38 posts categorized "Creative Workshop"

This Week's Challenge: Trompe L'Oh Wow

I think every child is obsessed with magic. From the large-scale illusions of David Copperfield all the way down to the local magic-shop owner palming coins before a crowd of two adoring twelve-year-olds, the practice of magic is a wide-eyed delight for millions—and an exclusive club for those who choose to explore its secrets.

Designers can be magicians as well. The FedEx logo immediately comes to mind, with its witty placement of an arrow within the mark. With just a pencil and paper, we can conjure up similarly surprising illusions that bend our perceptions of space and time. But no matter what methods you choose to employ, your visual trickery must be simple enough to disguise with a little sleight of hand—and smart enough to metaphorically act as a representative of the whole. After all, the most effective illusions are those whose expressions vanish softly into the fabric of a well-formed idea.

In this challenge, you’ll get a chance to practice your craft on the one audience that will most appreciate your efforts.

In 90 minutes, create a logo for the Global Magic Society, a national invitation-only group of upper-echelon magicians. As part of your design exercise, you must incorporate an optical illusion into your mark.

Continue reading "This Week's Challenge: Trompe L'Oh Wow" »

This Week's Challenge: Robot Army Mail-Order Kit

In the back of a comic book, tiny black-and-white ads beckon to you with their mysterious treasures. Will you send away for a model rocket that you can launch in your backyard? Perhaps you could use a decoder ring to help you trade messages with your best friend in math class. Or would you like a set of plans for constructing your very own robot? Just send us $8.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling…

Since you’re a designer, you don’t need to buy the plans for making a robot. You can design one on your own. And in the process, you can glean some insight into the realm of paper engineering—where you must not only become adept at learning how to shape flat substrates into a variety of forms, but also be able to externalize your design vision into a tangible list of steps that clearly conveys how to bring your idea to life.

In 60 minutes, draw up easy-to-follow plans to construct a robot of your own design out of various household materials: paper, pipe cleaners, buttons, cardboard tubes, etc. Then, give the plans and materials to a friend, then watch and take notes as she builds what you’ve designed. The robot must be able to be built in ten minutes or less.

Continue reading "This Week's Challenge: Robot Army Mail-Order Kit" »

Slides from "Designing with the Body" Workshop

Last Friday and Saturday, I taught a 75-minute workshop at AIGA Seattle's "Into the Woods" conference on how designers can incorporate prototyping practices into their design repertoire. Quickly prototyping design solutions is often the only way that a design team can discern which solution is most desirable and accessible for their intended audience. This is especially true for product, service, and exhibit design projects, which often have intangible qualities that are hard to capture in a whiteboard sketch.

In this workshop, I encouraged participants to randomly select a design challenge and then act out possible solutions to it. The challenges in the workshop were drawn from my first book from HOW Design Press, Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills. These challenges were timeboxed in a manner that forced workshop participants to learn through prototyping and improvising the use of their design ideas:

15 minutes: Sketch ideas on paper and discuss amongst the team

15 minutes: Settle on one idea and create a physical prototype of your idea AT SIZE

15 minutes: Conduct a walkthrough of your design with one of your team members, with an eye towards which of your ideas may or may not be working. Use any remaining time to add or change design elements that improve your idea.

1 minute: A person from another team will walk through a use case with your design, and you need to act out what would happen as they interact with it, swapping in the appropriate screens or being the voice of the interface. However, this does not mean that the designers get to explain what should happen. They have to sit and watch as a person with no knowledge of their solution experiences it for the first time, and voices their expectations regarding how it should work.

Since each team only had a limited amount of time to detail out the specifics of their solution to the design challenge they'd selected, they were discovering new possibilities as they prototyped their solution, tested it among their own team, and then shared it out with the overall group. And since they had to provide the voice of the interface, they began to think about how well-designed products and services speak to you from their very first "Hello."

Shown below is one of the solutions to the challenge "Touch Screen of Deaf Rock." Teams were tasked with creating an exhibit at a children's museum where deaf children could feel different types of music. To test out solutions, one of the people in the room put in earplugs and then walked through the exhibit to see how it worked. In this example, the pens dangling on strings were meant to represent wind chimes. When a person would tap them, a breeze would blow over their face.

