Pablo Picasso famously said, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” Nowadays everything is handed to us neatly packaged, with little room for imagination or growth. Quite a contrast from when I was a kid! My first “real” toy was a cardboard box. Sounds weird, but according to my dad, my brother and I would play with that box for hours. Why? Because it was the gateway to the moon, a castle for a princess, or a submarine for an oceanographer. The box had no limits, no constraints. The only thing that could bind that cardboard box to the laws of reality was my own mind, and I was too imaginative for that.Looking back, I realize how monumental my cardboard box days really were. As I intern with Imagin8ors I often find myself face to face with my five-year-old self. When I am thinking of activities that would be fun, creative, and educational for kids, I have the privilege of abandoning what is rational and functional in hopes of creating something new and exciting.
However, there is a journey I make in order to successfully create these activities. From the moment an idea pops in my head to its final execution, I go through the cycle of mistakes, reforms and – most painfully – making numerous versions of the product. But I enjoy every step of this process, no matter how tedious it gets. When I get a new assignment there are multiple ideas and possibilities flying around in my head. I have to physically force myself to slow down and write up all my ideas, no matter how ridiculous or outrageous they seem at the time. You never know: what is ridiculous today can be fantastic tomorrow. The next thing is to get the opinions, ideas, perspectives and critiques of the people who sit around me in the office. It’s impossible for anyone to think of everything. Everyone is different and they bring their own creativity and experiences to the table. Brainstorming with the team helps. After I settle on an idea my next task is to find a way to visually represent it – in other words, lots of sketches. This step is really important as drawing each and every part sets the gears in my head in motion.
After the first two steps comes the fun part: tinkering. When I am building something new I have no idea what materials or adhesives will work, so I have to learn by trial and error. I usually make multiple variations of the same ideas to test which one is more functional and realistic. After I have designed the initial prototype, I tear it apart, both mentally and physically. One of my professors would always say, “If you’re satisfied with something on your first try, you eliminate all possibility of that thing becoming great.”
At this stage I look for feedback from all. A critical eye enables me to achieve a better end result. However, I do believe there is a balance between positive and negative critiquing. You should try not to stifle a person’s confidence, optimism, or the idea itself when criticizing someone’s work. After the much-needed feedback, I go back to the drawing board and repeat the whole process. Never in my life have I had a project I’ve redone that has turned out worse than the initial creation.
While this process may seem formal and well organized, it’s not. The area around my desk usually looks like it has been hit by a tornado. But that is the fun of tinkering and creating. You get your hands messy, and you get to be your own boss.. That’s the beauty of it, the joy of teaching children that there are no bad or stupid ideas. Everything has potential if you allow yourself time to play with the idea. There is an unparalleled delight in seeing something that you imagined transform into a tangible object. That is the joy I love seeing on a child’s face.
Leah Ferguson is a talented architecture student from Lehigh University, currently in Singapore on an Iacocca Internship. She skillfully balances her work at Imagin8ors with a love of travel, drawing, cooking, tinkering, and writing. Back home she is part of the Division 1 track team. This extremely dedicated Chicago native has a sense of humor that makes lunch table conversations at the office fun and lively.