CRAYON 4: Bring a "Kids" Lunch Box to work

22 10 2009

So I work with all different kinds of creative people, and one thing that makes me smile on the way into work is what many people carry into work. What they carry says as much about the person as it does about my group I work with. The item I am referring to would be the lunch pails and boxes in all shapes, sizes and materials. I have seen them in plastic and cloth, and even the wonderful Thermos brand that are  all plastic with a matching a thermos. There are designer lunch boxes and even state of the art lunch boxes.

These aren’t just containers holding a meal to tie one over until dinner. No these metal and plastic rectangles are badges of youthful honor. The majority of the art on the lunch boxes are what some might call “childish.” These are not childish they are brilliant.  It is incredibly satisfying to see a guy who is 42, with a wife and kids walk into the front door with a Superman tin lunch pale. Anyone who says “thats childish” I truly feel sorry for them. Walt Disney said it best…

“Why do we have to grow up? I know more adults who have the children’s approach to life. They’re people who don’t give a hang what the Joneses do. They are not afraid to be delighted with simple pleasures, and they have a degree of contentment with what life has brought – sometimes it isn’t much, either.” – Walt Disney

My current lunch box model is a plastic Thermos with Duck Tales on it (pictured below). Unfortunately it has broken latches so I am on the hunt for a new one. Go and check out ilovethe80s or some other web searches to find a lunch box that brings you back to your youth, or just puts a smile on your face. It could be an A-Team or My Little Pony box, could be Disney, The Lone Ranger, Magnum PI, The Beetles, or even a Partridge Family lunch box. Don’t even think for a moment what others might think. I guarantee they will be impressed, intrigued and want to find one for themselves…and if anything they will be jealous of your individuality. If not, I pity the FOOL!   

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CRAYON 3: Say Hello

21 10 2009

Remember when we were younger and little more inquisitive? Do you also remember when it was the simple things in life that made us smile?  Today find three people you do not know and take these next steps.

Say Hello Smile, Find out there name. It might go something like this.

You: Hey how are yah?

They: Not bad you?

You: Not bad…by the way whats your name?

They: My names John

You: Well John my name is “You” nice to meet yah hope you have a good day.

Sometimes a simple hello can make a persons day, and sometimes even their week. This is an easy one. Tell me what happens.  

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CRAYON 2: Build a Fort or Tent!

20 10 2009
So I had 3 chairs, 1 table, about 5 bedroom linen sheets, maybe a sleeping bag or two, and a flashlight.   What I really had was a wagon covered river raft just like in the game Oregon Trail.  With a friend, we sailed the high seas, braved the Amazon and Congo, floated through monster infested waters that occasionally turned into molten lava.  We even managed to wire a TV with a VHS to watch Labyrinth or Goonies on the tented raft  Top it all off with junk food, soda pop, and pixie stix and it was bliss.  

Some how we were able to sleep in the tent, interrupted only by the occasional collapsing of the tent in the middle of the night, which was just the monster “Three Horn” playing tricks on us.  So I challenge you as an adult or parent to build a tent in doors out of sheets and other found objects, watch a movie and bring the junk food.  Oh yeah and flashlights are an effective way to scare off “Three Horn.”  Trust me.    

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CRAYON 1: Play a Board Game

19 10 2009

Here is a quick single crayon to smell. Go grab a board game, for that matter go grab one that is not meant for adults. No really, do it, and play it with a friend or two. The key here is to choose a game that you use to play as a kid and see what happens. My favorites were Clue, Operation, Mouse Trap, Win Loose or Draw, Hungry Hungry Hippo, Candy Land, Battleship, and the others below.
Remember Ants in the Pants and Cooties? They are so simple and brought me right back to being a kid. My sister loved Mystery Date, but I chose to use that game board and her Easy Bake Oven as a torture chamber for my G.I. Joes. 
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CRAYON BOX 3: Dr. Seuss and His Unorthodox Taxidermy

17 10 2009
I went into a Pop Art gallery about a year ago and saw something that stopped me in my tracks. From ten feet away I was so pleased, happy, curious, and excited that the rest of my body had no idea what to do with itself. I could hardly move and a smirk grew over my face as I shook my head, thinking “he is a genius.” I heard a voice in my head say, “they are great aren’t they?” I had cause for concern, because the voice in my head was a woman’s. For a moment I thought I had finally gone crazy, until I realized it was one of the employees of the gallery standing behind me.

In front of me on the wall were 4 or 5 mounted creatures that were no doubt from the world of Dr. Suess. The employee and I began a discussion and she started to tell me about how Theodor Suess Gisel’s father use to be a superintendent of a Forrest Park Zoo. His father would bring home antlers, horns, shells, and bird beaks from deceased animals. These items ended up in boxes, then fell into the hands of Dr. Seuss many years later and he decided to use them to bring his imagination into a three dimensional world. He took these real antlers, horns, shells, and bird beaks and sculpted around them to create Dr Seuss’ School of Unorthodox Taxidermy.


His characters had names like “Two Horned Drouberhannis,” “Andulovian Grackler,” and “Semi-Normal Green-Lidded Fawn.” Shortly after Seuss created this unique collection of artworks, Look Magazine dubbed Seuss “The World’s Most Eminent Authority on Unheard-Of Animals.” To this day, Seuss’s Unorthodox Collection of Taxidermy remains as some of the finest examples of his inventive and multi-dimensional creativity. (

Dr. Seuss had the ability to take his mind somewhere else. He could look at something as simple as a beak and allow his mind to flow to places many wish they could visit. His biggest playground and vacations must have been the ones he took by simply shutting his eyes or daydreaming. Needless to say I have always loved Dr. Seuss, his stories, illustrations, and hidden messages. He was one amazing man that understood the power of pairing imaginative creativity with storytelling. A pairing as good as a couple of sunny side up green eggs and a side of ham.

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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.” (

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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