Creative Solutions Come From....?

3D CAD for me is an evolution of the design process that significantly speeds up the execution of creative ideas. But the creative ideas
don't come from the 3D or 2D CAD, but they are assisted by them in often allowing the examination of more possibilities and more ways of accomplishing a project.
I thought it would be interesting for SWks regulars to note what it is that triggers a creative solution in their work. What is it that makes your solutions creative & special?
I expect everyone may come up with different ways of expressing what it is that drives their creativity, but I will bet that if people put down their creative muse, we will all benefit.
1. For me, Ol Bo, I will say that the trigger for me is often seeing a function done with many parts and asking myself why I can't get rid of or combine a number of parts.
Bo
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Hey Bo,
This should be a great thread.
I've done a million things in my working life (I'm 49) so for me the "creativeness" is usually something from my past work experience that will trigger a solution or help in whatever I'm struggling with at the moment. Not always of course, but I can't tell you how many times I've found the answer to a current problem in a past experience. The other thing that gets my juices flowing is when I can bring one technology to a whole new set of problems. Who would have thought, 30 years ago, that the simple LCD screen would permeate so much of our lives?
Muggs

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I must admit, I rip apart my competitors products, and sometimes model them up so I can analyze them in detail. There are always good reasons to rip apart bad products, to identify problem areas.
Bo
Muggs wrote:

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Muggs wrote:

