Category Archives: Design

No, I’m not pregnant, but…

I have a big announcement.

And it will take about 9 months.

Austin Center for Design logo

Because I’ve been accepted into the year-long design program at the Austin Center for Design (AC4D). Here’s a description of what I’ll be studying:

We offer a one year program—held at nights and on weekends in Austin, Texas—that emphasizes creative problem solving in the context of social issues, like poverty and nutrition. You’ll learn about human behavior, technology, and novel approaches to business strategy. The program is ideal for designers, business professionals and technologists with several years of experience doing professional work, or for more established professionals looking to change the trajectory of their careers.

That means I’ll be moving to Austin, Texas, in the end of August. In addition to the AC4D coursework and designing business/service/product ideas to address “wicked problems,” I will be working part time remotely for sparkhouse and am excited to be able to apply what I’m learning to the sparkhouse projects I’ll still oversee.

And even more importantly, I have the support of my incredible husband, Brent. We’ll be doing the long-distance marriage thing for 9 months. I’m not looking forward to that part, but I am unbelievably grateful for his encouragement and wouldn’t be able to do the program without him. (The optimist in me also likes to point out that at least we’ll be able to video chat and visit each other between quarters, unlike the college semester I spent studying abroad in Vienna, Austria.)

So there’s my big news.

The application is done. I’ve been accepted in the program. And now I’m working out logistics like housing, travel, and transition plans for my sparkhouse work.

Kind of scary, but mostly exciting.

(And no babies.)

Creativity (and a Crowdsourced Bibliography)

Princeton Youth Forum banner

Right now, I’m at the Princeton Youth Forum in Santa Barbara, which features some really smart people who are leading thinkers in youth ministry and beyond. Last night, I gave a presentation on how design and design thinking methods can help youth ministers address the challenges (big and small) we face in our ministries. It’s drawn from the practices we use to create sparkhouse resources, as well as my experiences in ministry.

I’m posting a growing bibliography from my talk at Some other forum attendees will also be posted highlights and sources from the lectures and electives they go to, so we’ll crowdsource a more complete bibliography from the event. And if you have other references you’d like to add, just let me know!

I speak again on Wednesday afternoon, or if you want to catch it some other time, I’ll be leading a couple workshops at the ELCA Youth Ministry Network Extravaganza and co-presenting with Tony Jones at the Princeton Forum in April.

On Cookie Monster…and opening my eyes

When I first saw this project by artist/graphic designer Timm Schneider, I busted out laughing.

And then I had an urge to dig out some ping pong balls and a sharpie.

And then I clicked through to read more on Turnstyle News. A favorite quote from the interview:

What do you find so fulfilling about putting eyeballs around the city?

Timm Schneider: That something so little can do so much. It transforms things into beings. It changes the way people see the world around them by shifting only a detail — the very same way humor works. The eyeballs explain something difficult like perception very easy. It changes the purpose of things: a trash bin can be the Cookie Monster. The world around suddenly isn’t something fixed anymore, it’s something you can change. People are realizing this very optimistic opinion with a smile on their faces, more than I ever could have asked for.

I think that’s what I like about guerilla art projects like this. Besides offering a moment of levity (and perhaps inspiration), they challenge me to see something that wasn’t there before. They open my eyes to new possibilities…and make it hard to pass a dumpster without imagining Oscar living in it.

(via laughing squid, images via Timm Schneider)

Manipulate, morph, move

While I’m on a play kick, I wanted to share this quote:

“Someday, rather than measuring memorization as an indicator of progress, we will measure our children’s ability to manipulate (deconstruct and hack), morph (think flexibly and be tolerant of change), and move (think “with their hands” and play productively). Standardized aptitude tests will be replaced by our abilities to see (observe and imagine), sense (have empathy and intrinsic motivation), and stretch (think abstractly and systemically). We will advance our abilities to collaborate and create.”

And here’s the challenge: How many ways can you think of to use bubble wrap?

(via Uniting Work And Play To Promote Innovation – PSFK & Play Power – The Atlantic)
Image by Kirstea

Tools for Schools (and Churches)

I loved this Fast Company article about Tools for Schools, a program that integrates design-based problem solving into the daily curriculum.

Students were challenged to design the classroom of the future. In their classes, they researched and tinkered with desk, chair, and locker designs. They prototyped with pipe cleaners and cardstock, explored material costs, and put together concept pitches.

I especially love two aspects about this program.

  1. Students were given a meaningful project that’s tangible and more relevant to their everyday lives than a standardized test.
  2. The teachers and partnering businesses took seriously the students’ work and discovered innovative ideas they may not have come up with on their own. Like this desk with a backpack hook and interchangeable inserts for different classes:

From the article:

“Clearly, the project showed that kids as young as 13 can grasp the rigorous process that designers undertake. It also reflected the fact that students are enthusiastic learners — of math, science, and writing — when those subjects are integrated into a project they care about.”

What would it look like to invite our faith communities to design the worship space of the future? What would it look like to rethink how we compartmentalize our ministries? What would it look like to empower and learn from the young people in our congregations?

Don’t miss the article and the photo gallery.
(image: Fast Company)

To Innovate, Ignore Users

I really liked this Fast Company Design article on the limits of user-generated innovation. A key quote for me:

“The best brands are all guided by a clear vision for the world, a unique set of values, and a culture that makes them truly unique and that no user insights could ever change.”

A faith community might not be shooting for unique products like a business, but it seems like a congregation benefits when its leaders work to develop and communicate its vision, values, and culture.

John Cleese & Cultivating Creativity

I’m notorious for being too connected to my laptop (running multiple applications and bouncing between at least 5 tabs in my browser). But this often means that I get drawn in by emails, alerts, and checklists and don’t take time to process what I’m encountering, consider my own perspective, or actually make something.

So I’m scheduling out some “unplugged” time each day when I shut down my laptop and block out time to think, synthesize, reflect, and create something original.

And if I need a little more support breaking my addiction, maybe I should invest $10 for some Freedom.

So a question for you: how do you cultivate creative space?

(via Neuronarrative)

Smash Journal

I’ve been drooling over the SMASH Journal.

I am a scrapbooker and love collecting ideas, inspiration, photos, and random bits and pieces from my life. While I love my small Moleskine journals and carry them most places with me, the glue/pen combo that slides right into a loop on the journal is so smart.

Come April, maybe I’ll be carrying one of these around. (Or maybe two if I can’t decide between the Mod and Doodle styles.)

More at the SMASH blog.