Week 5: Thoughts on Ideas
Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Not only are there a variety of ways to solve problems, but there are also a number of ways in which to go about actually coming to a solution! In this week's materials, we look at different ways of thinking and the benefits of exploring thought processes outside of your own.
The resources for this week took me to a place I hadn't expected to go. It had me thinking about, well, thinking! It was interesting to look at HOW we think versus what we think about because different ways of thinking can encourage different types of thoughts.
Iain McGilchrist's animated short, "Divided Brain" was a great place to start. I remember learning in elementary school that each side of the brain supposedly had certain categories that it managed. Each student was tested to see if they were more of a 'Right Brain' individual or a 'Left Brain.' I'm not quite sure how useful this information was, since it has since been proven to be an incorrect way of thinking, but I do recall scoring fairly evenly across the two, which has followed me into adulthood.
The part that most struck me was in regards to the corpus callosum. Not only has it gotten smaller over human evolution, but it's believed that its main purpose is to inhibit the other hemisphere. With this in mind, I began to wonder why the need to inhibit one side of the brain lessens with evolution. I can only imagine that it's influenced by our changes in living. We are less focused on survival, so our primal instincts are no longer the most important feature of our brain. As an advanced species, a large majority of our contributions to society come from our knowledge of the world around us. Where we once needed a quick "Fight or Flight" reaction, we are more valuable to society when we are better informed. Perhaps this is why pieces of our brain no longer need to be as inhibited.
When perusing the other resources for this week, I found myself examining how my own thought processes matched the issues mentioned in "Thinking too much; and Thinking too little" and "Exercising the Mind." When Alain De Bottom wrote, "We are natural self-deceivers," and "[we are] learned to avoid learning about things that hurt," I couldn't help but feel a little attacked (The School of Life 2017). Thought and knowledge are extremely powerful things, and I know for a fact that I sometimes use learning as a means to avoid the things I should be focusing on. Because of this, I believe that I definitely Think Too Much. I already knew this, in the general way of thinking, but according to De Bottom, thinking too much leaves out room for feelings of ignorance and confusion. I will take this new knowledge as an opportunity to think less, as hard as that may be.
This week's lecture was especially informative when it came to different problem-solving solutions. The style that grabbed my attention was the 6 Thinking Hats arrangement by Edward de Bono. In his model, there are six different styles of hats (as the name suggests). Each hat is assigned a different aspect of a problem. The hats are as follows:
White hat - This is the hat that focuses on information gathering. With this hat, you realize what information you have, and what information you still need.
Red hat - This hat is focused on feeling, intuition, and emotions. It encourages ideas or opinions that you can't necessarily describe or support. This lets certain ideas be considered without them being immediately tossed aside.
Black hat - This hat focuses on logic and critical judgment. This is the part of the process where weak spots are acknowledged and discussed.
Yellow hat - This hat centers around the benefits and feasibility of a potential solution. This is also the hat that focuses on the positive aspects of the project.
Green hat - This hat is all about creativity. It encourages out-of-the-box thinking, which can lead to unique solutions.
Blue hat - This hat ensures that the process moves along, and doesn't get stuck on any one part for too long.
I liked this model the most because it forces the individual and the group to consider the different aspects and particulars of a project. By framing the mindset you're supposed to be using, it also helps people to stay on task and remain focused on the discussion at hand, instead of diverting to another topic, or putting on another hat. This can also be beneficial for each individual since it forces them to think in ways different than their own. For example, I would consider myself most comfortable when wearing the Black or Green hat. With de Bono's model, however, everyone must try these guided ways of thinking, so it can help to see things from another's point of view.
The webinar this week was extremely enjoyable! I only wish I had been able to attend it live. It was extremely enlightening to hear Daniel Eatock discuss his work and thinking process. I know, at least for myself, I struggle to define what I do. With hearing Daniel talk, it was reassuring to know that I wasn't the only one who had this issue. It was also very inspiring to hear about his work experiences, and how he even turned down clients in certain instances. I know this is allowed, but it was nice to hear someone who was passionate about their work admit that they didn't want to waste their time with clients who didn't appreciate what they had to offer.
Easily my favorite part of his presentation, was when he talked about a classmate from university. This particular peer had created a fingerprint piece for a self-portrait assignment. The lines in the fingerprint then told a story about the young man's life. Daniel then went on to discuss how he thought it was brilliant that for a self-portrait, his fellow student had included things that were unique to him: his fingerprint, his handwriting, his signature. This sounded all too familiar to me! Flashback to Week 4's workshop, where I had created an album with my handprint and signature on the front. While he didn't know it, Daniel helped me feel more confident in my own piece through his words about his classmate's design. This was completely unexpected for me, but it was nice to have this added confidence. Since I've been behind in the course, it's been difficult to get feedback from my peers. In a backward sort of way, it was like Daniel had given me feedback. I was proud of my vinyl record piece before, but this made me feel like a better thinker since I had come up with the idea on my own.
The Workshop Challenge for this week was different than the ones in the past. We were tasked with exploring different models of thinking and then translating our chosen model into a black line drawing.
Initially, I sought out a thinking process that more heavily connected with my software and Information Technology background. Naturally, this led me to computational thinking. Computational Thinking can be broken down into four different parts. Those parts are:
Decomposition is the part of the process that focuses on making the larger, overarching problem, into smaller, more manageable pieces. In the realm of programming, this could be creating classes that will then work within your program. Classes are essentially smaller programs that solve a particular piece of your programming puzzle. For example, a class called "Addition" could be used to add two numbers and return a sum.
