Tag Archives: Creative

So This Is How They Do It! Zebras Getting Stripes

By Robert Krulwich


How did it happen? How’d the zebra get its stripes?

In Rudyard Kipling’s version, a gray, horsey-looking beast went into “a great forest ‘sclusively full of trees and bushes and stripy, speckly, patchy-batchy shadows,” stayed there awhile, and after a “long time”… got stripy.

OK. Not bad.

Here’s another notion, this one from Ricardo Solis, an artist working in Guadalajara, Mexico. He says a team of highly intelligent, “mini-me” creatures got itself a roll of black ribbon. Using giant scissors, the mini-me’s cut themselves long slivers, which, dropped from a blimp, they pasted on a horse.

This is such a satisfying explanation. No waiting eons and eons. No random mutations. No molecular biology. Just a team of itty-bitty designers doing, well … almost intelligent design. They’re not precise. Life should be accidental, which is why it feels right that a flamingo gets its pink from teeny buckets of paint, randomly poured. And why the mini-me’s down below have to protect themselves with small umbrellas.


Plus, creature-building should be hard work. In making a giraffe, a team of designers had to draw, manufacture and stock each golden-brown blotch, and ship them to the studio, where this monster-sized animal, tethered by a handful of mini-me’s, is patiently waiting to be accessorized. It’s a paint-by-numbers job, each blotch must be fitted to its pre-figured spot, and if they take too long and the giraffe gets restless? I’m not even going to think about that.


In the Bible, genesis happens super-fast, as befits an all-powerful being. Creation is a six-day effort, from “let there be light” all the way through zebra-striping, giraffe pigmentation and flamingo pinks. Then, on the seventh day, God rests. He gives Himself a single day off. One.

Giraffe Production Bottlenecks

Not the mini-me creatures. Ricardo Solis doesn’t say, being an artist, but I’m figuring those little guys needed two, three full days to paint in each giraffe. Multiply that by the number of giraffes on order, and creation is a labor-intensive nightmare. Figuring regular weekends, summer vacations, holidays and medical leave for paint-poisoning, giraffe gestation is going to be very, very slow — which is why, if Ricardo Solis ever visits Africa and gets to see 50, 60 giraffes ambling together across the plain, he — more than the rest of us — will blink, smile and say, “That? That is a miracle!”

There are many routes to appreciating the bounty about us.

To see more Ricardo Solis drawings – of hippos being inflated, armadillos getting armored — you can find his latest work collected here.

The New Yorker / Krulwich Wonders / Published: April 19, 2014

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6 Ways to Harness the Power of Daydreaming


By Sam Harrison

When painting landscapes, Matisse would sometimes pause to study his subject matter and reflect on it. His peaceful pausing would arouse his subconscious mind and he could return to his canvas with clearer, fresher perspective.

Pausing is a powerful part of the creative process, whether it’s watching a distant sunset, strolling a nearby park, or taking a long shower.

Our brains need time to reflect and recharge. The act of pausing facilitates creative cognition and brings about those “aha” and “eureka” solutions.

“Sometimes this happens when you didn’t even know you were thinking about the problem,” says Mark Beeman, a professor at Northwestern University’s cognitive neuroscience program. “It’s as if a light turns on and you suddenly see an answer to a problem that had stumped you.”

Here are six ways to use pausing for more potent creativity:

1. Space out.

There’s much talk these days about mindfulness, which emphasizes attentiveness to the present. Mindfulness has strong mental and physical values, especially for primary tasks such as reading. However, recent studies show that not allowing the mind to also frequently wander can hinder creativity.

“Mind wandering seems to be very useful for planning and creative thought,” said Dr. Jonathan Schooler, a researcher at the University of Santa Barbara in California’s department of psychological and brain sciences, during a CNN interview.

“It seems that allowing people an incubation period in which to let their mind wander really helps the creative process.”

2. Hide out.

Seventy percent of offices now have open floor plans. These open workspaces are conducive to interacting and collaborating, but disruptive to pausing and pondering.

If you work in an open office, stake out a possible hideaway, a place you can dash to now and then for a few quiet minutes. Maybe it’s an empty conference room or unused office. A restroom stall or unused basement. Any secret space you can scamper to when you need to space out.

After I mentioned hideaways during a talk to an in-house creative group, one designer showed me a folding chair he had stashed away in the far corner of the building’s air conditioning and electrical room. “It can be loud, but I can be alone,” he said.

3. Look up.

Next time you’re in an airport or coffee shop, check out people sitting around you–at least 75% will be looking down at smartphones or tablets. Just a few years ago, many of those same folks would have been gazing around or daydreaming. But the gravitational pull of screens now steals time from reflection and zoning out.

While few are likely to give up their devices, reminding yourself to occasionally pause and look up can help. Stare into space. Look out windows. Study ceilings. Leonardo encouraged his young followers to focus on random stains on walls. Maybe just close eyes and breathe. Ideas are in flight patterns around our brains, just waiting for clearance to land.

4. Walk around.

Thomas Jefferson, one of America’s most creative presidents, was a huge advocate of walking. “The object of walking is to relax the mind,” he said. “You should not permit yourself even to think when you walk.”

