Something for designers – Lateral thinking

15 March 2015
Justyna Stasiewicz
In the picture, "Ducks and Mushrooms” brooches made by Magdalena Lamch – it is a part of "Occult board” collection Array

If we want to improve our design skills and broaden our offer by new patterns, we should always invest time in the development of our own creativity. Conscious or not, as we are creative people, we possess soft skills that are often useful to us also in everyday life. To be able to think outside the box is an extremely valuable skill – that is to propose such solutions that will surprise our boss or client.

Lateral thinking, which this article is about, is a concept created by Edward de Bono in 1976. It appeared for the first time in such books as The Use of Lateral Thinking and New Think. In principle, it is a way of thinking that students of art schools are taught from the first year of studies.

What is it all about?

You cannot dig a hole in the new location if you only dig deeper.

In other words, we cannot continue doing the same action expecting a different outcome. Sometimes a change in the approach or course of action, will lead us to the desired effect much faster than the stubborn repetition of the same scheme. Our brain is like a well-programmed computer – first it suggests the most obvious associations. Whilst sometimes the more creatively we think, the more we are above the average and stand out above all, creating opportunities for ourselves and leaving the competition far behind.

Thinking based on the scheme is convenient and usually results from copying the previously observed patterns. We accept uncritically suggested solutions, because they are checked. We do not ask why the standard jewelry showcases offered by fairs have a particular shape, we do not think about their height. We accept them as they are – because it is convenient and it works. We are often tempted by the vertical thinking that promises a popular, well-trodden path of the proceedings, offering proven results in return – but is it the best way?

Lateral exercises consist of stimulating our way of thinking in such a way as not to get caught in the trap of schemes. It requires a fresh look and a thorough analysis of the problem on many levels. This may sound strange, but Ed de Bono argues that one of the things that force to lateral thinking is a sense of humor. Satirists often by demonstrating the phenomenon in a distorting mirror, make it necessary to explore further the topic under consideration. They awaken people from their lethargy, urge to ask questions. Does what I do make any sense at all? How many things do I mindlessly repeat, just because everyone else does it or has been doing for a long time?

Another important principle of the lateral approach is not proceeding according to the rules that do not exist.

For example:

Picture 1

Picture 1

What can be seen in the picture above? No, it is not a square, but four sections juxtaposed with each other. It is not known how the drawing would be finished – it is our brain that tells us the most obvious solution.

To think creatively, we must be very careful with the labels. If something is pigeon-holed in our head, we will have a problem with an objective assessment of the situation. It happens that the master will learn something from the student, an honest person will steal from a thief and on a sunny day the rain will fall. Sometimes people act like Skinner’s pigeons, firmly convinced of the rightness of their views and actions – lateral thinking teaches to avoid such situations.

When searching the internet, you can find many interesting puzzles and exercises to develop creative thinking, which can be used every day. Below is one of them:


Connect all the dots with four straight lines, without taking your hands off the paper (i.e. using one simple line, broken in four places)

Picture 2

Picture 2

In conclusion, if you want to grow and develop, do not dwell on the first projects. Let’s try to always explore the problem. Let’s communicate with others – sometimes a simple remark or a comment given by someone else can push our work forward in a new and interesting direction. Let us be open to the stimulus that the world gives us, aware of the fact that our body mutes it automatically, so as not to lead us to madness. Let us not be led by the nose by the schemes or conservative merchants – let’s analyse the market on your own, let’s introduce our own patterns and remember – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The comment entries have been added to this page – so you can let me know if you managed to solve the mystery. The correct answer HERE




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