• Alison Amos

My first month at Central Saint Martins.

This week is a festive week. This week marks my very first month at Central Saint Martins as MA student of Applied Imagination to the Creative Industries.

It is a very important anniversary to me for many reasons.


But let me start this story from the very beginning. And be aware - I am not a writer, nor a storyteller, or someone who graduated with top scores during my previous academic adventures. I am simply someone who has the voice to express her full creativity.

__ It was September 2009 when, with a boot empty containing just a luggage with few clothing and a heart full of hopes, I decided to leave my land of origin which had nothing to offer to me despite distinctive results of scientific studies followed by a BA in Industrial design in a prestigious university in Milan.

The only thing Italy was able to offer to me was a long list of unpaid internships.

The choice was easy.

Once I set sails towards the Alps with my old Volkswagen Golf I never looked back.


Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy here in the UK either - but at lest I felt meritocracy was extinction material here and I sensed that hard work and determination would have allowed me to get my foot across few company’s door despite the fact I had no connections, no introductions letters or recommendations.


In Italy it was a very much different story. If you are not the son (or the daughter) of someone rich, or someone with “connections” you go nowhere. Cultural social and political environment really made me feel an outsider of my own Country so I decided to go on a self-inducted exile.

I was young, unexperienced, naive - as a girl in her early 20's in expected to be and full of hopes & dreams.

__


Anyway, after a decade of making my way up, from my first (paid) internship to my first full time job as Art Director Assistant, from a Junior Designer position working all my way up to a Senior role, shuffling across graphic, digital, and what they now call UX and Product Designer, I ended up doing the job I always wanted to do: creating ideas and becoming an Art Director.

I new I wanted to become a sort of creative human since I have memories. My mother had to record advertising in order to feed me and I still remember the first time I secretly took a crayon and painted my very first Picasso on the most expensive piece of furniture my parents owned in their prestigious flat in Milan back in the 80’s. For both episodes I must have been around 3 years old. And ever since I wanted to become an Art Director. Three decades later and after 10 years working in the UK I managed to fulfil one more dream: being accepted at Central Saint Martins. And this is why I want to celebrate with a post our first month anniversary.


It took me 10 years, 2 rejections (one back in 2010 and another in 2014) 2 short courses and £250 pounds of a last minute booking of a IELTS exam (despite the fact I’ve been living and working here for a decade, I wouldn’t match the requirements to complete the enrolment standards) to finally get an offer to join the most prestigious school in the world for Art & Design.



And this first month has been one of the best months I've ever experienced during my career (and personal self) development.

The lectures, readings, studies, researches and the amount of knowledge I am gaining not only about facts, but most importantly about myself and my ability of imagine things, is mesmerising.

I started a process of self reflection as a human being which is helping me to defining who I am in first place, and who I am as a creative human.

Day after day I am peeling away a layer of society-imposed manners, stigmas and stereotypes from the core of my inner self and every day I feel lighter and more clear.

Then I have days where more questions comes to my brain and I feel lost. Completely lost.

I feel as if I am completely loosing my bearings, like a compass which has no cardinals signs and simply keeps spinning. Some days the spin goes faster than others and other times the arrow simply points towards a very strong direction.



Either ways, it really doesn’t matter to me as this is not the point, the point is to trust the process and enjoy this journey of self-questioning, self-loosing and re-discovering something that was in that little girl back when she was three and that society and education stole it from her.


I started the first month with one readying: A field guide to getting lost written by Rebecca Solnit. I never knew I could buy used books on Amazon. Anyway, this was my first.


In our contemporary scrum of ubiquitous cell phones and GPS, Solnit argues the merits of meandering in the wilderness, for venturing beyond the realm of the known.

When it comes to our creative practices, Solnit claims, we need to make a daily crossing into the realm of the unknown. Only then do we open ourselves to the unexpected and new.

“That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost.”

Our daylong conversation got me to thinking about my own writing process. Taking the first tentative steps into a rough draft (especially a draft of a book-length work) is akin to intentionally losing one's way in the woods, sometimes for years at a time. Personally, I need to have a rough map of where I'm going (or Google God in my old iPhone). But if I chart things out too carefully, it inevitably shuts down the possibility for unexpected detours, mysterious encounters, spontaneity.

So much of the writing process, then, is about learning to be comfortable with our disorientation. We have to allow ourselves to disappear into a work, and then slowly puzzle and map our way out.

Solnit quotes Daniel Boone (one of many Nineteenth-century Americans with a radically different cultural concept of wilderness and orientation), who said "I never was lost in the woods in my whole life, though I was once confused for three days."

In The Field Guide, Solnit also refers to the Wintu Indians of Northern California. Under certain conditions of mental stress or despair, members of the Wintu tribe would embark on a long period of "Wandering." The Wanderer shunned villages and society, choosing instead wild, lonely places in mountains and canyons.

According to Wintu anthropologist Jaime de Angulo,

"When you have become quite wild, then perhaps one of the wild things will come to take a look at you, and one of them may take a fancy to you, not because you are suffering and cold, but simply because he happens to like your looks. When this happens, the wandering is over, and the Indian becomes a Shaman."

The first step, of course, is to stay put. Surrender to your lostness, and wait for help.

Next: keep yourself focused and occupied, signal for help, and build shelter.

In terms of our creative practices, then: we keep the pen moving on the page, no matter what. Or we keep our fingers spidering across the keys, despite the panic and regardless of the outcome, in attempt to signal meaning to our readers. In this way, we slowly build ourselves a crooked shelter of words and sentences and stories.

It's in this very place-full of such howling uncertainty and primal darkness-that the discoveries happen, that the wild avails itself.

