We are proud to announce the new book by Central Saint Martins short courses tutor Rod Judkins Ideas Are Your Only Currency. We chat to Rod about how his Short Course, 100 Design Projects, provided inspiration for the book and ask that burning question, can non-creatives really become creative?
You’re the author of The Art of Creative Thinking and Change your Mind: 57 ways to unlock your creative self. What was the inspiration behind your new book Ideas Are Your Only Currency, and how does it follow on from your two previous titles?
The inspiration for Ideas Are Your Only Currency was my Central Saint Martins short course called 100 Design Projects. Over many years of teaching art and design at UAL, I noticed the students that lasted and prospered after they left were the ‘ideas’ students. Because culture changes so rapidly, the ‘ideas’ students were able to adapt quickly. The students who relied on a skill often found themselves washed up when technology rendered that skill redundant. So I tried to help students become good at generating ideas. I found the best way to do that was by doing two things. To set them conceptual projects that stretched their minds and forced them to think of ideas rather than create designs that looked attractive. Secondly, to set a lot of projects. Thinking of many ideas is the best training for getting ideas.
My previous books equipped the reader with specific techniques and methods to think creatively and solve design problems. I examined creative thinkers from art and design but also literature music and science. I explained the process they used to get ideas. Then I demonstrated to the reader how they could use them in whatever field they worked in.
You’ve been teaching the highly popular short courses 100 Design Projects and 100 Drawing Projects at Central Saint Martins for a number of years now. How have they evolved over the years?
If a project does not produce exciting work, next time I run the course I either alter it or delete it and add a better project. Over the years, I’ve been able to develop all the projects on the course to the highest standard. They are very different courses. 100 Design Projects focuses on ideas and how to get them. 100 Drawing Projects concentrates on exploring the potential of every conceivable medium and how to use them to improve your drawing ability.
Do you cover specific elements of the book in your 100 Design Projects course? If so, which course focuses on which elements? (i.e., I loved chapter 4, so maybe I can book on…)
A chapter of Ideas Are Your Only Currency focuses on technology – how we make it but it also alters and therefore makes us. So in both the book and the course I try to get students to work out how to make sure they use technology rather than let technology use them.
What’s the most effective ‘first step’ for any aspiring creative out there?
They should work out why they want to be creative. What is it they hope to achieve? Self-expression? Improve the design of cars? When they work out the ‘why,’ the ‘how’ and ‘what’ are easier to establish.
Any advice on how to approach a non-creative career with a bit more creativity?
Because of the success of my books I’ve been invited into places like the Royal Free Hospital where I teach creative thinking to Applied Medical Students. This is a new venture The Royal Free started because they are frustrated that science students have been taught how to learn facts at school but are not creative thinkers. A medical science students needs to be problem solver. A hospital is full of unexpected and unusual situations. That’s where I come in – I help the students to become ideas people who can think of solutions to problems.
Do you think finishing projects is important?
When you first think of an idea it is usually in the form of rough sketch and has energy and life. The more you work on it and refine it the more you can kill that energy. The trick is to develop and idea quickly and maintain that energy.
Where do you go for inspiration?
I get a lot of ideas from students. They introduce me to new topics, new music and new technologies. I meet so many students and they tell me so many things they’ve discovered – they keep me in touch.
What should our visiting students definitely not miss to catch ‘creative London’ in it’s finest?
I’d recommend First Thursdays at the Whitechapel Gallery. On the first Thursday of every month they organize a tour of local galleries. About 150 galleries in east London come together and run free events, exhibitions, talks and private views during a special late opening. They also take you around on a bus – it’s great fun and you learn a lot.
What’s the most important tool for artists?
I don’t think physical tools are important. If a painter loses his brushes he can replace them with cloth, sponges, etc. Thinking tools are useful because if you get stuck they provide lots of possible alternatives.
Can non-creatives become creative?
They already are. I’ve discovered that, working with scientists in a hospital. They are constantly innovating and inventing new procedures and treatments but they don’t think of themselves as creative, they think of themselves as scientists.
Rod launches Ideas Are Your Only Currency tonight at Daunt Books, Marylebone, London
Rod’s next 100 Design Projects course is in April with further dates throughout the year. He also teaches, 100 Drawing Projects, Contemporary Collage and Developing Your Creativity. Check the Central Saint Martins Short Course Website for further details.
Follow Rod on Twitter