CRAYON BOX 4: Stefan Bucher

27 10 2009

In one my my earlier posts I mentioned when I was at a design conference I found four scratch off winners on my inspirational lotto ticket. I was on the way to cashing in the jack pot winning ticket to my mental bank. My right side being a mental Swiss bank account of freedom, and my left brain a 401k of responsible brain investing and spending.

I am now ready to reveal the second scratch off to my inspiration lotto ticket.  That person would be Stefan Bucher.  For those that need some star power to make them want to read on more, he designed for Madonas label.  Now that little fact aside, I had heard of Stefan Bucher first through his work with his daily monsters. (His Book)




I had enjoyed Stefan’s work after snooping on the web but after his talk, a workshop, and a sit down with him I was inspired and motivated. I will get to his monsters in a bit, for now I want to share something with you.Stefan G. Bucher first walked on stage in Memphis and after a few short words he started a video.

Music slowly flooded the theatre with anticipating notes. I leaned forward out of my slouch to absorb what was playing in front of me. It felt like a teaser to a great movie that I was going to have to wait for. However, the best part is that I didn’t have to wait as Stefan delivered immediately. Watch the intro below and avoid driving or operating heavy machinery after watching as you might be left light headed with a fogging high level of bliss
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After watching this intro Stephan had more to share.  One thing that stood out was that he had gotten rid of all his personal debt.  In doing so he was now able to choose the clients he wanted instead of grabbing any client in defense of paying off any debt.  I thought to myself, “How refreshing.”  This then in return allowed him to do his own private projects and things he loves. 


I myself could relate as a designer that had stopped creating my own projects outside of my nine to five.  At one point he was offered an opportunity to design one of the NFL Super Bowl Logos.  He was going up against other designers and being a self proclaimed geek who doesnt care for American Football, he chose to design a Super Bowl Logo for nerds.  




The logo speaks for itself. but one of my favorite aspects was Prof. Fin, from the Simpsons, harnessing the testosterone molecule. (see annotated large logo) Needless to stay Stefan Bucher lit a fire under my design seat and my own personal projects. I have become deeply curious and interested again with personal projects in ways that I was in design school. One of his personal side projects you may have heard of is his wildly creative Daily Monsters.

Stefan Bucher started Daily Monsters through his 344Design. Once a day he captures on film himself laying down some black ink, a quick spray or three of compressed air to push the ink around, a few turns of the paper and himself drawing up a monster from his imagination. My favorite thing about this is that he is doing it for himself and not a client, its playful, and that he is discovering creatures from happy accidents. To me seeing opportunity in accidents is what defines the creative process.

He continues to push the envelope, which is the sign of an innovator. He chooses to evolve his monsters on his own and learn along the way about himself, his process and even new softwares. He started to ad colors, backgrounds, and even animate the monsters. I was pleased to find out he had chosen to learn how to do motion graphics on his own through Lynda.com. Great people, artists, designers, leaders, etc are always looking to learn more.

I had to privilege of sitting in his workshop and creating my first monster named Control-Alt-Delete. Who is the size of a mosquitto, eats your hang nails in the middle of the night, and then creates a nest of blue felt fuzz in your belly button at 3am. (Stefan asked us to come up with stories for them)




It was a pleasure seeing him take time to give back to others in this format.  Myself along with twelve others  sat in a round table where we talked art, design, and more.  Stefan was refreshingly honest about himself and his work.  At one point even admitting working with him isn’t easy.  When is the last time we were that honest with our selves let alone strangers?  We can all take a page out of his book of life and work.  You can visit his web page and even contribute with a monster of your own at (Daily Monster).  Enjoy an example below. 

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CRAYON BOX 2: AIGA Time Off from Work for Inspiration & Innovation?

14 10 2009

What does Make/Think mean to you? I was asked that while at the AIGA MAKE/THINK convention in Memphis Tennessee. For those who do not know AIGA is a graphic artist associciaton. Now those two words, MAKE/THINK toiled in my mind.  I pondered how those two words together are apart of my design life. As my mind boiled and toiled over the thought, a thin bushy haired Austrian man walked out on stage and began to speak with his delightful German accent. The designer was one of my favorite minds, Stefan Sagmeister. That man would be one of four scratch off winners on my inspirational lotto ticket. I was on the way to cashing in the jack pot winning ticket to my mental bank. My right side being a mental Swiss bank account of freedom, and my left brain a 401k of responsible brain investing and spending.

As Sagmeisters spoke he focused in on how he gained inspiration. Most of his inspiration for innovation comes from a genius idea that we need to spend time on a sabbatical in order to live a better life and to become a better worker in any field. He noticed he was becoming predictable so, every 7 years he shuts down his design group and they take a full year off. That’s right, no calls, only away messages stating they are out of office for a full year. He understands greatly the power of a sabbatical.

He spoke on how 3m, and Google give their employees up to 20% time off, paid to research and invent on their own. 3m has had a few ideas born in this off time. Those ideas are called Scotch Tape and Sticky Notes…you might have heard of them. As I sat an listened to Stephan I made the direct connection to his process and Pixar.

Pixar Animation Studios allows employees to stay on the payroll and use facilities at Pixar, while they are in between films, to explore and develop their own projects. This is how they find new talents, ideas, and innovation from within. Other studios hire you for a movie and then lay you off when “run of show” has completed. At Pixar, an animator that makes a great short story during their paid time off, might get a chance to become a director for a short film and then get to direct a feature film. Pixar and these amazing companies have found success in downtime, allowing their employees the freedom to explore in their own way, which in return increases their success.  Watch Stefans Talk below.