Cool thread - sorry about the long response. What started as a few notes turned into an essay, but it's a series of strategies that have worked over and over again.
1.    (My rule number one) Start with what you know or can't change, and fill in what you don't know. If it's a hand held device, start with the hand (something you can't change) and figure out how to get everything else to work with that. Don't pretend away things because they are inconvenient - embrace them as a challenge. Along with that goes the principle that you shouldn't just assume that 'what you can't change' is something you REALLY can't change - constantly challenge those assumptions. I.E. - Does this * really * need to be a handheld device??
2.    Embrace your greed and get greedy when designing. I get greedy, greedy, greedy when it comes to parts - once I KNOW I have to have a part (rule number one), what else can I get out of it? If it's sheetmetal, how can I get its function with the fewest bends/setups? Does it even have to be sheetmetal? If it's molded, can I do it without side-actions by rotating the parting line? Can I get as simple a parting line as possible? Etc. Constantly challenge what you are doing, and ask "is this the best/simplest/least expensive/most robust it can be"? And sometimes, counter-intuitively, that means having MORE parts depending on the process or who is manufacturing it. The important thing is that you ask the questions and challenge things to satisfy your GREED for the best design - it forces the creativity
3.    When in a bind, explain what you are working on - or attempting to accomplish - to someone else. Its funny how, when you are trying to describe what you are struggling with to someone else, in that description you have to face and justify the blind spots or assumptions that were preventing you from coming up with that creative solution. Its easy to ignore stuff yourself, its harder when you explain and justify the problem to someone who's uninvolved. Changing the context of a problem opens my mind - I can't tell you how many times I've been in the middle of such a conversation and the solution comes to me 'all of a sudden' and I have to stop and run off to my sketch pad or computer.
4.    Don't discount anybody. If someone in a meeting has an issue, a perspective, a rut that they can't seem to get out of, if they pass on what seems clearly to be a superior solution for one that is weaker, STOP... and try to understand their perspective. I'm 'that-guy' in a meeting who, when hearing five guys talking down another, I stop the meeting and ask the dissenter what his concern is. There are all sorts of folks (accountants, marketing, manufacturing guys, focus group members, vendors, etc) with all sorts of experiences that you will run into on a project, and generally they are saying what they are saying for a reason. Stop and find out that reason. The more inputs you have, the more creative the solution becomes as you try to run the gauntlet of everyone's expectations and desires. Its lazy to discount someone's concerns because it is inconvenient or makes things harder - the creative solution incorporates the feedback of everyone (not to be confused with pandering to everyone - sometimes, the opposing viewpoints need to be educated that their concerns or ideas conflict with something else that violates other project goals, but in order to re-educate them you will have to understand where they are coming from. When you make that effort, it is surprising how consistently they get on board)
5.    Education about existing products - I assume that everything I see in a product was done for a reason. When looking at competitor's parts, or even products I run into as an everyday Joe (or Ed), I know that there was intelligence behind every feature on each part.
An odd boss that compromises the otherwise-nice shape of a product was not put there by the Industrial Designer - it was put there later to accommodate a subgate, so on the next job I can start thinking about how to get the subgate AND a nice shape. Some product features aid in assembly, some in handling and orienting parts out of a feeder bowl. Etc, Etc, Etc.
I think of it like CSI for products - I don't reverse engineer to see HOW they did it, I do forensic reverse engineer to figure out WHY they did it. My clothes dryer broke the other day, and my next task tonight is to take it apart to see what's wrong. Sure, I am hoping I can fix it so I don't have to spend the money for a new one, but at every step I'll be trying to figure out the 'why' of the assembly and function of each part I pull out, and it all goes into my designers toolkit for later jobs. Which brings us to...
6.    Keep learning about everything you can, and go and live as rich and full a life as possible, keeping your eyes, ears, and curiosity open through all of it. You never know when something you saw on vacation, or when some random conversation with friend or even an odd stranger in a plane, party, bar, etc, will inform a solution to a tough problem (so talk to everybody you meet no matte how creepy looking they are and ask open-ended questions). When we are out and I encounter something that, with a twist in perspective, helps solve a problem that I was working on, I've joked with my girlfriend that I should be able to write-off everything I do because it all helps me with my work. I am not really being facetious about that - the best designers I know have tons of hobbies and interests and those things make them better at what they do.
7.     Serendipity is your friend - allow for accidents, be open to them, adopt a process that forces them, and be ready to stop and pay attention when they happen. Everyone knows that penicillin, vulcanized rubber, Teflon, and god knows how many other things were discovered based on accidents. Industrial Designers know about this when they sketch - there are even some that advocate that your pencil should not have an eraser because you never know when an errant line will suggest a brand new direction for a product. One of my college professors told me that when a solution isn't coming when you are sketching with a black pen, switch to a different color (or pencil or marker - it actually works!) There's a reason for the Rosarch ink-blot test - even random stuff will gel into something meaningful depending on your perspective. Chaos is good - shakes things up.
8.    Be well stocked in solution tools. CAD is obvious, as are pencils, paper, markers, and a good shop stocked with a wide variety of materials. I keep a bucket of legos at my desk - when I am having trouble working through a mechanism, I sometimes break out the legos, which changes my approach to the problem. and have a couple utility patents as a result of those legos. Gather sample materials and have a box full of stuff to look at when you get into a bind. Experiment, play, do whatever you need to do to. Sometimes, just act out the problem. When the CAD parts of your brain aren't getting you a solution, use the motor-skills, verbal, etc parts of your brain to get a new path to a solution.
9.    Once you think you have a solution... come up with another one. Sure, many times the first thing you come up with is the 'right' one. But forcing yourself to try another direction gives great results often enough that it is worthwhile - it forces you to push the envelope. Two weeks ago, when one of my designers showed me five concepts, I saw that a couple of them were generally the same, so I sent him back (on my dime - not billed to client) to push towards a different direction. He came up with better stuff. I hate working with stuff from clients generated by other design firms where I see three concepts that are essentially the same with slightly different 'looks' or material usage (personal bias). You want to be creative? If you have three concepts to deliver, make them really, really different
10.    Don't be afraid to be wrong. If I present five concepts, the BEST outcome is that one will be selected (worst case is they all get dinged). So the 'best-case' scenario is that I live with an 80% rejection rate. Sometimes we present 20 concepts, which means a 95% rejection rate - again, IF WE ARE SUCCESSFUL!!
Creative design means being wrong a lot just so you can be right when you need to be.
Read a book on the Manhattan Project sometime if you want to see a ballsy approach to an imperative, creative design project - General Groves went in all the possible directions that were presented to him, simultaneously and at great expense (even laying the foundations for factories before he knew what those factories would be just because he knew factories would be needed - see rule number one). He entertained and sought out all possible enrichment techniques (gas diffusion, hiring printers to create filters, etc). The work was done on two separate fissionable elements that require entirely different processes to reach critical mass (uranium is kind of easy - essentially a howitzer that shoots a uranium projectile into a uranium target - while plutonium needs a sphere that implodes to a point). And the bastard pulled it off. Not only did the plutonium direction work (Alamogordo test site), but based on that test they deployed the entirely UNTESTED uranium bomb on Hiroshima (I think Nagasaki was a plutonium bomb). That guy had brass that I will never have. I still refer to his motto when I think about design projects - 'When in doubt - ACT!' You want to be creative? Dismiss your doubt and DO SOMETHING, even if you are going to fail. Iterate enough and you'll get it right.
11.    When it isn't working, work on something else. I make a point of working on multiple projects at once, and would never be successful someplace where I couldn't multi-task. When I am in a bind, a rut, or whatever on one job, I walk away from the job and work on something else. I can't tell you how many times that, when I finally get back to the job, the first thing I throw down after the break was that breakthrough I needed. This also applies to my personal time - when I am on a bike ride, or working out, or doing dishes or whatever, the solution to a work problem pops into my mind fully formed. The back of your mind keeps crunching even when you aren't directly engaged in a problem
Hope this is what you were looking for and contributes to your intended conversation Ed 'old goat' Eaton
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snipped-for-privacy@juno.com wrote: And when I need more inspiration or ideas I go to a toy store, auto accessory, sports store or whatever is around, just to look at all the different things I HAVE FORGOTTEN ABOUT, or NOT SEEN YET.
There are a bag full of tricks to see, if we only take time to see them from other great designers.
Bo

