We live in very dynamic times. "We are shifting from a managerial society to an entrepreneurial society."
"Intuition becomes increasingly valuable in the new information society precisely because there is so much data." John Naisbitt
Intuition, insight, discernment, perception, awareness, understanding, comprehension, apprehension, appreciation, penetration, acumen, judgment, acuity, vision, wisdom, savvy are some of the words that constantly pop up in different journals and business books.
The word that I am hooked to is Insight. The dictionary defines insight as the act or outcome of grasping the inward or hidden nature of things or of perceiving in an intuitive manner. A great example that comes to mind is the discovery of penicillin. During those times it was the norm to throw away moldy blood samples. However, Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scottish bacteriologist, had an instinct to study the mold on a blood sample that had gone bad. That instinct ushered in the era of penicillin and antibiotics. There are thousands of example: perhaps the most studied being Mr. Steve Jobs in our our recent memory. Overnight the IPhone was a best seller because the learning curve was substantially reduced. "The percentage of users actually utilizing all of the features that a smart phone offers was higher than other phones we've tested. The iPhone was more intuitive than other devices." Even a few years ago who would have thought about a technical device being intuitive.
Experts do acknowledge that insight is a learned skill.
Asking a lot of questions does build strong intuitive muscles. In design discovery meetings, the most powerful creative intuitions shows up after a long question and answer sessions. Don't be fearful to ask any questions. Ask questions that does not particularly pertain to the project. See where it goes. To get a feel for the clients emotions' layout a visual map of the conversation. Ask more questions based on the map. Then walk away from the project. Let your sub-conscious take over.
Find solitude. Listen to yourself in solitude. Training yourself to listen to your inner voice when you aren’t alone and will lead to catching powerful intuitive ideas right when you need them.
Strangle the inner critic within you. Turn off your negative barometer. If your inner voice say this is a dumb idea. Make a conscious choice to ask “what part of this idea will work?” This way you will embark on a journey of asking positive questions and your sub-conscious will feed you with solutions in the form of insight - the art of seeing what is invisible to others.
Insight or creative intelligence comes from deep within you. It helps generate not only solutions for your design projects but new opportunities and options for you. Beware! often, it will take you to the less trodden paths that leads to nowhere. "Intuition makes much of it; I mean by this the faculty of seeing a connection between things that in appearance are completely different; it does not fail to lead us astray quite often." Andre Weil
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Simplicity is the shining armor of Zen.
Derived from the Sanskrit word Dhyana, Zen found its way to Japan via China in the form of motionless meditation. The word Zen paints a picture of peace, serenity, waterfall and rounded stones. It has become a part of our every day lexicon, yet we hardly practice what it exhorts. Be here and now. Turn off the filters. Dissolve all preconceptions. Perceive directly. "Dissolve into the eternal now, and realize that the Universe itself peers out through your eyes, hears through your ears, and breaths each breath." Experiencing each moment as it is. According to Chinese Ch’an and Zen, understanding comes only by ignoring the intellect and heeding the instincts, the intuition. True perception comes from vast emptiness.
Whatever the philosophical construct of Zen may be, we all seem to have a visual concept of what Zen is. We talk about Zen like design, we muse on the elegance in the absence of abundance and of course the Zen Master of Subtraction: Steve Jobs is still very alive in our mass psyche. One of Jobs’ great strengths was knowing how to focus. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he said. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”
In his book, The Laws of Subtraction (that will be available on October), Matthew May states 6 simple rules for winning in the age of excess, very much in keeping with the 5 principles of Zen Design Simplicity:
The relevance of this message in our busy business of trade show clutter is huge. Noteworthy, are the first 3 points. Usually, as trade show exhibitors we tend to blast away all the features that our products are capable of. But as Matthews puts it; What isn’t there can often trump what is. He cites the example of Scion. Designers essentially used this strategy in creating the fast-selling and highly profitable xB model, a small and boxy vehicle made intentionally spare by leaving out hundreds of standard features in order to appeal to the Gen Y buyers who wanted to make a personal statement by customizing their cars with trendy options. It wasn’t about the car. It was about what was left out of it.
