Tag Archives: design criteria

Thinking with your hands

31 Dec

Going analog for further inspiration…


In this day and age of the Internet, it’s so easy to get lost in the online world. I admit I spend too much time online, knowingly. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do anything else productive unless it’s in front of a computer! I wonder if this is some form of learned helplessness… haha.

So taking time off the computer and going analog is one of my little ways to get inspiration. There’s also something about being able to handle something in your hands; to touch and feel it, and to play with it with a curiously explorative mind not too unlike how a child would. It’s also an exercise in getting re-acquainted with the shopping bag since we handle it so often in our daily lives and would have probably overlooked its many details. So the easiest and fastest way was to potter around the house and see what play comes up.

I immediately went to my home stash of shopping bags, and took out the ones which were about A4-sized (as part of design criteria). Handled them to see in 360deg perspectives to see if the difference between ‘portrait’ and ‘landscape’ modes ; examined the foldings and ‘movable’ parts to see how it’s built; placed some books into them to get a feel of the weight; tried the different bag handles to feel the pressure of the handles against my hand in order to gauge ‘handle-bility’; touched the texture and bent the bag around to feel the physical properties of the bag through the thickness and malleability of the materials used.

All this exploratory play is really, actually quite serious. Yes, no kidding here. Play breaks down pre-conceptions and barriers to our mental stereotypes, and opens us up to possibilities which we might overlook as adults. Tim Brown, President and CEO of the multidisciplinary design firm IDEO, in his talk at Serious Play conference speaks about how:

Kids can inform our outlook on creativity by looking at exploration, building and role-playing, as he explained, “forgetting the adult behaviors that are getting in the way our ideas.”

I love what he mentioned about how kids on Christmas Day morning end up playing with the boxes which the presents came in rather than the presents themselves, and when encountering something new, kids will invariably ask “What can I do with it?”. However, he did point out that play as part of a creative process doesn’t necessarily mean anarchy – one thing which I believe is on every senior executive’s top fear factors when told he/she needed to let his staff “play” more in order to be creative. Tim mentioned that kids play by rules, and kids together informally adopt a code of behaviour which helps them play better. So “productive play” is definitely one of the ways to get our creative juices going.

So coming back, what has all that play gotta do with the bag design? At this preliminary stage, I hesitate to label and to start categorising point-by-point what came out from it. I like to just let it sit in the back of my mind at the moment, and let those creative juices slowly simmer. So that when it’s dinner time, I know that the stew will taste darn good.