Facilitating innovation through creative play.
Design Making is meant to focus on the creative processes that take students outside of their comfort zones, eliminate barriers, challenge thinking and inspire new ways to solve unique challenges.
Innovation is about being brave, solving a simple problem in a unique way, or solving a complex problem in a simple way. We believe in the power of creative play and the power it has to inspire innovative thinking.
“The genius of play is that, in playing, we create imaginative new cognitive combinations and in creating those novel combinations, we find what works.” ~ Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play
To develop innovative thinking through regular creative practice.
The One Design team, consisting of approximately 400+ designers across seven locations.
For the first few years Design Making operated on a mindfully open ended budget. In 2018, we had a designated director for Design Making. In 2019, we were given an official budget of approximately $2,000 per location which would enable our ambassadors to create tailored programing.
In the summer of 2015, my Capital One colleague, Bonnie Sampson, created a biweekly workshop series that she called, Design Calisthenics. She added the event to the design teams calendars (there was about 60 of us at the time). In her words it was where “we come together as a group, away from our screens, to create things (models/sketches/logos/other) in a series of timed, creative sprints.”
One afternoon I attended on of her workshops. Bonnie had a multitude of materials on each table and a topic. Her topic was to create something that represented who we were and we had 20 minutes to complete the task. There were magazines, tape, glue, glitter, scapes of balsa wood, fabric etc.
I had forgotten how much I had missed being creative with my hands. Not worrying about the outcome or how perfect it should look, but to create for the sake of creating. At the end of the half hour I felt refreshed and wanted more. So she and I sat down to talk about what her goals were with this new program.
Bonnie came from an architecture background. I came from a crafts background. We started to brainstorm. With due diligence, we researched the neurological impact of hands on creativity on the brain. I knew she needed help since this was side of desk and I wanted more hands on activities. I talked to her about the creative exercises I did in school. From the pattern assignments in high school, to the dove tail exercises in college, to the image association project for my design degree. I still have all of that work carefully stored at home. Why keep it? Because even at the time, I recognized its practical application of the skills I was learning. But as time has passed, I can see the immense value and the significant role it played and still plays in my creative evolution.
I work with people from a variety of backgrounds and the amount of formal art and design education varies tremendously. I immediately offered to help and gave her a laundry list of topics that I could and wanted to facilitate. In early 2016, Design Making was born. We pulled together a proposal and submitted it to our executive leadership to rally support.
Research & Discovery
During the summer months of 2015, six sessions were held at the West Creek offices of Capital One. They occurred every other Monday from 11am-12pm. Attendance ranged from 5-20 participants. Each session revolved around the tactile interpretation of a given topic. Topics included:
- The Never Ending Story
- Identity Wars
- Being Stuck
Bonnie was meticulous in her documentation of each session. Tracking unique vs repeat attendees, photographing work in progress and at completion. She also solicited feedback after each session.
Overall, response was very positive. Words that regularly surfaced were:
Attendees also expressed wanting more. In empathy interviews, associates loved the program but felt guilty attending. They didn’t feel empowered to engage. So we began experimenting.
So many of our office locations had well equipped maker spaces that quickly became glorified meeting rooms. Bonnie and I began to outline courses that could be conducted in these maker spaces using materials already in place. Design Making now gave relevance and purpose to those under utilized spaces.
With my background as a college professor and my obsession with Legos, I understand the value of tactile interaction. With due diligence, we researched the neurologic and behavioral impacts of creative play on the brain. We documented everything, tying Design Making to scientific research. Now we needed to be diligent, patient and figure out a way to measure success.
I led the effort for in house workshops at West Creek while Bonnie focused on external resources. We both worked with our ambassadors to coordinate and promote events. During this time we picked up our third cohort, Ed Abbott, an amazing illustrator and designer for Capital One. In 2017, having gained the support of our executive leadership team, we were asked to conduct creative exercises, once a month, during our team wide lunch meeting, WUT (What’s Up Thursday). In that same year, the Head of Content and Community Engagement, Design would also become the Director of Design Making. Anel Muller, filled out the team. Although it remained side of desk for Bonnie, Ed and I, Anel had time dedicated to take Design Making to the next level and she did.
Ideation & Design
We tried a variety of course subjects, course formats, locations and timing.
- Fundamentals of Typography
- Smarter Smartphone Photography
- Screen printing
- National Portrait Gallery Sketching Tour
- Stained Glass Workshop
- Concrete Mold Making
- PAM People & Money, post interactive installation
- Wheel Throwing
- Monster Project
- Hand & Story: Narrative Design
- WUT’s in Your Pint Glass? Beer Brewing
- Sign painting
- Material As Motion @ Full STEAM Ahead
- Build Your Own Toolbox
- Sharpie Art Workshop
- Making: Valentines for hospitalized kids
- What’s Your Type, workshop with James Edmondson, founder of OhNoTypeCo
- Three dimensional type construction
- Arduino Boards – Simon Says
- Lego birthday celebration bank build
- WUT’s in Your Pint Glass, Dubble Miles Release
- Design Making Toolbox
- Secrets of Hand Lettering with Ken Barber of House Industries
- Monster Project
- Making: Valentines for hospitalized kids
- Block printing
- Mural Art at local hospital
- WUT: Third Thursdays with Design Making
- Holiday bicycle build for D.C. non-profit
- WUT’s in Your Pint Glass, IPA Brewing
With Anel at the helm, we brainstormed. We worked through our S.W.O.T. analysis. We journey mapped and found our four pillars.
Exercises are grounded in human centered design concepts that enhance creativity, bringing new thinking to everyday work.
Unexpected, free thinking activities open up new connections in the creative brain allowing for inspiration to occur.
- Creative Confidence
A regular practice of creating and sharing without judgment can assist in building creative confidence.
Design Making is for everyone, not just designers.
New event typically have a waiting list and in some cases we add additional sessions.
In 2018, we began conducting bi-monthly designer onboarding sessions for new design associates. Design Making provides associates with learning opportunities that also include teaching and team building. For example, we have a paper quilling workshop that will be led by an incredibly talented front-end developer with a fear of public speaking. The workshop has become part of her development plan to support her career growth.
Not every topic is going to resonate with everyone and it doesn’t have to. The greatest take away from this experience is understanding that not everyone is creatively satisfied in their role. This can be for a variety of reasons. However, Design Making can provide the spark they need to inspire their day.
When you take notes using your computer, you really have to think about what you’re typing. Listening, just enough to catch the words. You aren’t processing what is being said nor what is being typed. However, taking notes by hand engages multiple areas of the brain. You have to listen, process what you’ve heard and then reinterpret it as you write. Memory takes hold.
We sit in front of an electronic screen for hours at a time, trying to force our brain to multitask, eliminating any chance of speed or efficiency. Regular creative practice can facilitate innovation. It won’t happen overnight. It’s a seed that must be nurtured. We have yet to have a comprehensive method of recording the return on investment. We hope over time the data connections will present themselves.
With approximately 25 ambassadors spread across 7 locations on two continents, the program is continuing to thrive and grow. Ed Abbott continues to organize events and workshops. Anel Muller stepped down as our Director of Design Making to develop a Design Making program at PayPal.