The discipline to discard that does not fit is the bedrock of Zen design. All aspects of your brand can only stand tall in an intelligently designed space that is anchored in elegant suggestive simplicity. It is the suggestive simplicity that engages human imagination, thus injecting it with the merit momentous memorability.
Create a compelling environment. Unleash the memory capsule.
Any designer who does not appreciate or know about good food is not a very good designer. The planning of a meal and it presentation - the texture, the color, the tastes, the hot and cold temperatures - are the same concerns that affect an environment. Robert Kime, Architectural Digest
Pattern, texture, color, light are integral parts of design that aids to the memorability of a brand. Patterns come in various forms and colors. Thy may be abstract, anthemion, argyle or art deco, batik or basket-weave just to name a few. Patterns when combined with texture makes the architectural design rich and beautiful. The space either achieves harmony or excellence. Textures and or patterns are salient features that plays an important role in defining the rhythm of the exhibit design. Textures are recognized by touch and sight. As William Morris so elegantly puts it: "If there is a reason for keeping the wall very quiet, choose a pattern that works all over without pronounced lines...Put very succinctly, architectural effect depends upon a nice balance of horizontal, vertical and oblique. No rules can say how much of each; so nothing can really take the place of feeling and good judgement."
“Light is the magical ingredient that makes or breaks a space." Add lighting to the mix and you construct the element of feeling. The space starts to communicate to you at a cellular level. Light when diffused off textured surfaces form interesting patterns. Directional lighting amplifies a texture, producing variations in shadows; soft, diffused lighting, on the contrary, minimize contrast and shadows, making textures difficult to read. A perfect example of the play of light, texture and color comes from Evonik Industries. PLEXIGLAS® Textured Sheet RADIANT creates colors that change according to the viewing angle, which is known as the Radiant effect. There is a colorful play of hues that is set off to particular advantage by the surface textures.
Patterns and textures have been part of our life since the per-historic era. Evident everywhere from cave paintings to skin art they play an important role in everyday life and have cultural, religious, and philosophical significance. Our ancestors derived their inspiration from the organic world and everyday objects. Their art has not been forgotten. It dwells deep in our psyche."Old patterns seem excitingly fresh when rejuvenated by a contemporary palette."
One perennial design feature always to remember: Contrast is the magic key. The light and the dark "the old and the new, the rough and the soft. The clash of it all is very sexy."
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Today, in our dizzy digital age, creativity is the most sought after key word, — that will be my creative and educated guess.
We admire creative, thought provoking leaders. We look towards innovative creativity to solve our fossil fuel dependency. We applaud inventive creativity in the form of re-conceptualization of existing governments. The Green Revolution has launched a potent creative skill that I.A. Tayor (1959- The nature of the creative process) calls emergenative creativity. It is a new creation opening an entirely a new paradigm. Good or bad; think about hybrid seeds, cloned corns, plastic from plants and of course the phenomenal creativity of financial engineering that paved way for the financial crisis of 2008. Well, whatever that may be, to be creative and to stay creative is the name of the game. We are all looking for ways to activate our creativity at the snap of our fingers.
The irony is we expect ingenuity to be at our beck and call, yet we starve ourselves of the right environment that feeds it. Ask an artist, a musician or an athlete about the out of the world place they call “the zone.” They all acknowledge a sense of immersion and effortless ease. It is called being in the Flow.
To encounter creativity as a regular phenomenon, James Webb Young in his classic book, "A Technique for Producing Ideas" provdes some simple steps to harness creative ideas.
Needless to say, the creative process unleashes the Flow State as popularised by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He spent decades studying a wide variety of professionals, actors, artists, scholars and athletes who regularly cultivate that zone-like state of effortlessness he calls Flow. He concluded most of the people he studied experience their deepest flow-states while engaged in extremely challenging physical or mental work.
Find expression in something that nourishes a "strong sense of effortless flow to inspire the deliberate practice/work" that will propel you to the pinnacle of your profession.
“There is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.” — Martha Graham
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The fact that Pinterest in now the third most popular social media site, beating Linkedin and Tumblr tells us something about the contemporary mass psychological movement.
