Addressing Limbo Woes Through Creative Play: Limboutique
When it’s the middle of the week, and Palmwood designers are deep in project work, it’s often the perfect time for FRI-SA, a quick and fantastical creative exercise. A break from our usual rigor and a chance to let loose and get wild, FRI-SA invites us to invent outlandish “Design Fiction” products and services, paired with the storytelling behind them. We think of it as our weekly creative gym — a way to exercise the design muscles we need to be able to tackle the complex problems our work entails with a balanced mix of optimism and audacity. By “working out” consistently, we all become stronger.
FRI-SA stands for Friday + Saturday — our way of bringing the weekend spirit into the middle of the week. The point is to let yourself be ridiculous, and become comfortable in the space of wild possibilities. There’s always a crazy design brief — “Create a concept for a new restaurant for ants! Design a toy line based on Celine Dion’s dreams!” In less than an hour, with basic materials ranging from pipe cleaners to thrift store vintage electronics, we see how wild we can go. There are no rules, no judgment, and no constraints. Imagination and humor are much more important than formal artistic skill.
The faux LIMBOUTIQUE products you’ve seen throughout this issue of Yellow we’re all the result of one afternoon’s FRI-SA. To explore the idea of Limbo, we paired up and interviewed each other about our personal limbos — what fuzzy in-between spaces were we struggling with right? We then imagined there was a store called Limboutique, and they stocked products addressing niche “limbos” of all kinds. For the second half of the workshop, we hacked random objects from around our studio into products for our partners, sharing back features and benefits as a full showcase.
While our weekly FRI-SA could seem like a fluffy waste of time, we firmly believe that by consistently exercising our imagination, we become stronger designers and creative problem-solvers. FRI-SA keeps us intellectually and creatively limber. It keeps the atmosphere in a high-pressure environment loose. And it reminds us that an hour’s worth of fun will sometimes get you to a solution quicker than a week’s worth of blood, sweat and tears. This isn’t design thinking. It’s design fiction.
Curious to FRI-SA?
Follow the steps below to try it with friends, or come by the Palmwood studio to join our weekly design challenges! We’d love to see what you imagine and create — tag us at @_palmwood_ on instagram.
STEP 1: Set The Creative Brief
Imagine a topic too outrageous to be taken seriously. Dreamcatchers of the Future and the sci-fi superpowers they give you? Paintings made by ghosts trying to tell us something? Baked Animal Crackers based on the creatures who live on the dark side of the moon? Topographic maps of undiscovered islands and their secrets? Design enough constraints to make it focused, with enough space for a diversity of interpretations.
STEP 2: Gather Raw Materials
Let uncommon objects and materials inspire you. Assemble a smorgasbord of basic items like glitter, rocks and sticks, glue-guns, leftover plastic silverware, broken VHS tapes, torn up old photographs, clay, yarn, beads, fuzzy poofballs, tiny metal gears, old stamps, you name it! The stranger the better. “Junk drawers” often are wonderful treasure troves of possibilities. Make a table filled with materials nobody would be intimidated by.
STEP 3: Make, Quickly. No Overthinking!
Set crisp time constraints, and start making! Rather than sitting and perfectly imagining your idea before building anything, just start creating. Let the materials inspire you, and let the final idea evolve and change as you build. Peek at what your neighbor is making, and let it shift what you’re doing. Relax, put on some tunes, and allow yourself to tap into that inner sense of limitless creative flow.
STEP 4: Storytell Your Ideas
A great design is only as good as the storytelling around it. On a piece of paper next to your creation, thoughtfully write the story behind it. Name it, and brand it. What does it do? How does it work? What problems does it solve? What is iconic about it, and the experience it creates? Sell your idea with earnest seriousness, despite the crazy topic. Create a final gallery of all the ideas side-by-side, and invite each person to share their creation. Bask in the wild wonderland you have created, and stand in awe of each other’s impressive creative muscles.