While its name may insinuate finding certain patterns within your problem, it can also mean simply recognizing pieces of your new problem that have been solved in past problems. If you've created a program that requires a sum of two numbers, but in a different context than before, you can reuse your "Addition" class and save yourself some time and energy!
Abstraction focuses on the most important parts of the problem at hand. Much like an abstract, this is the point where irrelevant information is excluded for the sake of simplicity and better understanding.
Often considered a software engineering buzzword, algorithms are used to create step by step solutions to solve problems.
At the time, I had a hard time grasping how I would translate this into a black line drawing, so I opted for a different way of thinking within the scientific community: The Scientific Method.
The Scientific Method
Pounded into my head in middle and high school, the Scientific Method is probably one of the more familiar thinking models available. It's used to simplify the steps in answering a question through research. The steps are:
Make an Observation
Ask a Question
Form a Hypothesis
I knew going into this project that I wanted to experiment with a design that looked more like a comic strip than anything else. When I think of line drawings, images of pens and paper float across my mind. I opted for the comic style since I thought this lent itself well to the Workshop Challenge. Moving forward, I began looking for illustrators that encapsulated a quirky and fun attitude in their work and then drew inspiration from them to make my own piece.
Gemma definitely fit the quirky requirement and I found myself being drawn to her unique style. As I perused her work, I could see that her style combined a refined skillset with a special mix of perceived youthfulness. To the untrained eye, one might think that her drawings would be easy to replicate. However, upon closer inspection, you can see the minute details that she is able to include in these otherwise simple scenes. One of my favorite pieces of hers was done for PugFest 2017. This immediately jumped out to me, as PugFest is held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin! My time in undergrad was spent mere minutes outside the city, and it was awesome to see someone from the United Kingdom do work for something basically in my backyard.
Currently based in New York, @AlecWithPen is easily one of my favorite illustrators in the present-day. Dealing with his own mental health issues, a lot of his art and comic strips are focused on the funnier sides of depression and anxiety. As he said in an interview with Vice,
Having depression and chronic anxiety is, to put it clinically, extremely ass. It's not glamorous or dramatic or what Lost In Translation is about. It's gross and shitty and awful and boring. But, it's also fucking funny (Lambert 2018).
His style is simplistic, yet very detailed. He does well at balancing colors in his work, and I love the handwritten aspect of any type that's included. The pieces below are just a handful of images I like that he's created.
The Oatmeal - Matthew Inman
Inman has had a rather successful career as a result of his web-famous comic series, called The Oatmeal. He served as a creative consultant on "The Secret Life of Pets 2", where he wrote animal-themed jokes and worked on storyboarding. He's also helped create a wildly successful card game, called Exploding Kittens. While he's taken a step back from the comic side of his career, I still find his work fascinating. His wit and reliability in his pieces make them worth looking at, not to mention his art style borders on simple and complex. If I had more time to put into this project, I would have loved to incorporate more details and create something more synonymous with Inman's work.
I chose this model because it lent itself to a fun design. I ended up doing a comic strip of sorts to illustrate the steps in the Scientific Method.
I originally sketched in pencil and then went over my drawings with a felt tip marker. I didn't trust myself to do it correctly with a marker alone, so I simply erased the pencil marking after I was done outlining. For my story, I used a dog named Spike, who didn't like his dog food. His owner then works through the Scientific Method to figure out which food Spike will like! I arguably spend too much time with animals, since I'm a dog walker, so that's likely where I drew inspiration from.
I have taken things a step further after having received feedback on this piece from my classmates during our Week 8 Crits. A few different people mentioned that it felt "unfinished" and rightly so. I think on my first go, I took the creative brief too literally and thought that it had to be a line drawing and nothing more. To me, this meant putting forth the rough draft of what I had done with pencil and paper. Since then, I've got back and imported things into Illustrator, where I used the Image Trace function as a starting point for my digital rendering. From there, I cleaned up the lines and made some of my illustrations sharper.
You might also note that I removed the headings that I had labeling each section. This is in an attempt to let the panels speak for themselves. Most people have a vague familiarity with the Scientific Method, so I figured the title alone would put them in the right mindset.
The final product was fairly crisp and clean, and I'm happy with how the drawing and execution of the thinking model played out. I opted for a scientific thinking model since I like to blend my love of the sciences with my enjoyment of design. If I were to go back and do things again, I think I would worry less about HOW I would execute the black line drawing, and be more prepared to just give it a shot and see what happens.
As stated above, I gave this project a little more of my time, and I'm definitely more pleased with how it looks now. The feedback from my peers proved beneficial and revisiting the brief allowed me to better understand the implications behind it. I think I was confused by the "black line" aspect of things and took it too literally. If I had more time, I would love to add color to the comic strip, but for now, I'm happy with how the linework turned out.
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THE SCHOOL OF LIFE. 2014. “On Exercising the Mind.” The School of Life Articles [online]. Available at: https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/exercise-for-the-mind/ [accessed 31 Oct 2020].
THE SCHOOL OF LIFE. 2017. “The Dangers of Thinking Too Much; And Thinking Too Little.” YouTube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5zLY3Wi8Uk&list=PLjU9yH8j2_IfKKpeIEap7T3TdjfD8ThQH&index=173 [accessed 30 Oct 2020].
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