Fun is more than just fun and laugher

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

How can you adopt a more playful attitude towards your art making practice and why would that be beneficial to you? Aside from experiencing the joy that being playful creates — which could be argued is the main purpose of life and therefore automatically a worthwhile trait — it allows you to be more creative and thus create (over time) more value to your work, life and the contribution to other peoples lives.

On a Freakonomics podcast on creativity, Mitch Resnick speaks about Lifelong Kindergarten, one of the M.I.T. Media labs research units: “We focus on four guiding principles that I call the four Ps of creative learning: projects, passion, peers, and play. So we feel that the best way to support kids developing as creative thinkers and developing their creative capacities is to engage them in working on projects based on their passions in collaboration with peers in a playful spirit… Often when people think about play they just think about fun and laughter. And I have nothing against fun and laughter but that’s not the essence what I’m talking about. I see play not just as an activity but a type of attitude and approach for engaging with the world. When someone has a playful approach, it means they’re constantly experimenting, trying new things, taking risks, testing the boundaries. And I think the most creative activities come about when we’re willing to experiment and take risks.” [emphasis added]

How can you introduce more experimentation into your practice? Do you regularly try new things such as working in a new medium, drawing with your non-dominant hand, seeking out different films, books or media you’d not normally watch or visit a different part of town to find something that sparks a new creative idea? Do you take risks by using colours combinations that don’t traditionally go together, try using trash to make something or draw outside the lines to purposely make messy or ‘bad’ art? Can you find a way to test your boundaries and go outside your comfort zone? It could be as simple as trying to draw on paper that’s double the size you’re used to or using a pen instead of a pencil you can erase to make permanent marks.

Try adopting a playful approach to making your art and focus on the fun of experimenting.

Lego Serious Play, the Lego House and creativity

The Sparkle Experiment small creative play equals connection

Lego is not just a toy as it can also be used as a design thinking tool. Lego Serious Play – born from the Lego company’s search for ways to get businesses using Lego – helps organisations to get creative and innovate.

In the article Using Lego Serious Play as a Design Thinking Tool by Designorate.com, it describes how “Design thinking is a complex process which combines both logical thinking and creative imagination in order to build innovative products and services.” A range of tools can be used to help the design thinking process such as “issue cards, group sketching, role play, design games and Lego Serious Play.” By playing with colourful bricks, teams can share ideas and problem solve together. “Visualizing the ideas into a model eliminates the fear of failure as it is treated with a prototype that can be modified during the design thinking process.” With fear of failure being a huge roadblock for many people – not just in the creative world – tools that can help move things forward are invaluable.

This open style collaborative approach to design thinking allows everyone to contribute and share ideas. The idea of using play as an approach creatively learning is something that Mitch Reznik, a professor of learning research at MIT Media Lab addresses in the documentary Lego House: Home of the Brick. “When I think about play, I don’t see it as just fun and games, but rather I see play as a type of, a way of engaging with the world.” He suggests that by giving children the opportunity to explore through playing and creating, “they’ll be prepared for a world which is going to require creative thinking more than ever before.”

“Where you’re willing to take risks, to try new things and the greatest learning, the greatest innovations come when people are doing things in a playful spirit. It might be building a sandcastle or a Lego castle or building a poem – whatever they’re creating is a way for them to create new ideas. So there’s this constant cycle between children building things in the world to build new ideas, to let them build things in the world. That cycle provides the basis for the best learning experiences.” – Mitch Reznik

Additional content: For a deeper dive into in the Lego brand, The Toys That Made Us (2018) S2 E3: Lego revisits the journey from wooden toys to the present day brick system. For more on the architect who designed the Lego House, Abstract: The Art of Design (2017) S1 E4 – Bjarke Ingels: Architecture shows more of his innovative architecture and design process: “In the big picture, architecture is the art and science of creating the framework of our lives.” And “He never follows the rules.”