12 July 2006

thoughts on creation (in both engineering and art)

where do ideas come from? how do we link things together? how do we start the creative process? these questions intrigue me, push me to explore my own creative process and the process of others.

a while back, i met with arthur ganson and talked for a while, asked him lots of questions, tried to gain an understanding on how he went about doing things. one of the questions i asked: what was his design process? his answer: most of the time, he thinks about how it will move/speak for/to an audience. sometimes an item is a catalyst for the design (z.B. artichoke leave walking). sometimes the idea is more nebulous and what drives the design is the overall aesthetic presence of the piece (z.B. the cloud sculptures).

maybe sometimes it takes asking someone else a question to get yourself to ask the same question to... um... yourself. at least, until ganson gave me his answer, i never really thought about my own design process -- it just came about. but that's not a good answer for people. it really isn't an answer; it's just me not actively thinking through the process.

so i started thinking about my own experience with design -- both in engineering and art and the combination of the two. and i think i have a very similar manner of doing things. let's take comics/drawing/art as my first example (seeing as i actually have pictures of the work)

method 1) i have a clear idea of what story i want to tell. this is probably the majority ... like the comic i recently did about my travel woes. or jeoffrey. or various other stories of my day. example 1

method 2) i start with a line or a shape and use it to catalyze a drawing around. often this is an eye or a mouth or an expression i want to capture. example 2 and example 3

method 3) i have a certain way i want to lay out a page or maybe a certain method i want to use to do this. in other words, i want to achieve a certain effect. i don't really know what the content will be before i start; the method shapes the content. this is a harder example to find, and the only one i can think of is a photograph where i wanted to try to sign my name using car tail lights on a long exposure (around 10 seconds). example 4

a similar process goes on when making a wire sculpture or doing a more traditional engineering design. examples:

method 1) i need to make something that does this particular task. in general, 2.007 contest forces this method. other examples are like... making a mechanism that can sign your name.

method 2) i found a really cool part that i want to use, like the paperclip that started me on the path of making the wire robot guy with a sword. or maybe i want to use a particular mechanism because i think it'll be fun.

method 3) i want to build something that has a particular presence... a feeling. the dancing giraffe was a bit like this. but not quite as successful as i'd have wanted it to be.

anyway. these methods switch around during different phases of the design process -- every design is some combination of these. but these are the three clear ways i've found to start. even working today on things with a fellow media lab student, alea, we touched on these different methods with her different projects. she wants to make a mechanism to sign her name. clear goal-oriented start. she has some bits of glass she found that she wants to use in a stained glass/wire thing. more of a method 2. i gave her a bit of wire and told her to make something with it, and she made a bird. again, method 2.

i feel like methods 2 and 3 are more likely to be found when creating an art piece, and method 1 is more traditional engineering. but there's no reason why the other methods couldn't be used in traditional engineering. maybe more on the design side -- i.e. i want the end users to have this experience. or if your materials are limited, maybe there's a play between method 1 and 2, with i need to do this, but i have this.

hm. i don't know. just some thoughts.
anyone else have any thoughts?

1 comment:

  1. Laura
    This is a very rich entry. I know we talked about some of this but setting it down and showing examples makes the ideas more powerful. The examples are fabulous. #1 strikes me as a universal story (I know so many people, especially woman, and including me who go through these feelings; men probably do as well but I have less knowledge of this journey as they are perhaps less specific about it.)

    My work patterns for beginning work are quite similar although with twists. I hear about a story that will occur and I decide to follow the story. I never really know what the story will become until after it has been captured, and is being edited... at some point during the editing I get a strong sense of what it will be. Then there are the improvisational stories: I do not know what I want to capture but just start shooting something... or I do not know what I want to edit but dive in. In between and much more rarely, there is the memory of an image I need to do something with.

    Developing new software for story making is more difficult as I do not know how precisely the software will intersect with the audience and wth the content. It is an adventure of sorts, but sometimes the content looses because the software I am planning to use does not come along quickly enough (this was true under unix, under hypercard and under dexter; confectionary is Aisling's but I have imagined using it for a year now.)

    Improvisation - what it is and where it occurs is a provokative topic. You might want to read Paul Nemirovsky's thesis which you should be able to find on line.

    cheers. G