Designing with the Body - Touch Screen of Deaf Rock Photo

This Week's Challenge: Never Tear Us Apart

There is a specific style that accompanies music poster design: sleek Illustrator art touched up with a bit of grit, merged with hand-drawn type that precisely fits into well-defined shapes. Then, when the posters are screen-printed, the designer gets inventive regarding what order the inks hit the paper to create unique interactions between colors. Stick twenty of those creations up at local record stores, give a few to the band, and put the rest online for your fans to buy at $20.99 (plus shipping and handling).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love this style of poster design, and especially the work of the Small Stakes and Patent Pending Industries. But I also like to see how designers can think outside the trappings of this most artistic medium.

So, for the following music poster challenge, let’s see how you can tear things up. Literally.

In 60 minutes, create a poster for a rock concert soon to hit your neighborhood. Instead of planning and executing your design via sketch or in the computer, make the poster completely out of torn things: pieces of paper, solid objects, found elements, and collage.

Once you’ve solidified your layout, photograph or scan the resulting poster, bring it into a photo-editing program, and begin to play with how it will be reproduced to advertise the upcoming gig.

Continue reading "This Week's Challenge: Never Tear Us Apart" »

This Week's Challenge: Biodegradable Backyard

Brian LaRossa - Birdbloom

Lying in the backyard, reading a book and relaxing in the sun one day, I was suddenly struck by how practically every product within eyesight was designed to outlast me.

Green plastic deck chairs, rippled to simulate wood grain. A plastic bird feeder—a popular speakeasy for the starlings and robins. In the garden, a pair of purple Crocs shoes were lurking near the tomato plants, whose vines wound happily around black plastic stakes. Even the snakelike garden hose tucked between the bushes has been explicitly designed to resist the elements, no matter the long-term environmental cost.

For this challenge, rethink the logic that governs how we produce products for outside our home.

Pick an item that you’d generally find in your backyard—such as one of the items in the above list—and redesign it so that it could gracefully biodegrade. As an example, consider the bird feeder. Could you make such a thing that also wouldn’t be torn asunder by hungry birds over a single season, or ravaged by the elements? Or is that part of the conceit, that you want the feeder to eventually be eaten? Try to get to a final solution in less than two hours.

Shown above is designer Brian LaRossa's idea, BirdBloom. It's a birdhouse that is water-resistant on the outside, but when inverted and left out in the garden, naturally biodegrades and returns to the earth. The bright colors would be sure to attract our fine feathered friends.

Continue reading "This Week's Challenge: Biodegradable Backyard" »

This Week's Challenge: I'm Drawing a Blank

I'm Drawing a Blank by David Sherwin - Picture 1

White space… the final frontier.

These are the voyages of the graphic designer. Our mission: to bring balance and grace to an otherwise overloaded layout. To seek out opportunities to pare away excess and focus on what’s necessary. To boldly convey the appropriate conceptual idea to our audience.

Our quest for bold use of white space is what makes the following challenge so difficult—and the results that come out of it so rewarding.

You were recently hired by a paint company to help them with a rebranding effort. For your first project, they would like you to design a 9" x 12" (23cm x 30cm) folder that will hold a revamped press kit and other supplementary collateral. Your client has given only one mandatory direction: the folder must have at least 90 percent white showing in the overall design. You have 60 minutes to complete this challenge.

In a twenty-minute brainstorm session for this challenge, I sketched out this idea for a paint-by-numbers cover for the fictional Kingston Artist’s Supply catalog. The reader can flatten out the folder, purchase the paint colors noted in the legend on the back cover, and start on their first masterwork.

Continue reading "This Week's Challenge: I'm Drawing a Blank" »

Join me at Interaction 11 and South by Southwest 2011

Interaction 11 and SxSWi have both just announced their speaker lineups, and I've very honored to have been included in both. I hope to get a chance to meet many of you in Boulder and Austin next year.


Interaction 11 Conference, February 9-12, 2011

Better Ideas Faster: Effective Brainstorming for Interaction
A Workshop at Interaction 11 / Register Here

You're under the gun. Again.

