Last month, Alicia Huber, my experiential design partner in Columbus, and I, were fortunate to be featured presenters at Making Midwest, an emerging conference for design professionals highlighting innovators from various creative backgrounds throughout the Midwest sharing their passion, projects, and path.
We spoke to the "Power of the Pivot," and talked through ways to turn career obstacles into opportunities, sharing candidly about our paths into the field of Experiential Design as well as the challenges we’ve faced along the way and how we’ve pivoted for personal growth. Presenting at the conference was an honor in itself, so when we were generously given an honorarium for our participation, we immediately knew we wanted to reinvest that funding into something creative.
Calling on our Corporate + Social Responsibility partners at A Kid Again, we invited a group of kids battling life-threatening illnesses to take a break from being sick and enjoy just being a kid through our favorite method of decompression - creative play! Enlisting help from the uber talented Natalie of NaterDoodle, we sat beside the kids and their families as we all enjoyed an afternoon session filled with artistic exploration, trying new things, making mistakes, finding creative discoveries, and at the end of the day, embracing play.
Not only was this creative, highly interactive experience filled with fun for both the kids as well as Alicia and myself, but it fondly reminded me of the free spirit that play (and kids) inspire. As a creative professional, I sometimes find myself too focused on process and project management, that I forget all the amazing discoveries and unexpected aesthetics that arise from letting my mind go and just playing. Luckily in my field, playing is working - and it’s fun! In fact, Researcher Stuart Brown, MD, who has spent decades studying the power of play, “believes that play is at the center of creativity and innovation.” In the experiential design world, play involves so much including new mediums, color palettes, typography, materiality, and shapes. Playing is what I do with brand elements and messaging before fully understanding how they could be interpreted differently or represented in an elevated and experiential way.
I constantly hear people lament, “I’m just not creative,” and this qualm has become a pet peeve because creativity and creative thinking are skills that are learned. Just like speaking a second language or writing in cursive, creativity isn’t a talent you are either born with or without, it takes work to get good at and drive to maintain at a high level. Chief Executives around the world confirm in a recent IBM survey, that creativity is the most sought-after trait in leaders today. Do you think all the world’s best leaders were just fortunate to be born creative? Nope.
Creativity is a process involving thinking outside traditional parameters, challenging norms, vulnerability, being bold, and you guessed it - failing! A lot of things people are uncomfortable with, particularly in a professional setting. However, if you practice the skills of creative play in familiar environment doing something you love, you build confidence and that confidence paves the way for you to apply your skills to new situations with different people. There’s no fear when you have fun - and those are the moments when you can free yourself from previous limitations. Don’t we all want to be boundary breakers?
Alright, now it’s your turn! Below are some examples of creative play to get you comfortable dipping a toe in the creativity pool, even if you feel as though you don’t belong. Although these things may seem frivolous or a waste of time, remember the world we live in has conditioned us to think this way and prioritize other tasks. These activities are meant to be silly and release your inner child. The more you break your routine with creative play, the more your creative skillset will be sharpened sparking a fresh mindset.
Rocking out at a concert...or in your living room
Talking to your pet
Making shapes with pancake batter
Making a collage
Holding a Lip Sync Battle
Playing games and puzzles
Hosting a puppet show
Building a fort
Jumping in puddles
Cooking with limited ingredients or to a theme