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Very nice list, Ed.
Personally, my strong point is lifting ideas from other people. All of my best ideas have been suggested to me by listening to someone else, usually people that other engineers aren't listening to.
Jerry Steiger Tripod Data Systems "take the garbage out, dear"
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A big problem for me is myopia. I will get focused on one or a few aspects of a problem and fixate on solutions that meet those criteria, whether they are the most important or not. Usually someone else has to come along to point out that I am missing the forest for the trees.
Jerry Steiger Tripod Data Systems "take the garbage out, dear"
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Great thread Bo!
I too tap into previous experience and deeply rooted gear-headedness. That's for the functional side of design. For the creative side of design I like to coach looking at things from a new perspective. We usually start by asking "what would this thing look like if it could look like anything?" I don't like to immediately see how a competing product does something internally for fear of being forced onto a track of sameness. So first we dream, then we refine, then realize. When we start we might look at another product to guage a market or mindset but I usually don't want to look inside until we've brainstormed a couple times. During the process I might have us take a look to compare our approach and keep score. It's important that our's look better, have fewer parts, more readily accesible for service, etc. Sometimes you find the competitor did things exactly as you would. That makes it extra challenging, and it develops respect for the competitor.
Experience is priceless though. We do product design, hard core engineering and industrial design and we consistantly see issues with products from "industrial design only" firms that use temporary contract engineers. Since they often hire inexperienced talent they often have issues at the manufacturing end of things. I prefer double majors in my business; ID and ME make the perfect synergistic combination, as well as people with hands-on manufacturing backgrounds. At the very least, I require that someone has a penchant for taking things apart "to see what makes it tick". I still owe my mom a replacement cookoo clock from when I was about 9 years old. Sorry mom.
- Eddy

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Used to piss my dad off. Tore apart a Honda motorcycle that my brother and I had. Dad comes home from work and it is completely covering the garage floor. Did the same with an old roto-tiller (my grandfather gave us the idea on that one though). Wasn't near as much fun putting them back together though :^)
Ken "efhicks" <efhicks(at)hicksgroup.com> wrote in message

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Creativity, with regards to the solution to problems anyway, is not a whole lot more than the problem at hand orbiting in our mind, and that fabulous mechanism, solving it maybe 10 different ways, while drawing on data from other but similar circumstances in the past. As far as the tools that we use, ie. Autocad, Solidworks etc, enhancing or increasing the scope of our creativity, it's not going to happen. It all happens in our minds, drawing on our hard earned training, past but similar situations, and bringing the best of all these past solutions to bear on the singular problem at hand. The software and hardware that we use is simply a tool to make life easier for us to express this creativity, or lack of, on paper. We need to learn to use the software to express in dimensional realism, the Machine Tool that we are commissioned to design and build, but the Software cannot design and build it for us, this is something that we needed to learn a long time ago when we were being trained, and if we are unable to do it by now, the Software cannot help us. All of our training, and all of our past experiences is the powerful driving force that commands our brain to relay a message down to our fingertips, and strike an otherwise indifferent, unconcerned key, or click on a lifeless uncaring icon, and thereby make aware the Software and Hardware of our intentions.
G. De Angelis De Angelis Tool Valhalla Grafix
www.deangelistool.com ken wrote:

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I don't think I have ever read a more poetic description of CAD in the seven years I've been participating here. I've re-read it eight times (well, nine now).
Ed
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Both taking apart a clock and a motorcycle will ring a lot of bells hereabouts, if I guess right.
Bo
ken wrote:

