Designers should envision the unexpressed and unrealized…

This post discusses a recent article in TechTrends, by Jason McDonald—The Creative Spirit of Design. The article discusses three characteristics instructional designers, like myself, may exemplify, i.e., imagination, creation-oriented, and inter-disciplinary action. This post specifically deals with the first characteristic of the “Creative Spirit”—imagination, or the ability to envision the unexpressed and unrealized. To establish this point, Jason quotes another article which states:

…design is the ability to imagine that-which-does-not-yet exist, and to make it appear in concrete form as a new, purposeful addition to the real world.

I am always trying to get my online instructors envision their online class not as an online class. I will say things to them like, what would you do if you were teaching this class face-to-face? What would you show? What would you talk about? What would you do? What would you have your students do? This may seem like a fairly easy question for someone to answer, but it essentially asks them to imagine… which is often taxing. I as the designer am often asked to “imagine” this face-to-face class for them. I look at the objectives and the hard content and imagine, what could I design so that these objectives can be measured and how to get the students to perform such a measurement.

Jason discusses that when a designer should be inspired by the imaginative potential. We should not “uncritically” accept obvious or commonly-understood assumptions about problems, opportunities, or solution possibilities. It is easy to fall into that formalistic routines or the “design rut” which I discussed previously (see Fostering Creative Design Opportunities). It is so easy to do what is easy but:

  • What if we could force ourselves to take a second and even a third look… and imagine?
  • What if we could only redefining the situation in another way… and imagine?
  • What if we could only questioning the legitimacy of apparent constraints… and imagine?

What if this deliberate act of risking could motivates us?  If we could only imagine (sorry for the cliché song title reference) and as Jason says:

…believe that the impossible can be achieved and draw energy precisely because of such a prospect might scares me, and is at the edge of their capabilities, where I might fail.

Maybe this act of risking will actually motivate us? This risk is an intrinsic motivator that should motivate us because we definitely don’t have any external motivators, e.g., year-end bonus, the promotion, etc. Perhaps you do?  All and all, the dangled carrot approach doesn’t cut it. For more information on why the dangled carrot doesn’t work see What Motivates Us To Do Great Work form The 99%.


About DaveHallmon

With experience in web, graphic, and instructional design, Dave maintains a balance between what is efficient and effective in every message. He always focuses on the why and how rather than "just doing it" to get the job done. By day he works at a leading university designing online courses that support 9,000 students in 64 countries. He works directly with faculty to brainstorm, design, and develop their online instruction utilizing the Adobe suite. He also teaches for the university as an adjunct faculty member in the area of web design. By night he is a devoted husband, father, freelancer, and adventurer of the outdoors. His other interests include LifeHacker, Science Fiction and Hayao Miyazaki movies, Settlers of Catan, and coffee with friends. He currently lives in St. Louis and has an M.S. in Instructional Design and aspires to pursue a professional degree in content marketing and strategy. Visit the links below for more information about his interests and design work.
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