Our thinking

The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice

Share This Post

Red Ink: What We’re Reading
It was Harry Truman that said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” At Red Privet, we agree. Every month or so, we make like suburban soccer moms at a Starbucks and host a book club. Every Priveteer reads the book selection and then we come together to discuss key concepts and explore ways to apply what we learn to our work.


critical_making This month’s selection, The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice, by Mara Hermano; Roseanne Somerson and John Maeda, offers a unique perspective into the esteemed RISD experience. Through essays and artwork by RISD students, faculty and alumni, the book provides a “glimpse into how an education that supports critical making through the development of embodied knowledge via practice and haptic experience, of critical thinking through context, research, and engagement, provides unique opportunities for innovation.”

What We Learned

We are “Thingking”
“Thingking is a practice that looks inward and outward and reflects on the effects of making on the maker, user and system” Combining the work of thinking and making supports an iterative creative process and active engagement. We like this concept. It feels natural. It just makes sense to us.

Drawing vs. Drafting
Drawing is the “process of discovery and invention–not craft.” It’s generative ideation. “The goal of drawing is to learn something.” There’s a profound difference between drafting the user interface and drawing the user interface experience. Our team vowed to embrace an awareness of drawing as a means of discovery and invention. The take-away was that the act of doing is a powerful tool to evoke new ideas and connections. We even kept sketchbooks and shared them–which provided new insight into the wonderful world of ideas, experiences and approaches hiding in the heads of our colleagues.

Embracing the Unknown
One source of frustration for all creative teams is that there’s really no straight path to an innovative idea or vision. And we see time and time again in the book that getting lost is okay. As we say often say to our clients, “Be certain about being uncertain and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

What We Discussed

How is technology changing human perception, behavior and activity?
We talked about the proliferation of things. We talked about the tech-focused, fast- paced trajectory of the world. Are we shaping technology or is technology shaping us? We philosophized about diminishing personal connection in an increasingly connected society and the importance of reestablishing a connection to nature.

How do we get out of the digital mental model?
Our discussions moved to an inquiry about how to build an awareness of human experience and learning. How do we make digital systems intuitive? Much of the discussion referenced patterns of human cognition and understanding from other design disciplines. There is a rich history of design practice and this book reminds us to draw on that shared knowledge.

What is the connection between materiality and the physical human experience.
We explored the topic of embodied cognition – learning through physical experiences. We all agree. It’s all about doing. “People are material, too, after all; our materiality renders us in the mix.”

The Bottom Line

This book was esoteric for some and academic for others, but thought-provoking for all.

We still find ourselves thingking about it.

Related Resources

Google Material Design

Uri Alon: Why truly innovative science demands a leap into the unknown

Are We the Designers or the Designed? with Jason Silva

Share This Post

Back to top