

11. Great work from great struggle

“when I hit a creative dead end, I overcome it by seeing it as an opportunity to rethink, re-evaluate, and make something great”

These are all awesome points and I will definitely refer to them when I get stuck. My favorites from the list include taking a walk/bike ride, turning off all my cellular/electronic devices, and reading for inspiration.

And to add my 2 cents, here are 5 ways that I combat getting stuck:
1. Listen to an Inspirational Soundtrack

Sometimes music is just the thing to get your head out of that rut. Put on your favorite playlist or find an online music blog in which the beat captures your creativity and forces its hand. You can even take it one step further and dance around the house while singing at the top of your lungs.

2. Pinterest for 10 Minutes

Inspiration always comes from the influence of your surroundings, so why not search a term on pinterest and see where it takes you. Don’t get stuck procrastinating on there for too long though, dangerous territory!

3. Do Something with Your Hands

Similar to the aforementioned “monotonous task”, painting, weaving, gift wrapping… anything that you just do without thinking too much actually tends to get you thinking. Often times too much information is forced at us and the world can seem really overwhelming. Take some time to do something simple.

4. Reference The Past

In general, life is quite cyclical. Trends reappear either wholly or in a mutated form, and often these trends can be useful in helping create something in the present. Maybe have a chat with someone older about a specific time in the past or just give an era a google.

5. Mind Map It

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but honestly it is such a great tool for coming up with ideas. It’s basically a tool that forces connections by allowing you to take one word and diverge as far from that word as you possibly can. Pretty much like playing wikipedia tag where you go from one subject to a completely unrelated subject without a destination in mind.

Well there you have it, hopefully if you’ve got a problem to solve but your feet are dug deep in quicksand, some of these suggestions will do some nice de-quicksanding.

Re-frame for Re-Discovery

Have you ever encountered an unsolvable problem? One that you just can’t seem to figure out the solution? In fact, you question if there really is even a solution.

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Hold up. Stop for a minute and try to examine the problem in a different light. In fact, through a different frame.

Thank you again Co.Design for this article that talks about reframing a problem in order to find a creative solution, or any solution at all. Here’s the article followed by my spark notes version and what I got from it.

What is the sum of 5 + 5?    VS    What two numbers add up to 10?

This is an amazing AMAZING example. In fact, I almost didn’t have to read the rest of the article in order to get the point.

On the left you have one unknown variable x for which there is only one possible correct answer. That’s very limiting, unless you just say f it, who says 5+5 must be 10? Why can’t it be 89? Even though that’s great and more power to you, let’s be honest, the rest of the world will frown.

Meanwhile on the right you are given two variables x and y with only one constraint, x+y = 10. So now you have infinite solutions! Real, unreal… as long as you meet your constraint, by re-framing the problem you have allowed yourself so many more solutions.

What do you mean by re-framing?

The Co.Design example of re-framing references photography. Imagine a scene before you. Beautiful pristine lake with rolling green hills and evergreen trees. A little cabin in the foreground. You snap the shot, a nice wide angle encapsulating everything you see before you. If you re-frame your shot, your bound to see the scene differently every single time. Maybe the house is left out of it and the scene appears untouched by nature. The way you frame determines what comes out of it.

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Everyday we frame our perceptions, which LIMITS what we think.

In fact, you can almost think of our frame as a bias. Once we learn one thing or form a certain belief about something, we almost always stick to it. Unless we make ourselves question it – unless we re-frame the knowledge or perception that we’ve created. So how do we reframe?

1. Always ask questions

Not only will this limit personal bias, but this will more importantly help expand your imagination! By asking “why” questions about the problem, it expands the context of the situation, thus increasing the number of solutions you can find and helping make it more obvious which path you should take.

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2. Change your persona

In order to really innovate, you have to be able to wear someone else’s shoes besides yourself. In fact, better than that, you have to empathize with them. Try picturing yourself as a child or an old man to change the frame that you originally put around the issue.

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3. Change your environment

Imagine the problem in an entirely different culture altogether and how it would be dealt with. This can actually offer up some valuable insight when before it seemed too one-sided.

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In order to innovate, we have to be open to change.

We have to be willing to take what we know and question it to the point that maybe we toss it away altogether. We have to make room for evolution and adaptation in order to survive. I mean, the article says it well, “The way we do most things is arbitrary” so be willing to mix it up and change the way you perceive things by re-framing.

Easier said than done, right?

Web Design with a Face

SOOO many good articles from Co.Design. So many that I haven’t even had time to share my opinion about any. So (my last so btw) I have decided to comment on this article titled “Why The Next Big Thing In Computing Is Conversation”.

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Although this article touched many different topics, the main idea behind it, as well as most other articles from Fast Company and Design, remained the same: INNOVATION.

“The way we currently design websites and services does not fit with the potential of the contextual web, and the capabilities that this new technology affords. We need to find a new way to design web services. We need a new way to think about web services. And the key is to back to basics–back to long-lost art of the face-to-face conversation.”

 

This specific article just happens to be up my Creative Tech ally. In fact, I think it explains just why so many designers and developers need to work together more seamlessly in the future OR why companies need to hire more people who can do both. Here’s what I think:

1. Technology

It’s quite simple actually (see chart below). Technology is developing at an exponential rate. In fact, it can be a little daunting, some even say it will lead to our eventual demise, but this post is about the positive aspects of rapidly developing tech.