Only a few days to come up with a revolutionary new feature for your Web app. Or you've been tasked by your boss to give your company's new mobile experience a little more oomph. Or you're floating in the space of a nebulous client problem that you just can't seem to pin down.

In these situations, it can be hard to focus on coming up with breakthrough ideas. But don't worry, help is to the rescue. David Sherwin from frog design, a global innovation firm, will share tools and methods that any interaction designer can use--especially those that are relatively new to the profession--to more consistently brainstorm quality ideas for creating and improving products, services and systems.

Over the course of this workshop, through active brainstorming exercises and in-depth group discussion, we'll answer questions such as:

  • How can I best structure my brainstorming processes?
  • What lightweight brainstorming techniques can I use that will inspire new, more innovative design ideas more quickly?
  • How can I be more effective in moving from project discovery to generating targeted design ideas?
  • How can our team collaborate best across disciplines to rapidly iterate any type of interactive experience?
  • How can our team best synthesize a wide range of ideas into a set of compelling client recommendations?

The workshop will also be informed by examples from frog brainstorming and David's book Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills (HOW Design Press, Dec. 2010).



Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills
An Author's Talk at SxSWi / Register Here

At next year's South by Southwest, I'll be giving a 20-minute talk about how interactive designers can foster their creative skills, then signing copies of Creative Workshop.

This Week's Challenge: Opposites Attract

Opposites Attract by Jessica Thrasher

“Am I so ugly that I need to put a paper bag over my face?” Yes, Mona, you are. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder—at least, that’s how the old cliché goes.

For designers, the opposite is often true. When you’re solving a design problem, you often need to land on a beautiful idea for the appropriate audience before you start worrying about how good the idea will actually look in the final, designed execution.

So, what happens if you’re asked to come up with a beautiful design idea about what beauty really means? What do you do when the entire foundation of your design is unnervingly objective, something that can be defined differently for each consumer? With this challenge, you’re going to find out.

An editor at a major publishing house has contacted you and asked if you’ll brainstorm cover concepts for an upcoming hardcover book about perceptions of beauty throughout the ages. Ironically, the book is titled Ugly by author Jane Klingslaner. In 60 minutes, come up with a range of cover ideas, then select one of those ideas to draw out in a clean, professional comp that can easily be migrated into a computer execution.

Continue reading "This Week's Challenge: Opposites Attract" »

This Week's Challenge: Imaginary Film

Every week, I’ll be sharing with the design community a creative challenge, alongside sample solutions from working designers and students. The challenge below is from my forthcoming book for HOW Design Press, Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills. These weekly challenges will be cross-posted on the Imprint blog from Print Magazine.

Action-packed typography. A bold ingénue enhanced by dramatic shadows conjured up by Photoshop. An atmosphere conveyed through color that hits you square in the gut. Since you’re in the trade of making pictures, you’ll definitely enjoy this challenge.

Brainstorm a name and plot for a made-up film, including its genre and the decade in which it was produced. Using that description, create a DVD cover for the imaginary film that aesthetically conveys all of those details. You have only 60 minutes to brainstorm ideas and create a sketch of your cover.

Will you be in the business of marketing a film noir pic made in 1980? A lost Woody Allen film from the ’70s? Or the fourteenth sequel in a long-running line of horror classics? Seal in an envelope a one-sentence plot for your film. Then, show your DVD cover to some friends, ask them what they think it’s about, and open the envelope—just like the Oscars—to reveal if they’re correct.

Shown above is a solution by designer David Christopher Everly. He says that his imaginary film Lily, Under the Sea is “an off-beat comedy about Lily, a young twenty-three-year-old New York hair-stylist struggling to make it on her own in the big city.”

If you decide to tackle this challenge, post links to your solution—whether a rough sketch or a final execution—in the comments.

Cover for "Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills"

Cover for Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills

I'm excited to share with you the cover for my first book, Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills, due out in November 2010 from HOW Design Press. Kudos to Grace Ring, the art director and designer at my publisher that put together this very sweet cover.

Pre-sales are now available on Amazon.com! Here's a few words about the book:

Have you ever struggled to complete a design project on time? Or felt that having a tight deadline stifled your capacity for maximum creativity? This book is for you.