Walking provides a clear path for pausing. It’s a great way to free the mind, assuming our hands also remain free of cell phones and printed materials.

Author Robert MacFarlane describes walking as a full-body experience. “Mind and body function inseparably,” he says, “such that thought becomes both site-specific and motion-sensitive.”

And a persuasive endorsement for walking comes from poet Wallace Stevens, who wrote: “Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.”

5. Mulch down.

Pausing can be analogous to a fallow field–a calm, silent place of restoration, with imminent growth just below the surface.

“I am a compost heap,” writes author Ann Patchett in The Getaway Car, “and everything I interact with, every experience I’ve had, gets shoveled onto the heap where it eventually mulches down…It’s from that rich, dark humus that ideas can start to grow.”

6. Write down.

Pausing is fruitless if you don’t capture what pops up. Keep a notebook or pad handy for fleeting insights and ideas. When ideas come to legendary singer and songwriter Neil Young, he stops whatever he’s doing and writes them down.

“Those ideas are a gift,” Young told interviewer Charlie Rose, “and you aren’t being respectful to the gift if you don’t pay attention and write it down.”

Fast Company / Dialed / Published: February 19, 2014

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108 Years in 108 Seconds

[Design] is a narrative that extends from the conceptual thinking that informs a designer’s vision to the people it touches and the places it transforms.


Choose your corner, pick away at it carefully, intensely and to the best of your ability and that way you might change the world. -Charles Eames


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The Plate Project: Provocateurs

What We’ll Be Eating in 35 Years:
Food & Wine asked some of the most original thinkers we know to sketch out their predictions on paper plates. The results are beautiful, inspiring and provocative.


Dirty Dishes

by Gail Simmons, F&W Special Projects Expert and Top Chef Judge

“In 2013 we are just beginning to understand the profound connection between the food we eat and the earth we inhabit, but the notion has still not taken root universally. By 2048, I hope we will see this as no longer a voluntary lifestyle choice but a fundamental responsibility. If we continue to impose ourselves on the land, it may just bite back. If we learn to adapt, life will taste a whole lot sweeter.”


No More Waste

by José Andrés, Chef

“The average person eats at least three meals a day, which represents 1,095 paper plates a year. The US wastes approximately 749 pounds of paper a year—per person. Each ton of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, 682,50 gallons of oil and 3.3 cubic feet of landfill space. One tree provides enough oxygen to support three people. The US throws away 40 million tons of paper that could have been recycled every year. The food of tomorrow is today’s sustainability.”


Improved Fisherman’s Special

by Paul Greenberg, Author

“The American seafood diet exploits declining wild fish and promotes industrial fish farms. Both practices hurt the ocean. My plate does the reverse: Farmed shellfish clean waterways; kelp clears our coasts of harmful nitrogen, providing protein in the process. Peruvian anchoveta, normally wasted as salmon feed, feed us omega-3s instead.”


Pharm to Table

by AvroKo, Architects and Designers

“Everyone knows food is the ultimate addiction. In our playful—and somewhat tongue-in-cheek—vision of the future, we’ve cut out the middleman and imagined a world where food and drink take a quicker and more direct route to the pleasure centers. Don’t forget to eat your garnish!”


Our Changing World

by J. Kenji López-Alt, Blogger

“The two things I’ll miss most in the future? Good fresh, wild fish. (Farmed fish just ain’t the same.) And Twinkies. (Little Debbie Cloud Cakes just ain’t the same).”


Food of the Future for the 1%

by Anthony Bourdain, Chef, Author and TV Host

[Photos © Antonis Achilleos]

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Wind Map



An invisible, ancient source of energy surrounds us—energy that powered the first explorations of the world, and that may be a key to the future. This map shows you the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US.

See the live map for current winds. So beautiful.

wind-data-mar-20.js wind-data-oct-30.js

[Wind Map by artists Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg.]

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Strange, Beautiful and Unexpected: Planned Cities Seen From Space

by Betsy Mason

Most planned cities probably aren’t designed with the view from space in mind, but some of them create incredible patterns on the landscape that can only be truly appreciated from above.

Planned cities are laid out all at once and built from scratch. They are designed with a purpose in mind: to optimize traffic flow, or to maximize access to green space or to keep everyone in their proper place. They are born from many different inspirations. Some are a compromise between two cities vying to be their country’s capitol, built in between in neutral territory on previously undeveloped land. Some are built to keep workers near a nuclear power plant or copper mine in the middle of nowhere. Some are intended to be a utopia — with public gardens, promenades, throughways and harmony — to cure the “urban disease” rampant in most ad hoc cities.

These cities, towns and communities can be found all over the world and throughout history, hundreds of years into the past and several decades into the future. Here are some of the best views of planned cities from space.



WIRED / Science / Published: November 29, 2012

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Kickstarter Smarts

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others.

This is one of my current favorites: Urban Air – Los Angeles by Stephen Glassman

Billboards in to bamboo gardens. Beautiful.

Kickstarter is one of the smartest and most community driven operations.


It’s good to be back.

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