Creativity Applied

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Peter Bruckmann's Sprint Story

As an accountant I have never viewed myself as a particularly creative person and my initial reaction as a mixture of trepidation and anguish when I began a Creative Sprint challenge in my VCU EMBA class.

I spend most of my day dealing with numbers and spreadsheets and have not taken the time to think outside of work in a while. But I quickly started to have fun creating and sharing with my friends and family.  

One day we were instructed to spill something and use that for inspiration. I was sitting at the kitchen table thinking through what I was going to spill when I noticed we had a candle burning. I picked it up and spilled candle wax on my paper. For whatever reason, the drop formation that I had rather randomly created inspired me to turn it into a fish.

I’m not sure exactly where this came from, could have been eating goldfish crackers earlier in the week or having fish for dinner; either way it produced some inspiration for additional days. Creating fish with different instructions made me think about the challenge as a continuation of a theme. I found myself wanting to compare the fish and the results using different medium and instructions. I was curious to see how the fish I created each day would differ. 

Working with the unexpected became a central theme to my Creative Sprint. Being able to embrace the unexpected not just in this experience, but in other aspects of life can have a similar effect. When something different or unexpected pops up at work I will now think twice about it and see how it can be incorporated and become a value add to the organization.  

It felt good to share each day’s creation. Getting through the initial drafts of work that was questionable in its accuracy and creativity felt relieving in a way. It was great to get feedback and encouragement from team members as this went along. I also enjoyed providing the same support back to my team members.

Going into the assignment with little confidence that any creativity would manifest itself, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed the 30-day Sprint!

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Acknowledging Possibilities

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Amy Padgett's Sprint Story

I was determined to make my Creative Sprint a family affair. We’d be creative together, we’d learn new things about each other’s perspectives, and we’d have fun. What I learned in a short amount of time was that the teenager couldn’t see past her phone (surprise), my husband is effortlessly creative with everything around him, and that I struggle… I mean, really struggle with what we’re calling creativity here. In part, I think it’s because I wasn’t acknowledging the possibilities of everything that immediately surrounded me.  

Is this a product of age and technology? Is our society's’ perspective narrowing too rapidly because of technology? Did my view of the potentials of place and space start to narrow with Mario Brothers and Zelda? For the remainder of the sprint, I made it my mission to approach each day’s creative challenge without technology, with the one exception of taking an iPhone pic.  

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  But right out of the gate, my creations didn’t feel beautiful to me.  I also fretted over one day's challenge to break something and make something new with it. Why do we have to break something to be creative, I wondered. After scouring my space for a good thing to break, I settled on a wine bottle.  When you break a glass bottle, nothing is uniform, and it doesn’t break in a perfect way.  Nothing about breaking anything is perfect…but, something new and good can come out of it if you are open to it. 

Another day when the creative juices weren’t flowing the most unexpected item became my inspiration: a bottle with flowers in it.  It is something that had been in our kitchen for a while.  But I didn’t look at it in great detail until the Creative Sprint.  I discovered new lines, curves and even sounds that I hadn’t thought about before.  This is another case where I re-discovered something already in my space.  I looked at it through a different lens to find unexpected beauty. 

My most compelling realization during the Creative Sprint was that I need to look around more often to be more aware of the beauty and opportunity in everything. 

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Every Day Was My Favorite

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Vicky Ivey's Sprinter Story

An Art Director on my team brought the Creative Sprint to the attention of our internal agency as a unique way for us to flex our creative muscles and get (re)inspired. I started participating in support of what she was trying to do, and then I fell in love with it. Or got addicted to it. 

Every day was my favorite day during the Creative Sprint. I looked forward to seeing what each day’s assignment would be. I couldn’t wait to post my entry, see how other people interpreted the challenge, and of course, see that other people enjoyed my work.

I always looked at the daily challenge first thing in the morning. Sometimes I knew what I wanted to do right away, and other times an idea I wanted to pursue eluded me until the end of the day. And there was zero correlation between how quickly the idea came and how much I liked the outcome.

One new thing I did during Creative Sprint that I will incorporate into my work in the future is: DON'T SETTLE. A couple times, I “finished” that day's assignment and then had another idea that I executed as well!  