Within these pages, you’ll find eighty creative challenges that will help you reach a breadth of innovative design solutions, in various media, within any set time period. By completing these challenges, you’ll round out your skills by exploring projects along the full continuum of design disciplines, from the bread and butter of branding and collateral to the wild world of advertising to the user-centered practices of creating interactive projects. Along the way, we’ll take brief forays into wayfinding, editorial design, video and motion graphics, and many other areas of our continually expanding practice.

To aid you in conquering these challenges, I’ll provide you with useful brainstorming techniques and strategies for success. By road-testing these techniques as you attempt each challenge, you’ll find new and more effective ways of solving tough design problems and bringing your solutions to life.

The book is illustrated by a range of professional designers, students, and teachers across all disciplines of design. When layout is finished, we'll be able to share the final list of those included.

If you want a taste of the material in advance, check out my presentation at the 2010 my talk at the HOW Design Conference entitled "Better Ideas Faster: How to Brainstorm More Effectively."

"80 Works for Designers": Call for Design Submissions

80 Works Creative Challenge

Have you wanted to design a book cover, or the interior of a store? Wondered how hard it would be to create a user interface for a desktop gadget? Pondered if you have what it takes to embark into a new discipline of design?

I'm currently compiling a book for HOW Design Press. The book consists of 80 creative challenges that are designed to stretch your talent into disciplines that you are interested in exploring, but have never had the opportunity to try. Until now.

Would you or a designer that you know be interested in giving one of these exercises a spin? If you are, email me at dksherwin at msn.com with areas of interest from the list below. I'll send you a few challenges, and when you're done, send me back your designs to be considered for inclusion in the book. Designers whose work is selected will have their name and contact information listed in the book, and if space allows, a caption for the work that describes your intent for the design.

Please feel free to forward this post along to any designers that you know who might want to take part.

[Update 04/26/09: I neglected to mention that if you're a design student, teacher, or represent a design firm, you're welcome to participate. The challenges range from simple to outrageously complex, so if you want something that'll really push a larger team, contact me.]


David Sherwin
dksherwin at msn.com


Areas of design to explore:

Foundation exercises: typography, concepting, illustration, paper engineering, research, writing, design history

Branding: identity development, collateral, packaging, annual reports

Interactive media: information architecture, user interface design, interaction storyboarding, interactive experiences

Editorial: book + magazine covers, page layout

Advertising + marketing: print ads, online ads, posters, out of home, tv commercials, guerilla tactics

Store design + wayfinding: retail store experiences, trade show booths, environmental graphics, wayfinding

Product design

Video + motion graphics: storyboards, hand animation

Find Out For Yourself


"If you want to study something, it's better not to know what the answer is."

I was reading the essay "Find Out For Yourself" by Shunryu Suzuki today when I was struck with a sudden thought: we can be better designers when we don't know what we're doing.

Many of us were attracted to the field of design specifically to make art. Then, somewhere along the way -- especially after having so much energy placed in making artifacts, not art -- our perception of what it meant to be a designer broadened. We became competent in creating specific kinds of artifacts. We mastered specific domains of expression.

But that didn't mean that we designed better artifacts. It's human insight that grounds and infuses design work that creates meaningful change in our society.

Making is not a direct substitute for generating meaning in design. But the process of making can lead to meaning, and our minds must be open to receive it. I've heard this described as "abductive" design thinking -- which in plain English boils down to being able to extrapolate solutions from limited information.

You can seek out that insight before creating your design, if you have the tools. If you don't, then you can start designing. But if you want to use your time wisely -- not efficiently, mind you -- you should practice agile design.

This is an excerpt from the final lecture for this quarter of 80 Works. Continue reading "Find Out For Yourself" on the 80 Works blog.

80 Works for Designers: Book, Class, and Launch of 80Works.com

Here's a quick update of what's going on with 80 Works for Designers...

The Book. I've signed up with HOW Design Press to write a book for working designers! The book will be based off the 80 Works classes I'm teaching these next few quarters. You can get the full story here.