This kind of exploration leads to work place morale. Morale is one of the single most overlooked aspects in most companies. Often you will find the low moral slows productivity, lowers retention, and creates frustration, among other things. Anyone who has seen Office Space, knows that the movie illustrates this point perfectly.

Brad Bird one of the Directors at Pixar Animation Studios and said this about morale, “In my experience, the thing that has the most significant impact on a movie’s budget—but never shows up in a budget—is morale. If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay much more attention to morale.” (Gigacom.com)

If only more companies, agencies, groups, and world leaders could see this value.  I truly believe we could innovate, and motivate ourselves in ways yet to be seen. Could you imagine if we had some kind of business plan to show business people, clients, and bosses. They could look at hard facts and results. They could see this plan puts their finances back in the black and creates fresh new ideas that lead to change which for the business people leads to profits! I wish we had crystal ball that showed all of this process already working in the real world. Oh wait there is Pixar, Stefan Sagmeister, 3m, Google and many more.

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CRAYON BOX 1: Smelling Crayons Leads to Better Creativity?

7 10 2009

There I was watching some creative guru on stage spewing out a wealth of knowledge on creativity, when I heard him repeat a statement I had heard twice before. With squinted eyes and a lean forward, as if to share a secret he said, “Studies show the simple smell of crayon increases creativity in the human brain.” With out much more explanation he moved on with his brilliant talk, however he just invited my mind to a cerebral dinner with no address or e-vite Google map. So what happens when you smell of box of Crayolas?
 

I mean, should I be grounding this stuff up and snorting my favorite color green? For most people when you smell crayons, as an adult, there will be a cerebral flash back to child hood. Most can relate to this as many of us have used crayons through out childhood. I started to tinker, in my apparently crayon needy brain, how does this smell supposedly make us more creative as adults? Through out my life and design career I have studied thought process, creative problem solving, and our brain. 

“There is no doubt that smell is a powerful sense. The olfactory system, the apparatus responsible for our sense of smell, has a pathway in the brain closely associated with the limbic system. The limbic system contains the amygdala and the hippocampus parts of the brain, which are closely associated with emotion and memory respectively.” (BBC)

Think of smells that might remind you of the holidays, or a favorite meal, and it takes you there. The smell of fresh cut grass is my flux capacitor and 1.21 gigawatts later I have been transported to my childhood summers in Chicago. These summers are filled with lazy evenings, no school, baseball, cooking out, and fireflies. As nostalgic memories wash over me in warm waves, my very mind set changed. I came to realize crayons might bring us back by way of nostalgia to a childlike thought process. So I went and bought a box, opened it for a smell. Without many specific memories, it did still take me back and made me smile. I felt free, I felt happy, and I felt a change in my mind set. Now how does this mind set apply to my creative process?

If you give a child a problem to solve they tend to find interesting and unique solutions to the problem because they have no statue of limitations. A friend of mine told me that her daughter said she wanted to create a sculpture. She supported it and let her daughter use any supplies from the family art bin. When her daughter was done, she took her by the hand and had her mother close her eyes. As the mother got ready and opened her eyes, she expected some kind of play-doh or popsicle stick man. She opened her eyes to find an open closet with clear scotch tape hanging from the clothing rack, in balled up interesting shapes.

Here was a little girl that had no clear definition or limitations of what a sculpture is and she defined it in a unique and brilliant way. Picaso said it best, “It took be 4 years to paint as Raphael, but it took me a life time to paint as a child.” When I have brainstorms I bring in people from outside the category so there is less expertise. These non-experts tend to have fresh and new ways of approaching the same problems we are trying to solve, or innovate, because they do not know about the statute of limitations.

Part of the creative process is dreaming up a solution to a problem, with hurdles such as cost, lawyers, limitations, or rules. Recently Scientists have talked about how Star Trek sci-fi gadgets have influenced them in the experimentation and creation of everything from the invention of digital thermometers to cell phones. The TV show creatives came up with the gadgets on the show with no limitations and the real scientist of the world used those dreams of fiction as a creative spark for innovation. Creatives, dreamers, and artists inspire the technology, engineering, legislation, business, and builders of tomorrow. This process is no different than allowing a child like mind set with no limitations, to come up with creative solutions then guiding that idea with a unwavering optimism.

When I lead brainstorm, I have boxes of crayons everywhere. I have everyone pick up a box and take a smell. Watching the light bulbs and nostalgia set in is amazing. Along with the nostalgia smells, one process I actually use is a kid-storm. In a kid-storm I have everyone in the group approach the problem like a 1st grader. I assign the problem like a teacher would. The group can only use crayons and paper, and doodle with their non-dominant hand, a drawing of an idea from the depths of their inner child bases on what we are brainstorming. The ideas have a budget of 10 bazillion dollars to work with, zero limits, and can even use magic. We then review the ideas and find a way to make them a reality. The ideas end up being unique, amazing, fresh, and innovative.

So next time you find your self in the isles of Target or Walgreens, be sure to buy a 79 cent pack of crayons and have a smell. Hold on tight and tell me where you end up. Just be sure if do, to remember to bring some high grade plutonium to get you back to the future. I forgot the plutonium and I am stuck with my child like brain waves of 1982 and to be honest, I am OK with that.
 

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