Friday, November 27, 2009

My Year of Hopefulness - Everyone Can Draw

"If you think you can't draw, too bad. Do it anyway." ~ Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, in his book Change by Design

I've been lamenting for some time that I can't draw. I'm a much better writer than visual artist, and this is exacerbated because I am an auditory learner, not a visual learner. Thank that's weird? You're right - auditory learners make up only 20% of the population. Add it up and it's easy to understand why I don't have any natural ability to draw, nor have I ever really had a desire to learn.

And then I read Tim Brown's excellent book, Change by Design, that explains his philosophy on design-thinking and the future of the field. He talks about mind maps, schematics that illustrate ideas though visual depictions rather than through written briefs or powerpoint presentations. This is a kind of drawing I can get into. Think of them as multi-dimensional tree diagrams blending pictures and words to illustrate ideas. Rather than just working left to right and using the basic construct of option A or B to progress from problem to solution, a mind map starts with a question that takes the form of "How might we ( fill in the blank)?" for a specific population. For my program with Citizen Schools, I will be asking the kids I work with to solve this dilemma with a mind map "How might we build a public school curriculum for the graders to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship?"

As so often happens, as I was reading Tim's book, I saw an interview with another Tim whom I greatly admire, Tim Burton. He was discussing his views on drawing and creativity and echoed Tim Brown's sentiment. "Every child believes he or she can draw. Too many adults have found their creativity beaten out of them." And this brings me back to my long-held belief that I have only just begun to fully articulate: it is much easier (and effective) to help children maintain their creativity through to adulthood than it is to repair the confidence of adults who believe they have no creativity at all.

The truth is that I've lost confidence in my ability to draw, believing that my creativity is relegated to writing and developing products and not at all to drawing. The Tims helped me realize that I am selling myself short. Somewhere inside me is a visual artist of some sort yearning for a paint brush (or crayon or chalk or colored pencil) and a canvas (or piece of paper or blank wall or empty piece of sidewalk).

So here I go with another resolution to live a more authentic life: even if it's not good, I'm going to draw a little bit every week with the help of my mind maps. I'll let you know, or better yet I'll show you, how it goes by publishing the pieces to this blog. Stay tuned as I re-teach myself to draw.

The image above is not my own; I'm just starting to draw so my pictures aren't this good - yet. It is the image created by Tim Brown for the table of content of his book Change by Design. It can be found here.

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