The Class. The first 80 Works for Designers class starts this Thursday, and there's still space for one or two more designers. Read details about the class here and contact me at dksherwin at msn.com if you'd like to participate. Work on certain exercises in the class will be considered for inclusion on 80Works.com and in the book.

The Blog. There's now an 80 Works blog that will let you follow along with the class week by week. You can read it at http://www.80works.com/ and watch how things develop! I'll also frequently post questions for discussion and class exercises for the community to take part in, as well as calls for submission for contributing to the book.

To keep ChangeOrder's focus on business and design process, I will only include news about 80 Works for Designers here as stubs, while http://changeorder.typepad.com/80_works_for_designers/ will contain frequent postings about the class and the book.

Thanks to everyone who's helped support this idea since the very beginning... it's turning into quite a journey!

80 Works for Designers: Class Starting in January!

80 Works for Designers at the Creative Academy at Seattle Central Community College

Over the past few months, I've written about a class I've been developing called 80 Works for Designers. Now it's real!

The Creative Academy at Seattle Central Community College has agreed to host this class from the Winter Quarter onwards. They are one of the best design programs in Puget Sound region and have a gorgeous new facility that we will use for class time. The class will be limited to 12 designers to ensure each person's work gets maximum attention. Students will also get the opportunity for their work to be considered for inclusion in a forthcoming design book (details coming soon!).

Here's the full course description. If you're interested in participating, please contact me at dksherwin at msn.com.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


80 Works for Designers
A new non-credit course offered at Seattle Central Community College
Winter Quarter (11 weeks)
Starting Thursday, January 8th
Meets every Thursday at 6:30 - 9:30 PM
Instructor: David Sherwin
12 people maximum
$350 + materials

80 Works for Designers is an intensive 11-week course for designers looking to make the leap from a design education into a fast-paced, professional design practice.

Course participants will take part in eight conceptual projects a week -- both in collaborative class exercises and through take-home assignments -- under constraints that match the pace of a professional creative agency. As a result of this time compression, course participants will quickly discover where their innate talents exist as a designer, and they’ll be guided by other students and their instructor in order to further tap those gifts. And, of course, we'll have fun along the way!

In 80 Works for Designers, we'll focus on gaining experience with regards to:

How to reach a breadth of innovative design solutions, in various media, more quickly

A deeper understanding of the complementary skill of learning how to properly frame a design problem before it can be solved (and sold to a client)

An exploration of the range of one’s talent by attempting projects along the full continuum of design disciplines, from the bread and butter of branding and collateral to the wild world of advertising to the user-centered practices of creating interactive projects, with brief forays into wayfinding, editorial design, video and motion graphics, and more.

Ideally, students will leave the class with a series of strong, outside-the-box concepts that can be refined post-class into portfolio material.

This class will be limited to 12 participants to ensure that each designer receives the proper care and attention necessary. The work created by all class participants will be considered for inclusion in an upcoming book and may be featured, with student permission, on the soon-to-be-launched 80works.com.

Required: Permission of instructor / portfolio review for participation. To sign up, send samples or a link to your portfolio to dksherwin at msn.com.

About the Instructor: David Sherwin is a Seattle-based designer and art director with a depth of expertise in developing fresh creative solutions for challenging business problems. He has worked for both big creative agencies and boutique design firms and has serviced such clients as Holland America Line, AT&T, Xeko, Audi Bank USA, T-Mobile, and many others. Currently, David is Senior Art Director at Worktank Brand Storytellers in Seattle, Washington, where he leads highly collaborative, multidisciplinary teams for large-scale print and interactive projects.

[EDIT, 11/30/08: The class is filling up fast! Please contact me as soon as you can if you'd like to participate.]

Easy as ABC? Pt. 2 of 2

80 Works for Designers

Being a designer is about continual reinvention. About knowing the range of your talent, and playing to both your strengths and your weaknesses. About promising to create what hasn't been created before, and being comfortable with going through the process over and over again, drawing on the confidence that you will succeed no matter what the obstacles at hand may be.