We are in the Age of Visual Content Revolution. Visuals have become the greatest crutch in the continuity of story telling. Ford, IBM, GE just to name a few have made the transition from stogy boardrooms to being active participants in this mass upheaval of ideas and culture. For artists designers and the creative folks, story boards and visuals were always part of the DNA. Now, visuals are grasping hold of marketers from different industries and they are realizing the forcefulness of visual marketing.
Visuals make your Brand Fluid!
Visual content draws upon your brand heritage and legacy. It helps in the story telling of your brand. For example, the new Facebook timeline is set up for companies to have opportunity to share their history visually, like Coca-Cola has done below.
Brands like Starbucks, harnesses the power of social media to demonstrate what is going on behind the scenes between employees and customers. This humanizes the brand and promotes brand loyalty and awareness between companies and consumers. They have used visuals to make a powerful statement about their brand's stance on important issues that they believe in.
Visuals make your Brand Captivating!
Visuals capture more than just attention – they capture your heart and drives engagement. In fact, just one month after Facebook introduced timeline for brands, Simply Measured reports that engagement is up 46% percent per post, and visual content (photos and videos) have seen a 65% increase in engagement. Kudos to GE. They have proactively asked for fans to engage with the photos of their products, and the results are phenomenal! Now you know why status updates is loosing the battle to visual updates.
Visuals make your Brand User-Worthy!
If your customers are on at least a couple of the visually-friendly social networks like Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, or Instagram, get them involved in helping shape the story of your brand in a more visual way. Keep in mind that there are multiple industries in which prospects won't make a purchase without first consulting user-generated content. That is the reason perhaps why Dunkin Donuts is encouraging fans to create visual content that gets them excited about their product.
Referral traffic from social media sites to brand websites is on the rise. Shareaholic study revealed Pinterest generates more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined; only Facebook and StumbleUpon generate more.
Bottom Line: Social networks are a direct link to how customers get to your actual website. When brands are communicated through visual mediums, customers are then taking the next step and going directly to your website.
No matter how boring the business of goods that you are in; give it a visual flair, weave a story, include your target audience to participate. And, simply watch how your brand evolves.
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"Better indeed is knowledge than mechanical practice. Better than knowledge is meditation. But better still is surrender of attachment to results, because there follows immediate peace." Bhagavad Gita, Zen and now the mathematical equations of quantum physics do not prescribe actual existence - they predict the potential for existence. It states that solidity is a construct of the ordinary mind and that there never was anything permanent to begin with that we could hold on to. Hence, life would be much more efficient if we lived with the knowledge of impermanence as the only constant.
Some 3000 years later the same philosophy gets a refresher course in the Google campuses of the high-tech Silicon Valley. Cordell Ratzlaff and Irene Au discusses about creating from the heart and subtracting the attachment factor from the impending results. Watch the video. It is an half hour journey into creativity and mindfulness.
When you are not attached to the result in one way or the other, you become so focused in the now that the clarity of your mind goes on over drive. It accesses the wisdom of uncertainty. In uncertainty, lies the freedom from known belief and past conditioning. Professional players are at their best when they are in this "zone". Designers and musicians often surrender themselves to this field of all possibilities. By doing so, they welcome the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.
Keep in mind. You do not give up the intention or the desire to create. You give up your attachment to the result.
"Let the beauty of what you love be what you do." Rumi
As I come to an end, the words of Dōgen Zenji illuminates my mind: “Do not treasure or belittle what is far away, but be intimate with it. Do not treasure or belittle what is near, but be intimate with it. Do not make light of or a big deal of what you see with your eyes. Do not make light of or a big deal of what you hear with your ears. Rather, illuminate your eyes and ears.”
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Conventional wisdom reserves that right hemisphere of our brain is endowed with processing of visual, spatial and emotional manipulation. The left hemisphere is there to serve us for linear reasoning and language functions.
However, the irony is there is no direct scientific evidence collaborating the idea that different thinking style lie within the domain specification of each hemisphere...."the neurophysiologists and neuropsychologists who specialize in the human cerebral cortex are starting to view the left-righters with something of the wariness which the astronomers reserve for astrology." - William H. Calvin.