My advice for a fellow Sprinter is to look at what everyone else did that same day, but not until you’ve finished yours! You may be surprised at how others interpret a similar “answer” in a different way, and that some people have different “answers” altogether.

Participating in the Creative Sprint reminded me that it’s easier than you think (and beneficial!) to incorporate inspiration and creativity into your day-to-day.



For more of Vicky's work visit her Instagram.


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Tending to My Creative Flame

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Candy Chang's Sprinter Story

Noah Scalin came to present at my workplace, and we all participated in a quick "make a face using the materials around you" activity. It was the liveliest I've seen our meetings be in a while and got me inspired to try Creative Sprint out.

I really enjoyed Day 14, "Create a new superhero." I was visiting my family during that time, and I got them all involved in my adventure to figure out how to make something that would rock back and forth but not fall down. I vaguely knew that an egg would have a good shape for something like that, but raw eggs can't do what I wanted my work to do. I ended up poking holes in the egg to blow out the egg whites, leaving the egg yolk behind, and then cooking that. Family members passing by while I was working would contribute suggestions on how to keep the rest of the egg inside, how to keep it upright while it was cooking, and so on. 

I was super excited that my theory about keeping just the egg yolk inside would end up a success! My hero Mr. Eggroll was rolled around a lot that night...and then I cracked him open for the sake of science since I was curious how a half-hollow egg looked on the inside.

Day 26, "Create a diagram of  your own recipe for happiness" was surprisingly difficult. It was a combination of having too much I could say and wanting to do something more extravagant than usual that really tripped me up. I thought about it during work, and then after work spent another few hours wondering what I would do. Finally, I decided to get back to the basics and spirit of the first day, instead of trying to overthink things or make some definitive statement about my life philosophy. Using just the things around me, I gave myself the bounds of something to do with food, since the prompt asked for the recipe for happiness...and the first thing I quickly sketched out became what I posted.

I think I was just rather surprised by the response to what I posted. I've had my Instagram account for a few years and never posted and never checked it. This sprint was in part a challenge I gave myself, to put myself out there in the world and not worry about whether or not what I was sharing was worth people's time or screen space.

For Day 19, "Make something that lights up," I made conductive playdough and decorated it with LEDs. I got the idea from a talk I went to by Carol Yang, Executive Director of the Children's Creativity Museum in SF, where she brought in conductive play dough and other hands-on ways to engage with circuits. When she first shared these activities with us, I appreciated the thinking behind it and vaguely thought that it would be cool to make on my own...but as with many things I didn't end up trying to make things myself. But after getting the prompt for Day 19, I knew exactly what I could do. Coming home after work, scrounging up the ingredients to make conductive play dough and then spending a great amount of time trying to make the design I thought about in my head work was a really interesting break from my routine.

So going forward, I would like to continue this kind of serendipitous "let's just try that thing I learned about the other day," even if it involves going to a bit more trouble than coming home and making dinner. I found that it's really fun to bring in something unexpected, like this play dough, and seeing how it activates other people's imaginations and breaks them out of their "typical" day as well. 

My advice is that you'll do something every day if you enjoy the process -- so don't do anything that stresses you out (too much! A little stress keeps you from being complacent). If you can't come up with something, talk to the people around you about it. Even ask a random stranger and see if you get any helpful ideas. I tried not to look at any other sprinter's work until I was done for the day, so that I could feel like each day's work was mostly influenced by my take on the prompt. 

In some ways, doing this was proof to myself that I have no excuses for not finishing the random side projects that live in a growing list on my computer. I was able to settle down and do something every day for the past 30 days...if I had spent that time working on a project instead, how far would I have gotten by now? So for one thing, I'm going to continue doing something sprint-like, though I know doing it myself and not along with a community will be far more difficult; the difference is that I'm going to try and replicate the conditions of success as much as possible: do it along with at least one other person, and share what I'm doing regularly even if I don't think it's the best thing since sliced bread. 

All throughout October, I kind of felt like there was a small little flame burning inside of me that made every day just a bit different than usual. Tending to that flame through trying new things out, getting over my insecurities and sharing things, and talking about my weird thoughts and approaches to prompts was extremely enjoyable. It would be really simple to let it die out, or think that I'll just re-light it when I have time, or when it's next year October...but I think the point of going through these 30 days was not to complete them, but to find a way to continue the process in my own way. 

For more of work, check out her Instagram.

