Think back for a moment to your childhood days of play and wonder. When you changed the rules of games you played and made up completely new ones on the fly. When you invented scenarios and even whole worlds in your mind, and suddenly that little toy train became an actual train, with actual passengers in a world of your imagination. You created all that, and you had a lot of fun doing it. Why shouldn’t that work anymore now that you’re a few years older?
As adults we learn to categorize our thoughts. We learn to focus and train ourselves to think goal-oriented: How to get from point A to point B as efficiently as possible. And that’s great. But that does not allow for creativity, and let’s be honest, often it’s also just not any fun.
To arrive at unconventional and ingenious solutions, go from A to Z to B instead. When you want to foster community in rural Alabama, open a pie shop instead. When you want to clean up countries infested with land mines, simply blow the mines up with a cheap toy instead of clearing them with expensive detectors.
What I learned in my years working as a designer is that my work is only at its best when I’m having fun and when I’m playing. That doesn’t mean that every moment of my work is full of joy, or that I’m not buckling down and working hard every day of the week. But creativity is about bending the rules of logic to a point that allows the mind to wander, that allows it to take the unknown path. Without play, there is no creativity – and vice versa.
So whenever you are on a creative endeavour, make sure there’s space to explore, to go wrong. To come up with 100 solutions that are all wrong, only to arrive at the right one. Because when you think wrong, you end up right.
Thierry Blancpain is a graphic designer and the co-founder of the independent Swiss type foundry Grilli Type. Grilli Type offers exclusive retail and custom typefaces with a contemporary aesthetic in the Swiss tradition. He also writes the weekly Input—Output newsletter. To learn more about Thinking Wrong, check out Project M, an immersive yearly program for young creatives.
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