The Art of Thinking is a dance between the critique and the creator within. The brain constantly combines, substitutes, adapts, modifies, magnifies, substracts, adds, re-arrange and reverses bits of information in order for thinking to happen. It is like a cerebral symphony where billions of neurons participate as master musicians. Perhaps, for this very reason there is little agreement amongst scholars about the definition of the two kinds of thinking. However, the thinking pattern of the geniuses reveal that they are skilled both in the Art of Science and the Science of Art. They can reduce the sun to a yellow spot and they can easily visualize a yellow spot as the life enforcing sun.
In his book, Cracking Creativity, Michael Michalko explores the art of holistic thinking exhibited by geniuses.
1. Know how to see, not just look at: “The invisibility of the obvious”. Great sales people are so good that you do not know when they are selling.
2. Make a thought visible: You interpret via the tangible. "Identify and secure elements needed to draw reasonable conclusions." Be a consummate sketcher.
3. Think fluently: "The holistic experience that people feel when they act with total involvement." It is being in the "flow" as embraced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
4. Make novel combinations: Liquid Paper and Velcro owes their existence due to this novelty.
5. Connect the unconnected: The ever popular Reggae emerged due to the connectivity of traditional African jazz, American jazz, old-time rhythm and blues, ska and rocksteady. Eric Lewis is one such connector. He created a new musical identity: ELEW......it is rock, it is jazz, it is classical piano.
6. Look at the other side: Roger Martin calls this multi-dimensional “integrative thinking”. Martin interviewed more than 50 successful leaders, to find a distinct common characteristic: "the predisposition and capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in their heads. And then, without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other, they're able to produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea."
7. Look in other worlds: It so happens we have abundance of green plants here on Earth. However, that does make a plant green. When the scientists studied light absorbed and reflected by organisms on Earth (that which attributes to the greenery), determined that if astronomers were to look at the light given off by planets circling distant stars, they might predict that some planets have mostly non-green plants.
8. Find what you are not looking for: The Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius who also happened to be a monumental philosopher found equanimity in the midst of conflict.
9. Awaken the collaborative spirit: 'Do Us a Flavour’ An open competition was enacted to design a new crisp flavor for Walkers. The best flavors were then voted on by the public. http://www.walkers.co.uk/flavours/
It is said that the master polymath, Leonardo daVinci always looked at his finished painting from a far distance to get a different perspective. By distancing yourself from the pattern of how you are conceived, you change your perception of who you are, thereby allowing yourself to see something that you could not otherwise see.
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The avant-garde movement in art and literature of the 20th-century that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images is often termed as surrealism. Science says that the human nervous system is bombarded with roughly 2 million bits of information. To maintain sanity, our conscious mind filters out most of the stimuli. In 1956 George A. Miller discovered that the number of objects an average human can hold in working memory is 7 ± 2. The rest, that 2 million - 7(± 2) bits are dealt by the unconscious. Such is the glory of our unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is the store house of immense creative potential. It is 90% of our total mind power as opposed to the 10% of the mind that we usually use in our normal waking state. Another way to look at it is 90% of our total mind power is not normally accessed while sleep. We spend 1/3 of our life asleep. It is the inscapable law of life. However, the subconscious mind never rests or sleeps. It is always active, controlling all our vital forces.
Dr. John Bigelow, a famous research authority on sleep, demonstrated that at night while asleep you receive impressions showing that the nerves of the eyes, ears, nose, and taste buds are active during sleep, meaning our brain is at work. He says that the main reason we sleep is because “the nobler part of the soul is united by abstraction to our higher nature and becomes a participant in the wisdom and foreknowledge of the gods.” Often, we have experienced the creative intelligence of our subconscious at work in our dreams. A consistent way to tap into your dreams is to sleep with a dream journal. When you are at the edge of half-sleep and half wakefulnes, write down the dream in one sentence. You will be amazed the doors that will be opened in that surreal state of mind. As Brad Holland so skillfully pits it: "Surrealism: An archaic term. Formerly an art movement. No longer distinguishable from everyday life."
Surrealism surfaced in the 1920s as a literary movement responding to the illogical mass killings and social turmoil after World War I. Surrealist writers, including former Dadaist Andre Breton, were motivated by Sigmund Freud’s work in exploring the unconscious and sought direct access to the deepest levels of the human mind, unfiltered by logic or reason. By the early 1920s, graphic design and visual art expressed dream-like imagery, ideas mined directly from the unconscious and Salvador Dali became the leader of the Surrealist Movement. The melting watches became the marquee surrealist works of all times.
