This guy knows the secret to unlimited creativityDesigner and artist Dominic Wilcox reveals how to differentiate between good and bad ideas, and the best way to unlock your imagination
Dominic Wilcox sees the world a little differently to most people. The designer walks through life with his eyes wide open, constantly on the look out for inspiration. “I’m convinced that there are hundreds of ideas hidden inside ordinary, everyday things that are just waiting to be discovered,” he says. “It’s just a case of looking hard enough.”
Wilcox creates objects that reflect his environment and people’s behaviour. His work is about art, design, craft and most importantly, technology. By putting all of these elements together, he’s able to create innovative pieces of art that have been impressing audiences around the world – something major companies haven’t failed to notice.
He’s already developed gadgets for Kellogg’s designed to make family breakfasts more interesting and fun. He’s organised the first ever art gallery for dogs. He’s created shoes with built-in GPS that take the wearer to their destination – and much more.
The Red Bulletin met up with the British designer at TEDxVienna to talk about creativity and how to find good ideas.
THE RED BULLETIN: It’s difficult to really measure creativity. How do you define success for yourself?
DOMINIC WILCOX: That’s hard, because I’m not particularly ambitious.
No, I don’t have an aim. I have an idea: to make an object and move on to the next one. People sometimes ask me about my dream object that I want to make – I’d make it if I knew what it was! I don’t really have a vision or the goal to have an exhibition in the Pompidou or whatever. That doesn’t really cross my mind. I just work what’s in front of me.
What’s the secret to your creativity?
Well, I’ve always been a little bit of an outsider to some subjects. I’d never made a pair of shoes before my No Place Like Home shoes. As an outsider, you look at shoes and say, ‘OK, I’m going to make GPS shoes.’ Or take the car. I had also never made a car before. There are people who spend their lives designing cars. But I sometimes suspect that if you are designing the same thing over and over and over, you actually start to mimic yourself and those around you. To come up with a fresh eye to a subject is an advantage in one way. It’s my general approach to come to subjects as an outsider. With the same sort of method, you can apply creativity to anything.
Is creativity a talent?
It’s a state of mind and there are many ways to try to create that. It’s important to have a playful approach, because that lightens things and takes pressure off. When we get serious, it’s like our mind becomes tight. When you’re relaxed, you are yourself. When you’re in the pub with your friends you’re coming up with funny stories, your imagination is quite broad. But when you’re in a serious meeting, your imagination gets limited. Keep it light and open, and don’t close down ideas to early. Sometimes people find an idea that they’re quite happy with and then they go with it too early and they stop expanding that idea. Sometimes I come up with an idea I think is quite good, but I have a mental ability to keep on going in the sketches and the thinking, rather than be happy. Try things, take risks. Experimentation is important, but it has to be thoughtful experimentation, and not just going crazy. I think deadlines are good stimulations for creativity.
I made the project ‘Speed Creating’, it was a 30 day challenge. Every day I challenged myself to come up with something creative, make it, photograph it and put it on my blog. Every day. I had an audience with expectations, so I woke up super early, worrying about what I’m going to do. Procrastinate, like I and many other people do, is really just putting off the decisions. It’s about thinking about the idea all the time. When you are in the deadline, there is a little bit of pressure, then you start to go with ideas earlier rather than wait for them to be formed in your mind like perfection. You don’t have the time to move forward to this 100 per cent perfect idea; you have to make decisions on instinct. That’s a good option of moving things forward quickly and finding amazing ideas you wouldn’t have found if you kept on thinking and thinking and thinking. The more you think the more you get to be a harsh critic on yourself and the idea. You start to narrow down your thinking. But being more in contact with your instinct it can result in finding surprises you wouldn’t found if you were trying to plan everything 100 per cent.
So perfection negatively impacts creativity?
I think so. But in a way, I’m also a perfectionist – the journey to get to what I’m happy with in the end is a winding road.
What if you’re lacking creativity and you have the white sheet of paper in front of you?
The white sheet of paper is terrifying. I hate it. Sometimes I draw all the things that are around a subject. When you see an object in a drawing, it helps you to visualise it and that’s a little bit support. Just do something, fill the paper by drawing the things. You don’t have to go straight to the big idea. The act of drawing, the movement, the thoughts – they’re all connected to making something. My pen just wanders around. I can make anything bigger or smaller, put wings on it, just for fun. Let it wander, let it have room, then it comes from one to the other.