__


The second read was Rod Judkins' masterpiece - The art of creative thinking.

That book really changed my way of approach creative thoughts and my day-to day creative process.

Some of us list our personality traits with the intention that many are talents, remaining unchanged with age. The Art of Creative Thinking discusses how human creativity isn’t a talent, it’s an art which can be learned and mastered to transform our personalities and the operation of businesses.

Rod Judkins, famous for his studies on successful creative thinker’s as well as a lecturer at Central Saint Martins, creates thought probing ideas and techniques challenging readers to identify a new undiscovered creative mindset. Its eye-catching cover emits creativity and exposes the books content without needing to read beyond the title. The correction of typed words in handwriting, suggests the first lesson before reading how great ideas require trial and error. Judkins, encourages disobedience to not read the book chronologically. You’ll start to question, why do we always follow rules? Perhaps it’s when we challenge ideas we discover gaps in markets.


I was immediately intrigued and interested from the first chapter. Judkins theories are intelligent yet obvious at the same time as we forget to consider them when improving our creativity. Each chapter is titled with a detailed lesson of creativity lasting no longer than five pages. For someone that does not enjoy reading, this kept me engaged and wanting to read more. What I found most interesting was how each chapter didn’t correlate to the next but interlinked to various others. If you want to follow the usual cycle of A to B the book still makes sense as reading from B to A. Every chapter ends with a famous quote, my favourite being

‘if I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere’ (p.80.)

Summing up both the chapter itself and the theory of the book of challenging the rules.

The mode of address creates relatable situations, providing the ability to connect and understand Judkins point of view. When was the last time you got something new perfect the first time?

‘If you produce 100 ideas, one of them is likely to be great. If you produce five ideas, the chances of one being great are small’ (p.62.)

Reading this quote I wonder if Judkins himself used this concept by writing hundreds of chapters and choosing the best for this book. Coming up with ideas I never choose the first idea without analysing it. Brainstorming ideas can spring new ideas or developments,

‘you become rich by spending yourself’ (p.62.)

From wireless charging to water resistance, Samsung releases a new Galaxy S model each year developed from the previous. Developments improves and advances the quality of ideas. Spending time and effort on an idea portrays your preparation and determination of self-belief.

Approaching this book, I struggled to understand the meaning of not reading chronologically. It wasn’t until I discovered how following generic guidelines lacks initiative which is key to discovering new ideas. Judkins portrays his theory with the example of Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences, Paul Samuelson. Samuelson

‘had such a huge impact because he applied creative thinking to economics where everyone else was applying logic’ (p.56.)

Samuelson applied concepts of medicine and physics to economics, suggesting to reduce taxes to boost the economy. The result of Samuelson’s controversial approach saw the economy boom again. Judkins elucidates his theory of challenging old ideas to gain better and improved ideas. This correlates to a previous chapter ‘doubt everything all the time’ he suggests that

‘if we didn’t have doubt, we would not have any new ideas’ (p.40.)

Judkins passion for always taking up a challenge helped me gain an understanding of its importance. Challenges can enhance creditability, projecting initiative of an individual. Implementing this in business culture provides a competitive advantage.

Have you ever wondered on how to use your time more wisely? Sitting around waiting for a delayed train? The book inspires you to turn negatives into something that could have a potential positive outcome. Whilst waiting for a delayed train, try analysing the situation or speaking to a random person. That random person could be the potential business partner of a new idea, revolutionising the railway industry. He suggests, creative thinkers never consider time when they are working they just see the end result.

A common business term to describe these situations is ‘opportunity cost’, you can sit and daydream or you can sit and brainstorm an innovation. Judkins states:

'there is no ‘dead time’: we should always be doing something like writing, drawing or just thinking’ (p.70)

Some advice on what is considered as ‘dead time’ by many is ‘opportunity time’, a time to relax and contemplate ideas as no time is wasted time.

Reading this book, I started to see a correlation from each chapter containing similarities. The general theme was challenge ideas and never choose your first idea, becoming difficult to read as it seemed repetitive. However, as I continued reading I decided the importance of the repetitiveness.



We struggle to learn without being reminded! This is something everyone can sympathize with, reminding yourself to do something but never get round to doing it. Judkins main goal is to implement the basic concepts of creativity into the readers’ mind through repetition. The author motivates readers to be inspired and follow these techniques from lessons of those that have succeeded. He suggests how many people aren’t risk-takers, human minds are motivated when they are given examples of someone else who has taken that risk. Knowing that someone else has failed immediately makes your mind think it’s not a risk worth taking.


The Art of Creative Thinking suggests the segregation of the professionals and creative thinkers. Why do we create a divide labelling academics as more intelligent than creative thinkers when ideally, they construct the perfect formulation of what businesses desire? Judkins helps explain to professionals bringing in a potential asset of creativity into their working environment will improve their competitive advantage.


A creative culture can be implemented into every business which lead to new innovations. ‘The key difference in successful creative people is their reaction to negative events’ (p.70)

Entrepreneurs could be described as creative thinkers opposed to a managing director. A managing director has been taught of how things should be done. The entrepreneur seeks new ways of doing things to find new innovations to stand out from competition. I have learned that challenging ideas is what makes new ideas a success. The risk of questioning ideas opens the potential to find gaps in markets. Businesses should employ more untrained minds, implementing a ‘Google culture’ surrounds creative personalities with intelligent personalities allowing employees to combine their talents formulating new ideas.


After this reading I had a clearer understanding of the patch I want to develop (for now) of my inner self and my outer artist; or more simply - of my essence. And I can't wait to blog about my very first solo project: Mirror Mirror.

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Alison Amos | Creative & Art Direction © 2020 All rights reserved.