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Art in High Definition


Jenny Honings' Sprinter Story

I decided to participate in Creative Sprint 2017 because I felt I needed to push myself out of an "artist's block". Also to try and gain some confidence in my own artwork, especially since I have never felt like I was a "real" artist. I've always done art on the side but I don't have an art degree and have had very few art classes. 

The most challenging aspect of the Sprint was teaching myself to just let go, think outside of the box, and once I did, WOW, it feels great! As part of the last day's prompt, create your own trophy, while I was working on the collage, I just happened to find the word "uninhibited" in a magazine, cut it out and applied it to my collage trophy and felt it was most appropriate for how I got to that point: I just let it all hang out!

My favorite day was the last day, not because it was the last one, but for the sheer fact that I did it! I completed something artistic - I lasted till the end. I pushed myself harder than I ever have and am so proud of myself for having done so. I loved the way my "trophy" looked. It means more to me than anything I've ever created. In fact, I was going to frame and keep this one for myself but I'm going to surprise my daughter with it for her Christmas gift this year! She collaborated with me on 2 or 3 of the daily prompts and is the one person that has been able to teach me to see "outside of the box." 

I am so surprised at the amount of confidence that I gained during the 30 day challenge via the comments, likes, thumbs up, loves, that I received via my posts each day on the Creative Sprint Facebook page. Thank you to all that did so, as it means more to me than you'll ever know.

To use a way overused but fantastic tagline: Just Do It. I promise you'll come out of it the person you've always wanted to be! No lie. Over the 30 days, I saw beautiful and artistic things around me that I had never seen before- at home, at work, at my mom and dad's house, everywhere. I see life that way anyway, and always have, but wow, it's in High Def at this point and I love it.

To see more of Jenny's work, check out her Instagram


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Keep moving, you'll be surprised

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Jolinda Smithson's Sprinter Story

I love the idea of connecting with people to help spark creativity.

I connected with other Sprinters through the hashtags and got to see lots of cool work at the same time. It was a great little inspiration boost each day.

One new thing I did during my Creative Sprint was to use my stylus on my phone to complete a lot of the daily challenges so that I wasn't getting caught up on doing something too intense. That simple limitation of using what I had at my fingertips helped me complete so many of them without getting too perfectionist about it. I'd love to set some limitations on myself for future projects with the expectation it doesn't have to be perfect right away so that I just get in the habit of making without judging.

One piece of advice I’d give to someone who is starting their first Creative Sprint is to just do it! Everyone in the Creative Sprint community is so supportive and if you keep moving, you'd be surprised at what cool things come out without letting yourself get caught up in how good it looks.

Since Creative Sprint, I have become more productive in other areas of my life - in small ways - trying to move things forward without the idea of perfectionism. It's also inspired me to make more necklaces, a hobby of mine, and to get back into my art studio to make things in real life.

To see more of Jolinda's work, check out her Instagram

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Creativity, A Dish Best Shared

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No One Is an Island  

I lead a team of designers and copywriters who produce all kinds of materials for our brand. When something customer-facing goes out, it’s likely we’ve already had our hands (or pens) on it. Yet, despite knowing our work, few know us as individuals.

That’s because, generally speaking, the workplace praises productivity over creativity. There are deadlines to meet, stakeholders to please. The emphasis is on deliverables—that’s just the fast-paced nature of business.

As a Creative in a large organization, your time is allocated to various projects before you can even blink. Along the workflow pipeline, requests come in, creative assets are magically pumped out, and the work day moves on. The Creative becomes almost invisible, bogged down in day-to-day production work.

But Creatives aren’t mystical beings and creative assets don’t grow on trees. With that in mind, I wanted to put a spotlight on my Creative Team and show off our skills a little with something that said “Hey, we’re still here! We put a lot of thought and care into our creative work and we’re excited to share. Let’s work together!” I also wanted something that could help bond our team and encourage others to interact with us.

Enter Creative Sprint.

Creativity is Contagious

The October Creative Sprint was the perfect opportunity for my team and I to flex our chops and do something enjoyable together. It would provide a breather from the workweek and give us something to think about, work on, and discuss.

So, we went for it. We commandeered some wall space and decided to post all our work on a giant whiteboard—in full view of everyone on the floor. Now, eyes can’t help but be drawn to our board. People stop and ask questions. Other people jump in to answer. Conversations are started, connections are made. Our motley little wall has become so much more.