In every designer's career, there's a point where you can't just rely on your education and your computer skills. A paradigm shift occurs in how you view the design profession. During this transition, you move from developing your hard skills -- software savvy, technical expertise in various artistic mediums such as illustration and photography, methods of hand-printing or coding your work in the appropriate delivery technology -- into a more nebulous space. A place where you're asked to achieve goals instead of tasks. Instead of retouching a photo or improving a logo, you may be standing in front of twenty clients, your knees quaking nervously while you attempt to sell them on why Logo 1A is better than Logo 3C. The client may be asking you for your opinion on subjects that range far from your realm of expertise: proper colors of blouse for the photo shoot, whether mahogany or cedar makes more sense for the bar-top, and whether it's a better idea to spend $100k on a Web site overhaul or just go put some more ads in the local newspaper.

Clearly, you can't learn all of this in design school.

You had to sop it up by listening your teachers share war stories, or seek out bold assignments that gave you a tiny taste of what a real client critique may do to your self-image.

You had to learn it in the real world by watching your bosses do the tap-dance in front of their clients -- and seeing how the clients reacted when work tripped and fell over.

You had to bluff your way through business challenges and unfamiliar design tasks until you'd absorbed enough learnings from your clients to gain the appropriate lingo and the street smarts to keep up, let alone get ahead.


What if you could rewind the clock and go back to school, but when you walked into the classroom, your class resembled something more like the real working world, warts and all? And by the time you were done with that class, you'd know what kind of designer you were going to become?

This is the kind of class I've been developing in my free time. "80 Works for Designers" is a brief, intense seminar crafted to help students and aspiring designers gain broad exposure to a wide range of design disciplines and develop the depth of skills necessary to excel as a working professional. Over several all-too-brief weeks, seminar participants will take part in a dozen projects a week under time constraints that match the pace of most professional creative agencies.

Laced into those assignments are some of the "greatest hits" I've either experienced in school or solicited from teachers and fellow designers. Perhaps you have some you'd like to share?

Here's the one I described at the start of this post:

"Easy as ABC"

Assemble a 26-character alphabet using only found objects. Letters may be documented for presentation to the class through collage, photography, photocopying, digital illustration, and other appropriate mediums. Bonus points will be doled out for punctuation such as ampersands, exclamation points, and the like. You may not merge examples of computer typefaces out in the wild, document elements of existing signage, or pull in anything that may be considered a complete letterform. Your alphabet must be crafted by hand.

Here's another:


A hat is passed around the class. Teams of three students pick out a slip of paper with the name of a major nonprofit organization. For the next class, each team member will be required to bring a redesign of that nonprofit’s Web site home page, including recommendations for use of interactive elements such as video or Flash.

In the next class, those teams will regroup and critique the work... with a twist. One person will be the designer, while the other two are the client. The designer presents the first “round of creative”, which consists of all the Web site designs. Each client picks out of a hat a constraint that governs the changes they want made to the work: “I don’t like any of these,” “My budget just got cut,” “Pick the most dominant color and say you don’t like it,” “The designer cut you off in traffic this morning,” “When you get done with this meeting, you are laying off 25 employees,” and other drivers for their behavior. The clients and the designer then negotiate which design they like the best and draw up a list of revisions they would make to the work. At the end of their creative presentation, the students share their experiences, motivations, and lessons learned.


If you're interested in trying out 80 Works at your school, drop me a line at dksherwin at msn.com.

Easy as ABC? Pt. 1 of 2

Easy as ABC

S is for string bean. E is for eggplant. Z is for... what vegetable name starts with Z?

My Intro to Design teacher, a forty-years-young art historian and graphic design aficionado, distributes to the class the following assignment: create a typeface out of found materials, document it in whatever medium you so desire, and present it to the class on a single sheet of paper.

One a.m. before the assignment was due, wire basket full of rare and unusual produce at the 24-hour supermarket, I was beginning to realize just how much I'd underestimated the difficulty of the task at hand. The very idea of creating a typeface, which seemed like such a simple activity when I'd read the handout, had become a gut-wrenching effort. And I only had nine more hours until I had to turn it in.

Fast-forward through one of the longer nights of my life:

4 AM: Photo-reducing bananas on the Kinkos color copier.

9 AM: Frantically cutting and pasting the copies onto a 20" x 24" sheet.

10 AM: Running to the art building, barely making it into the lecture hall before the class began, I dropped my fruit and vegetable typeface into the stack for grading and wearily went to my seat, both surprised that I'd survived the assignment intact, and excited to see what new work I'd be forced to create in the coming week.


