collaboration + innovation workshop

last week I gave a talk at the annual Opportunity Green conference – which took place at LA Center Studios on November 10-11, 2001.


The idea of the workshop was to uncover some of methodologies and practices of creative individuals and groups working together. The first discussion was the folk story that I have always loved, Stone Soup. The story is about an outsider who comes to a small town long ago and as he walks down the street the local people shut their doors and stay inside. He sets up a fire and a pot in the town square, adds water and then reaches into his satchel to bring out a large stone. After placing the stone in the water he begins to stir the pot and wait. Eventually people come out to inquire about this magical soup he is making and soon offer some of their own produce to add to the boiling broth. Carrots, greens, potatoes, onions and meat are added and eventually everyone partakes in eating the hearty soup.

Of course we know that the soup did nothing to add flavor or even start the base but what it did was bring everyone together so they could share in something greater than what they each had in their own homes. That is the message of how I start each design project and work with my own teams. Sometimes I add more to the soup as well.

RISD Wintersession

I had attended the Rhode Island School of Design for both Fine Arts and Architecture in the 1990’s. The education at RISD begins with a well-known foundation program that is based on the principals of the Bauhaus Vorkurs program. For the first year at the school – no matter what your major, be it painting, printmaking, architecture, etc., every student takes the same set of foundation courses. The curriculum covers 2d, 3d, English and some other design skills.

The goal of the RISD foundation course to provide an equal footing and understanding of all aspects of design before one focuses closer and closer into their chosen field of the fine arts they wish to pursue. It builds an empathy for all things related to design, construction, fabrication and creation and it positively affects everyone who goes through the first year of the school.

There is a fail-safe to building silos between each design profession and focus – which is the Wintersession program. RISD has a long Fall semester and Spring like most schools – but they shave off just enough to allow for an 8 week period in between when the Wintersession can occur. What the students are required to do is study anything at the school outside of their own major. If you are architecture – you might study sculpture, if you are in textile design – you might study typography. The goal over your four years is that you try different things and almost build some secondary skills to your focused major. One other important outcome that is evidenced in the Spring semester at RISD – is the knowledge that is brought back into one’s own work. An architectural student might now make their study model out of welded metal instead of cardboard, an Illustration student might use a variety of paint media when before they only used ink and paper. What you find when you meet a RISD graduate is that they have some very precise memories of what they studied at Wintersession and how it affected their own professional work today.

More to come…

view the slides here

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