Creative thinking thrives through collaboration, which involves combining elements and ideas in new ways. This being said, there are all kinds of collaborations these days. Many of them bring us better options and opportunities. Some feel a bit forced or primarily commercially driven. And, occasionally, there is one that is profoundly meaningful, such as the adidas x LEGO® collaboration.
Play x sport = endless possibilities
You can see the effect LEGO sets have on kids even by watching them exit a LEGO store. They’re bonkers. Those parents can’t explain why their kids go nuts for LEGO bricks. But they do.
And sport forms some of our happiest memories. My primary school football team wore Arsenal’s away kit – canary yellow and royal blue. The seemingly endless blue sky and long shadows over the field in the 2nd half as the sun went down – the sound of our collective studs on the concrete as we walked as a team to the field. Those experiences shaped me, and I draw on them daily in my work.
In my career as a creative professional, I am in a constant state of asking, “What is possible?” One part of my profession is to make things that excite people. In the past, what I created were designs for products. Now, I’m designing and creating conditions that enable other designers to make things that are bold and full of new possibilities. The fact that I’m very much connected to the child I was is instrumental in my creative thinking.
Be sure to bring your childhood to work
There’s a purity with kids. They’re clean slates. Unfettered. They’re not jaded. One of the ways I remain connected to childhood is by surrounding myself with what I call anchors. Anchors are objects that evoke memories, associations, and even awe. These may be jerseys from childhood, but also contemporary items, such as beautifully constructed shoes. Items that excite me.
The buildable shoe, which is part of the adidas x LEGO® collaboration, is an especially powerful piece. It’s a physical testament to both brands. When you look at how it’s made, it sparks all kinds of imagination. I found the construction surprising. Angular shapes have been used to create curves. It stimulates curiosity about how things are made and how to see things differently.
Being able to see things differently is crucial in creative professions. But I can imagine how it can be useful in other fields, as well. Seeing new possibilities can help us solve complex problems, create new processes, and make current ones more effective or pleasant. A playful approach can aid us in seeing. After all, play opens us up and makes space for new possibilities.
A workout to spur the creative process
One playful exercise that is integral to my creative thinking can be applied in many situations. I’ll give an example of how I use it, and you can see how it could be transferred to other scenarios.
Let’s say I’m asked to design a varsity jacket. I’m sitting in front of my sketch pad with a pencil. I close my eyes. I’m walking down the street. I think about the store where this varsity jacket would be sold. What does that place look like? When I walk in, what does it smell like? What does the clientele look like? Who else is in there? I know it’s sparse. I know they have super high ceilings and concrete floors. There are few things on the rack. It’s not a jumble sale.
I’m looking for a varsity jacket, and there’s some outerwear over by the wall. I go over to the rack, and I see a leather sleeve with a wool body. I part it back in the rack and hang it in front of me. Then I open my eyes, and say, “What is it?” For me right now, sitting here in the midst of this imaginative exercise, it’s all black. The buttons are matte black. The pockets are fully black, the ribbing is black, the sleeves are black. Instead of a letter on the left chest, there’s a number – it could be a year. Or maybe it represents the brand in some way. Once I see it, I can get it on the page. In my case that means making a sketch.
Each time I do one of these real-time meditations, I end up with a new result. You start with a feeling and follow the breadcrumbs to what would inspire it. These imaginative exercises are one way of accessing the subconscious, tapping into something deeper, igniting creative thinking. We often hear this called flow – the experience of easing effort and being in sync with a force greater than ourselves. These are the spaces where innovation and invention can be discovered.
The sky is the limit
I would like to leave you with some ideas for bringing the spirit of play and sport into your everyday. Maybe real-time meditations will help. Or having inspiring objects around you that evoke deep feelings and spark curiosity.
Let’s face it. Life is not always easy. In fact, it can be really hard. So, it’s helpful to have constant reminders of what’s possible.
Blue skies remind me of when I was a kid, playing football. You’re outside and when you look up, that’s all you see. When I see a blue sky, it brings me back to the most monumental times of my life. Being in my old neighborhood in North London on my bike riding around. They’ve just repaved and put black tarmac down. When you ride on that, you hear the tires, and there is this blue sky above me. That’s the place that I go to now. It fortifies my creative thinking. It refreshes me daily. To me, the blue sky symbolizes possibility. Pure, endless possibility.
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