“Deep within, there is something profoundly known, not consciously, but subconsciously. A quiet truth, that is not a version of something, but an original knowing. What this, absolute, truth [identity] is may be none of our business…but it is there, guiding us along the path of greater becoming; a true awareness. It is so self-sustaining that our recognition of it is not required. We are offspring’s of such a powerfully divine force – Creator of all things known and unknown.” ― T.F. Hodge, From Within I Rise: Spiritual Triumph Over Death and Conscious Encounters with "The Divine Presence"
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“Chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit.” This intense observation made by Henry Adams emphasizes the complex process that underlines the phenomena of creativity. The world around us is studded with examples of order disintegrating into chaos and chaos giving birth to order. Until recently, such occurences as the oscillation of the stock market, or the random firing of neurons in the brain were considered too "noisy" and complex to be explored by science. But now, with the aid of high-speed processors, scientists have been able to penetrate a reality that is changing the way we perceive our universe. Their findings - the basis for Chaos Theory is one of the most exciting scientific search of our time. The now-famous chaos aphorism that the flutter of a butterfly's wing in Istanbul can change the weather in Santa Monica is a dramatic illustration of what Briggs and Peat describe as an "emerging science of wholeness," a growing scientific appreciation of how everything in the universe is intertwined. From the beating of our hearts to the formation of clouds, from the composition of a poem to the spread of a forest fire are all directed by the Law of Chaos. "Chaos suggests that instead of resisting life's uncertainties, we should embrace them. . . Painters, poets, and musicians have long known that creativity blossoms when they are participating in chaos."
A car accident CREATES quadriplegic, cartoonist, painter, musician, John Callahan at the age of 21. "I've learned that circumstances are not happening to me so much as they are happening for me." He knew how to liberate his spirit and to be in the flow. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) CREATES the brilliant astrophysicist Dr. Stephen Hawking. Again at the age of 21, just before his wedding he was given 2 years to live. He acknowledges that time travel is a scientific possibility. Perhaps, this explains how he lived to be 69 now.......
A creative mind is a highly "dynamic system". Irrespective of its surroundings a creative mind will have the audacity to dream, decode and devise. The creative process moves from this primal urge to create, through a period of seemingly utter disarray and disorder before it converges into harmonious unity. Johannes Vermeer, the 18th century Dutch painter created 35 paintings using "two smallish rooms in his house in Delft; they show the same furniture and decorations in various arrangements and they often portray the same people, mostly women". Yet, the limitation of his resources did not hinder him from having a tryst with glittering optics that he is so famously known for. He had a singular way of creating a mood with light and shadow.
The concept of Chaos is evolving from a scientific theory into a cultural metaphor. As a metaphor it allows us to question some of our most admired assumptions and emboldens us to ask fresh questions about reality. Engage in the Seven Life Lessons of Chaos and find organizing intelligence in chaos.
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"Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it." President Barack Obama, 2011
At EuroShop 2011, Strohbach & Krey Messebau Design GmbH & Co. KG was bold enough to execute the maxim "Think Different". It transforms the exhibiting space into a sand-covered beach. It even goes a step further. The space gives you the illusion of walking down right into the beach. The built-up pier being the corner stone of the exhibit design is very cleverly scaled. You walk on it and disappear into the large graphic wall mural: a magical union of the 2 dimensions. The running clips of the waves lapping at the beach makes a keen appeal to your limbic system. You are transported.
"Think Different" was the new campaign that was the turning point for Apple. It gave the brand much needed vigor and destined Steve Jobs with a cult-like euphoric followers. All because he designed different, so different that he altered our behavior. He propelled the human race forward.
Thank you Steve Jobs. You were a phenomenon.
Thank you Craig Tanimoto. You were the much needed vitality for the weary brand.
"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people. While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
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In my writings I am often an explorer, a map maker, sometimes a voyager of the human mind and other times: a creator who is tormented by the inner longing to expand, express and delight !