When I was in grade 8, I had a social studies teacher who made us colour, with pencil crayon, every page of looseleaf paper that we turned in.  Nothing creative, but it needed to be filled in, from corner to corner.  Ingrained within my sense-memory is the unpleasantness of the edges, trying to keep the paper from flipping up or tearing, easing the pencil over the three holes.  When questioned, the teacher said that if he had 500 resumes, all with identical qualifications, and one of them was a different colour – that’s the person he’d hire.  Continue reading


The Science of Creative Thinking

Creative Thought Has a Pattern of its Own, Brain Activity Scans Reveal  – According to a recent study, highly creative thinkers have a distinctive combination of brain activity – areas which are associated with wandering thought, and with focused thought are active simultaneously.  Usually these processes work against each other in less creative brains.  It’s clear just how undervalued creativity is in our modern world – one scientist suggested further research would be necessary to determine whether creativity was a transferable skill (*eyeroll*).  Best quote: “One of the barriers to creative thinking is the ease with which common, unoriginal thoughts swamp the mind.” Too true.

Another recent study suggests that suppressing areas of the brain responsible for planning and abstract reasoning results in a greater aptitude for original thinking.

Nick Davis, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Manchester Metropolitan University, who was not involved in the study, welcomed the research. “When the [dorsolateral prefrontal cortex] was ‘cooled down’, the brain seems to have stopped applying old rules, and been more successful at finding new rules – this is the essence of creativity in problem-solving,” he said of the study.

In a way – it seems like creativity requires us to ‘turn off’ what we’ve learned.  This makes sense when we consider divergent (“blue sky”) thinking.  We generate ideas without considering the barriers, without judgement.  So much of the design process is the interplay between divergent and convergent thinking – is the first study essentially saying that creative thinkers are better at doing these simultaneously?  Continue reading


I work in design… in more than one way.  It’s kinda meta.  Basically I work as an educator and curriculum designer in a design field of study.

I’m not sure how I missed this, but I recently came across some random mention of empathy and design in the same sentence.  Zing!  Lightning strikes!  I have so many ideas and thoughts tumbling out…

I’ve been fascinated with artists and narcissism, creativity and dysfunction, roadblocks and self-defeating behaviours.  I’m designing a course on personal and professional development for designers; I’m examining my own preferences for creative companions, while maintaining a commitment to self-care; I’m questioning with a friend why we chose design rather than art.

A few things to add to the nebulous cloud of ideas:

Ambidextrous thinking – implies thinking with ‘right’ and ‘left’ brains together, as well as thinking with the whole body (in other words, kinesthetic thinking)

Scientific vs. Design thinking – How do we approach problems similarly?  Differently?

Wicked problems – problems that are not only difficult to solve, but difficult to define.  Has me thinking about the Ingenuity Gap.

Characteristics of the designer – Empathetic, curious, creative, left+right brained, optimistic, collaborative

I’m also interested to explore applying design thinking to societal and business problems – truly creative problem solving .  Design thinking leaves room for the muckiness of a wicked problem… and we’ve certainly got a lot of those.

I feel like I need to do some flow-charting….