A foil-wrapped tube with a die-cut in the middle that shows the wine label. A 4-color printed bag with handles made from grosgrain. Or perhaps a simple cardboard container that has been letter-pressed with the restaurant logo?

2006. Another busy day at the design studio. A kind of controlled chaos.

Our client, director of operations at a firm that develops restaurant concepts, needed to see two packaging ideas for their new wine bar by tomorrow. Meanwhile, we're trying to polish off the home page and secondary page comps for a technology consulting Web site. And we've got two big mailers for a cruise line that are still in process and need a ton of photo research.

I need to get a vendor on the phone, since I can't show these ideas to the client without knowing if they're even feasible in their budget. The photo researchers at the stock agency are calling me back soon to let me know what kind of glacier shots they were able to scare up. Meanwhile, I've still got to design the navigation for the Web site and other designers want to have a quick group critique to make sure we're going in the right direction on those trade show booths that are due on Friday. How could I have forgotten the booth designs? Our account manager extracts a deadline out of me, knowing that another project will have to give as a result.

I sit back in my chair for a moment, just letting it all sink in. Somehow this gigantic pile of work will all get done -- and to an exacting artistic standard. Our clients will love the work, and we will get paid for it.

80 Works for Designers in Seven Weeks?

80 Works for Designers in 7 Weeks

If you were to take a class called 80 Works for Designers in Seven Weeks, what kinds of projects would you expect to tackle in that intentionally ludicrous timeframe?

One of my first roommates post-college was a graduate student in poetry. In the summer of 1999, I recall him being excited that he had signed up for the class "Instant Thesis, or 80 Works in 7 Weeks," which was being taught by the eminent poet Peter Klappert.

Dozens of late nights and weekends later, neck sore from hunching over his computer and notepad, nerves shot by a bold overdose on black coffee, he was a complete wreck... but a more powerful writer as a result, by an order of magnitude.

Many students found it to be one of the most revelatory creative experiences of their lives, expanding their writing ability in ways they hadn't imagined possible through traditional workshop methods. After working through several stages of nervousness, failure, physical and emotional stress, intellectual stretch, loss of self, and high anxiety -- often in rapid succession -- they broke through many artistic barriers into something profound. The entire class explored collage methods, blot-outs, concrete poetry, metric/fixed forms, linked verse, anaphora, dialogue, satire, visual shape, collaborative writing, fixed and loose rhyme schemes, musicality, tone, and dozens of other approaches in the pressure cooker. They had also accumulated hundreds of exercises, generated by the class, that could feed future work.

After spending a number of years being in the fast-paced environments of both small design firms and imposingly large agencies after a somewhat middling design education, I began to think back to my roommate's experience and wonder:

Would it possible to cram 80 wildly divergent design exercises into the course of seven weeks, forcing a student to expand the full breadth of their abilities in a finite period of time? Would design students in such an environment become better designers at an exponentially faster rate, with substantially better portfolios?

What I hope that design students would get out of (barely) surviving this designer-focused course would be twofold: 1) an idea of how to reach a breadth of innovative design solutions, in various media, within any set time period; and 2) a fuller understanding of the complementary skill of learning how to properly frame a design problem before it can be solved.

I'm not sure if Peter Klappert has repeated his course since, but a record of his working process still exists, which was adapted from a Corcoran School of Art class. From his methods, I've been attempting to extrapolate a similar bare-bones approach that could be attempted by design teachers and students.

I'd like your help in determining what those 80 Works for Designers could be for an initial seminar. Everyone whose exercise gets used will be credited, and I will put together a Web site that disseminates the class methods and lesson plan for anyone who wants to inflict this idea upon an unsuspecting design institution.

Since the 80 Works class will generate hundreds of exercises, this initial seeding of starter exercises will grow into a very large body of work very swiftly that many people can use for their own creative growth (I hope).

Feel free to post your ideas here as comments or email them to me at david at davidsherwin.com. And thank you, in advance, for the help.