As a graphic designer and design researcher, I am very interested in the creative process and how this can be improved. I love to dive into projects and try to figure things out, preferably with images.

During my time at the Art Academy as a student I have seen other students struggling with their design process, getting stuck and not getting the results that they are capable of. In my research I am looking on how meaningful memories can become tools to improve the creative process.

This ‘getting stuck’ or ‘design block’, has become one of the starting points for my research at the Master program: Design Research (MA Master design WdKA Rotterdam). 

Especially during my exam period I became aware of fellow students that had a form of creative block and because of that their work completely stagnated. This is also known as ‘design paralysis’. This happens when a person is overthinking the process and the motion to go forward or decision-making gets ‘paralyzed’. From this moment all the decision making stops and no further action is taken. This is exactly what I witnessed with my fellow students. They get stuck, afraid that their ideas are not good enough and start to over-analyzing everything. The student is unable to make good decisions and instead of ‘doing’, going forward and create, they get stuck in thinking about the subject they chose and start to collect information about it without taking the action of creation and go forward.

This time and moment during an exam period can be explained as extra complex. This complex moment during designing can be described as ‘design complexity’. Design complexity is described as the complexity a designer experiences when faced with a design situation. During this moment there were many more options available to choose from for the students. Almost limitless subjects, no teacher that is holding their hand, strong time-limit (because of the final exam), more pressure to perform good, they want to create something amazing and they are still inexperienced. The students have of course more experience then 3,5 years before when they first started with their education, but this situation is new and there is no experience yet on how to deliver this kind of performance. So all the ingredients are here to make this a design complex moment.

I assume that the answer to help them lies in preparing them in understanding their own creative process. Not in preparing them for the exam, that is just one isolated moment in their life. But by preparing them and create better awareness of their own process, they can, not only perform better during the final exam, but also take that experience with them in the future during other projects.

Through the years I always worked a lot with combining my own memories and design. First within my own projects, I got got aware of this during my own exam project EEND ONTLEED. During this project I choose to work with a subject very close to me, that contained strong memories about loved ones not being around me anymore. I decided to pick objects in my house (comic book of Donald Duck) and transfer those connections and memories (that was kind of a burden to me) into a new experience and give them a new place. Project 'EEND ONTLEED' which means dissected duck.

This way of working with memories or subjects that contains strong memories are very fascinating to me. Because of this I continued working that way and started experimenting with it. In my personal project: In kaart (mapped)

I am making new works from all the cards that my father sends or gave to me during his work as a captain sailing the seas. In this project I am reflecting myself as a man against the man my father was, but also how that relates towards our professions. Man vs. man, father vs. son, Captian vs. Graphic designer.

Because I sense the value of working in such ways I started to expand on this by shifting my focus from myself to young creators, students at the art academy. In my lesson: How to take apart water and how to put it back together. 

The goal was to let students use a memory in combination with their associated capabilities to create new visuals. It was never about good, bad, beautiful or ugly.

The process is what matters the most. For me it is about finding methods to improve the creative process. 

Design gym method, currently in development.

Participants tracing random unknown photo’s. Creating a design language in pairs. Associating photo’s with own memories.

Tracing own photo’s containing special memories. Creating a design language. Card game as a conversation piece.

Design probe. Associative behavior results of memories and different elements such as photo’s, colors and shapes.