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In order to take advantage of all of these advancements, we (as designers and innovators) need to adapt the way in which we present it. In fact, we need to start looking towards NUI (Natural User Interface) design instead of flat and impersonal interactions.

2. NUI Design

This might be the first time you’ve heard of NUI or the 700 millionth time, but the facts remain the same: as technology expands, so must our mind when it comes to interacting with it. In fact, there are many aspects that you use every day in which more natural interactions are being integrated (see figure below).

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GUI (graphical user interface) was revolutionary when Bill Gates introduced Microsoft and expanded computer users beyond those who knew how to use the command line. Natural user interface presents the same revolution all over again, transforming a cold hard device into something in which your natural senses can interact with. Instead of typing, speaking. Instead of a mouse moving along a 2D plane, you’ll have a 3D environment in which your hands can mold, push, pull, and play with. Technology humanized.

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No wonder technology is increasing at an exponential rate. Imagine how much easier it will be to create when you don’t need keyboard shortcuts and tablets to design.

3. Psychology

So in light of the way technology is headed, the way we are currently designing – flat and 2D – needs to change. But how will it look? The answer will involve a great deal of psychology so that the solution produced is something intuitive to all humans. In fact, we might even need to consider the way that we interact with humans in order to develop new ways to design and build software and web applications.

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I was always skeptical when people told me that studying psychology was pointless. It’s used in UX design ALL THE TIME. So go on, take Psych 101. You’re going to be my biggest asset in the future.

In Conlusion:

I’m excited for this change! In fact, my mother told me the other day that everything on the web was starting to look the same. Don’t get me wrong, all the <sections> color blocked to perfection look very aesthetically pleasing, but come on! I’m getting quite bored. Give me something fresh and exciting! I think this “conversation with technology” might be that cool, tall glass of water that quenches my needs.

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Creativity in the U.S.A.

So I’m back home again. It feels good. Although I’m already missing the fact that my degree/main classes were such a mystery to everyone I told. Well at least computer science doesn’t need more than 2 words to be explained (those two words being computer science).

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BUT even though I’m back, I’m not planning on killing this blog. In fact, expect more content as I’m going to try and surf the web as much as my limited time allows me so I can stay on top of the current trends and technology.

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In fact, I just recently discovered this blog that is FANTASTIC. Co.Design. I liked them on facebook so all of their articles come up on my newsfeed, and let me just say, this is the first time I’ve actually appreciated monopolizing of my feed.

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Today I came across this really awesomely creative technological development. 3D TV created by spinning two flat screens back to back. If that’s not a combination of science, design, technology, and psychology, well stuff me in a soft shell and call me a taco. This article (THANK YOU CO.DESIGN) says it all. And check out the video while you’re at it! 

So get ready to be seeing a lot more sharing/op ed’s about their articles.

I’m quite excited to have all this knowledge right at my fingertips. In fact, I’m so excited that I might have to go do a couple laps around the house. BRB.

Interactive Resumes

Interactive Resumes

Okay, when I saw this on the BCT facebook page, I was immediately intrigued. I’ve been wanting to make an interactive resume for a while but have never had the time. Gotta get the website going before you can make the resume, right?

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But this guy knows what’s up. He pretty much gamified his resume, which is not only impressive and interactive but visually appealing. The employer is impressed without even having to read the skills featured in the resume. And isn’t that what we’re always trying to do?

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Definitely out of the box. Whenever I get the chance, that’s my next move.

 

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Summary of this Semester – According to Co-Lab

Just found this summary of the BCT (Bachelor of Creative Technologies) program online and not gonna lie, it pretty much sums up exactly what I did this semester. Props! If only I had found it before I applied, I would have known exactly what I was getting myself into. 

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The Bachelor of Creative Technologies was developed with the future in mind and – like the future – it continues to evolve. The curriculum keeps up with changes in technology, responding to new ideas and accommodating new ways of thinking.

The Bachelor of Creative Technologies (BCT) is designed to be innovative and distinctive. It combines different disciplines to produce imaginative, well-rounded, technically-skilled practitioners who can engage in practice within the creative industries sector and manage, innovate and lead the future development of the sector.

  • Project-based learning in studios or workshops – reflecting the working world of creative professionals
  • Work in the multimedia environment across the boundaries of art, science, design, engineering and computing
  • Focus on student collaboration, project pitches and critiques rather than standard lectures or exams
  • Practical projects: build and develop web applications, make films, create animations and soundscapes, design interactive multimedia environments or games, or invent smart products, systems and services
  • Your study covers intellectual property, organisational theory, project management and how to develop commercial applications for your creative ideas
  • Innovative curriculum that reflects AUT’s commitment to link theory and practice in ways that are relevant to social, economic and cultural change in NZ and around the world.

BOOM.

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Stay tuned for my summary as soon as I’m finished with the course (OMG ONLY ONE WEEK LEFT!)

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Making Mistakes Cute

Found this article via twitter and thought it worthwhile to share in my blog! Mostly because I’ve encountered my fair share of 404 pages myself. (heeeey I’m human too!)

I especially loved the example below. I mean, if I was a consumer and I came across this page, it would actually make me more likely to trust the company because they come across all the more personable and genuine. And the customers feel included in company choices! Well shit, good work guys.

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I mean, if that isn’t creative technology, well I might as well go fire myself from this blog.

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