Creativity, Craft, and Design: Emerging Trends for Designers

Some takeaways from the 14th ACM Creativity & Cognition in Venice, Italy

September 27, 2022

This past June at the 14th ACM Creativity & Cognition (C&C) in Venice, Italy, designers, computer scientists, and creatives from around the world convened to share their work on “Creativity, Craft, and Design.” Conference participants presented examples of employing conventional tools and methodologies in unconventional ways. These alternative approaches challenge the methods and process of how we do creative work by exploring research questions and themes often overlooked in the usual methods.

Here are some takeaways that can be implemented by design teams right away to get out of a pinch, unlock creativity, and come up with new ideas in new ways.

Integrating play as design inquiry

An underlying theme of several projects focused on what happens when we apply computational tools and design methods toward play and exploration. Researchers examined traditional crafts such as weaving, dance, and family heirlooms to redefine the relationships we have with the materials we use. Research such as this helps us to shift away from extractive relationships that place technology on a pedestal into conversations about how technology plays out in the futures of everyday life. This creates space for exploring how these tools can be shifted and molded to fit a more sustainable model where people can chart their own creative paths.

Tapis Magique: Machine-knitted Electronic Textile Carpet for Interactive Choreomusical Performance and Immersive Environments

Tapis Magique installation and performance, with real-time immersive audio and video recording systems and equipment working in the background.

Read this article if you are looking to expand the idea of what an interface can be and how advances in materials can also connect us to our past. This can help us as designers understand how advances in technology don’t have to rewrite culture, and instead can augment it in deeply personal ways.

Read article

Exploring Bodily Heirlooms: Material Ways to Prolong Closeness Beyond Death

The bodily heirlooms consist of embroidery on semi-transparent fabric and three-dimensional objects that are stitched onto the fabric and can include beads, conductive thread, LEDs, or a LilyPad microcontroller.

Read this article for an example of how research through design and speculative design approaches explore questions about the physical and digital debris created by our lives and what is left for future audiences. This can help us as designers understand how the impact of design intent is carried out over time and how this process can be sculpted through intentional inquiry.

Read article

Interacting with computers as collaborators

How we express creative thought and how we can articulate that thought with computational tools has been the constant struggle of human and computer interactions. We are used to developing workarounds and overcoming technical constraints to express creative thought within computers. This struggle creates a hierarchal interaction model in which the computer is viewed as a tool, not a collaborator. As the capabilities of computational tools and our understanding of them mature, this model is shifting to a more equal process that is only possible with both creating together.

Several projects explored themes around active co-creation with computational tools. These explorations bring forward examples of alternative types of collaborative interaction models possible for both humans and computers. This is valuable because by expanding the definition of who is a collaborator, we are also exploring in tangent how to make technology more human, potentially more ambient. It expands the usage of existing tools and makes them more applicable to our own creative goals.

Initial Images: Using Image Prompts to Improve Subject Representation in Multimodal AI-Generated Art

Initial images help create more concrete and representational results than using no images or icons at all.

Read this if you are interested in new research into how we communicate with AI models, and how it doesn’t just have to be entering words like a search query but rather a collaborative sketching process. This can help us as designers rethink the methods we use for communicating with the tools we use, and how the inputs shape the outputs.

Read article

Sand Playground: Designing Human-AI physical Interface for Co-creation in Motion

A person is drawing on the sand playground, and the metal ball draws synchronously to match their movements.

Read this for a glimpse into how process-oriented Human-AI co-creation can foster new types of interactions and relationships with how we create and conceptualize ideas. This can help us as designers challenge the hierarchical, outcome-focused limits and affordances of current computational tools and interfaces.

Read article

Shifting the Designer’s role

Across disciplines, several workshops and papers at the conference brought forward discussions around challenges to teaching new technologies, accessibility, and if the current methods match emerging needs. Designers have a similar challenge to question if intent matches impact when designing in an ever-evolving technological, ecological, and social landscape. We are often in a unique position to define processes and outcomes that combine the right mixture of practicality and provocation to push us out of business as usual.

Historically, the application of current design methods has in many cases failed to properly integrate the implications of the technology with its design. To spell it out, if we keep applying the same tools and methods all of the time, we will continue to solve for the wrong outcomes. By facilitating discussions of these challenges, we can continue to redefine and adapt current methods and tools to create more holistic and inclusive futures.

Here and There, Now and Then: Creativity, Design, and Instruction for Hybrid Environments

An example of a research project exploring concepts in hybrid environments.

Read this workshop brief for insight into how to structure discussions that can encourage participants to examine their own work to uncover parallels and opportunities in the currently employed methods and practice. This type of discussion can help us designers find new ways to address the new cognitive challenges in emerging spaces.

Read article

Creative and Motivational Strategies Used by Expert Creative Practitioners

The weaver saves and displays ‘unsuccessful’ projects on her wall to reframe them as part of her process.

Read this for an interesting look into the underlying strategies people from performance art and science structure creative processes. This type of research can help designers integrate new methods and processes into current design methodologies by experimenting with approaches from other creative disciplines.

Read article

Play is not just mindless entertainment, but an essential way of engaging with and learning about our world and ourselves… Play goes well beyond entertainment: it’s a serious business.” – William Gaver, Designing for Homo Ludens

Responsible innovation for equitable futures requires us to invest in creative methods and frameworks that push beyond the current system. However, navigating this shift isn’t inherently a challenge. It can be a call to play —an emergent method of engagement and learning about the possibilities of the present and the future by intentionally taking the winding path and seeking out the playful moments between efficiencies.

It’s the creative spirit of these practitioners at places such as C&C that can push designers outside of academia to explore work that is more adaptive, customizable, and flexible by expanding the definition of what is possible with the tools and methods we use. It is these playful explorations, in a sea of feature and process innovation, that have the potential to pull us from business as usual. If we seek to apply design to the problems of our day, we need tools and approaches that innovate on top of the tools that we have to expand our creative reach and impact.

I attended this conference as an attended pictorial author for Blue Ceramics: Co-designing Morphing Ceramics for Seagrass Restoration representing Whipsaw and the Morphing Matter Lab at Carnegie Mellon University.

Share this article