To make it easier (or harder, depending on how you look at it), I added another caveat: all submissions had to be created from or incorporate a Post-it note.

This additional condition added a twist to our game, while simultaneously evening the playing field. By stipulating the use of sticky notes, we ensured that a) 30 days of submissions would fit on our board and that b) all submissions could be easily created from common office materials—meaning no excuses!

The Post-It rule has worked out well. The physical work of producing itsy-bitsy creations has been fun, while the exercise of “thinking in miniature” has been a uniquely challenging one. Plus, in a digital company, we’ve finally managed to find a use for all those office sticky notes, so it’s been a win-win!

The More You Use, The More You Have

Overall, creating for oneself, creating for just for the sake of creating, without the need for perfection, has been something incredible. It’s freeing. And it’s something that, unfortunately, most professional creatives don’t get the chance to do in the workplace.

But our Creative Sprint isn’t just about us. I’m out to prove a point. That point is that creativity isn’t some mystical talent reserved for a certain subset of the population—it’s a skill that can be practiced, a habit that can be established. Most importantly, the point is that creativity is not a skill; it’s a perspective. And by changing your perspective, you can accomplish anything.


Tina Caye

Creative Director, Brand

Small Business Bank Capital One

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Father and Son Get Creative

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The Dynamic Duo

The Dynamic Duo

Teaming up with a buddy for a Creative Sprint is a fantastic idea. When that buddy is a family member it's all the more special.  Being creative together is a great way to connect with family. Motivating each other to get daily activities done, brainstorming new approaches and celebrating your achievements together creates a unique opportunity for bonding and fun!

Tim Gregory (@Zoothru on Instagram) and his 11-year old son (@Wild_Outside) participated in June's Skull-A-Day Creative Sprint together. This father-son duo interviewed each other about the experience for our website!

Why did you decide to participate in Creative Sprint/Skull-A-Bration?

Wild_Outside:  Because my dad was doing it and it sounded cool.

ZooThru: I followed Skull-a-Day 10 years ago I've always wanted to try a daily project. Most evenings I just watch TV or mess around on the internet, so I wanted to try focusing that time and energy towards something creative.    

What was your favorite day of this Creative Sprint/Skull-A-Bration? Why?

WO:  The first one (Fork Skull) because it was the first time I thought about a skull. So it I felt creative.  It was the first thing that popped into my mind.

ZT:   I liked the second day -- (I made a skull out of rope on my deck) because I wasn't sure about artistic ability going into this, so I was really happy it ended up looking like a skull.

What day was most challenging for you? Why?

WO:  The last day (Water skull -- painted with a watermelon juice on a plate). We were traveling and I was like "What am I going to do today?"   

ZT:  Day 27 was challenging. I made a skull out of a cocktail napkin. We were in the middle of a big family trip and I had no art supplies to make a skull with. It was tricky being on a trip and finding time to be creative. 

What was the most surprising or unexpected thing that happened this month?

WO:  That I drew most of my skulls. I thought I was going to make them out of things, but I ended up drawing most of them. 

ZT:  Day 1 and 29 were both drawn in a similar style -- I was surprised that you could see some improvement because of practice. Spending 30 days thinking about the shape of skulls I really learned the individual curves and structures that make a 'good' looking skull drawing.  

Did you collaborate on any of the days? How did you support each other during the month?

WO: We didn't really work together on any of them. 

ZT:  What?! We did clay skulls together. 

WO: Yeah, but I did my own. 

ZT: And I reminded you about the deadline about half of the days!!!  I think we supported each other by keeping each other motivated and making stuff every day. 

WO: I think mostly you supported me because I wouldn't have done anything creative if you hadn't started making skulls. I did it because you started doing it every day. 

What is one new thing you did month that you would like to try again or incorporate into your work in the future?

WO:  Drawing my skulls better. I would change them up to make the skull parts look different.  

ZT:  I tried water colors early in the month and it was fun using the paint. I want to do that again.

What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who is starting their first Creative Sprint?

WO:  Try not to think about it too much. Think of something easy and simple and do it.   

ZT:   Try not to spend to much time or take on too many 'big project days'. The fun ones were the ones that took 15-30 minutes.

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