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Bo wrote: > 3D CAD for me is an evolution of the design process that significantly > speeds up the execution of creative ideas. But the creative ideas > don't come from the 3D or 2D CAD, but they are assisted by them in > often allowing the examination of more possibilities and more ways of > accomplishing a project. > > I thought it would be interesting for SWks regulars to note what it is > that triggers a creative solution in their work. What is it that makes > your solutions creative & special? > > I expect everyone may come up with different ways of expressing what it > is that drives their creativity, but I will bet that if people put down > their creative muse, we will all benefit. > > 1. For me, Ol Bo, I will say that the trigger for me is often seeing a > function done with many parts and asking myself why I can't get rid of > or combine a number of parts. > > Bo >
Creativity is beat out of us (us meaning Americans) at a very young age. I suspect this is true for most of the rest of the "civilized" world as well. Sometimes I think that "civilized" just means that we have been lobotomized to follow commands like sheep. This is done by the corporate marketing machine which manufactures pop culture. Pop culture is nothing more than the herd mentality. We are all herded into providing for the Machine. As silly as parts of it were, The Matrix movies, which themselves were rife with pop culture references, hit parts of it spot on. We live for the Machine.
"Creativity" is defined (by the Machine) as listening to manufactured and homogenized music (which you have purchased from the Machine) and play on an iPod (which you have also purchased from the Machine), and thus constantly brainwash yourself with the sounds of the Corporate Revolution. Corporations rule every aspect of our lives. "The Media" is a part of the Machine which only tells familiar stories, with a very familiar form. This is no smaller nor no less damaging to the human will than Stalinism. But we have it right here in corporate America.
With an outlook like this, obviously I consider pop culture to be evil. Pop culture is devoid of creativity, it is simply imitative. "Creative" means you create, it means something new and original not done before. Imitative means that all fast food tastes the same, most pop music sounds the same. All cars look the same - Taurus/suppository, the small Toyota generic Hatchback, and the big SUV. There are a few things that look different, but all the major players are imitators.
It is possible to be a talented artist without being creative, in fact, it almost essential to success to be able to imitate other successful artists.
For me, creativity comes from the collision of imagination and problem solving, and certainly from being disconnected from the Machine. It does not come from using the color purple, it does not come from drawing the same curve that you drew for the last 5 hand sketches that you originally saw in some magazine published by the Machine.
Creativity cannot exist unless you have the ability to step out into thin air where nothing already exists. To do something completely without precedent is to truly create, and doesn't happen frequently. That is not to say that taking risks is creative. Creativity, I mean REALLY creating something that did not exist before, like Einstein pulling relativity out of his hat - is a truly rare event. By the very nature of how we communicate through language, we are so limited. There is almost nothing we can do to feed the pop culture Machine which is creative.
That said, if it comes right down to it, I can't consider myself a very creative person. Einstein and Beethoven and Freud (creativity doesn't mean you have to be correct, just without precedent), Darwin, James Joyce, these are the creators that matter. I obviously don't put myself in that league or anywhere near it. So anything that I do just comes down to how well do I imitate other people who put pre-existing shape languages together, or assemble mechanisms which have been used before... It is very difficult to do anything truly creative in Mechanical Engineering any more. It has all been done. My success is all on to how well I can concatenate and splice other ideas.
Anyway, maybe more to your point, to me, 3D CAD is just a way of documenting my imagination. I conceive of something, a geometry, a mechanism of moving or assemblable parts, whatever, and try to express it on the computer. I use 3D cad cuz its geometrical. I need a way to communicate this to other people. If spoken or written language is inadequate for ideas and emotions, its way hopeless to describe objects. Images do that best. I think CAD attracts some people like junkies because it literally captures the imagination. It is one way you can create something without actually physically creating it. It is like pulling something out of your head and letting people see it.
Daisy.
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FlowerPot wrote:

Daisy, I just can not believe that is true, given what I've seen even only in the last decade.
Nor do I think you can believe it, given the products we buy every day.
Creative solutions are needed everywhere, even in quick opening flower pots, for which there are a few patents out there.
Bo
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Indeed for some high level creativity, one only needs to look at:
http://www.jpl.nasa.gov /
Bo
Bo wrote:

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Bo wrote:

NASA is not exactly representative of normal everyday stuff. It is certainly the exception.

Have you been to a high school or even a college recently? Design projects that I have helped kids with are far from inventive. Schools teach formula problem solving.

I do believe it. Most products I or you for that matter use everyday are hopeless copies of copies of copies.
Daisy.
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The reason you & I can be creative, is that with all the people copying, you and I can take the extra time and skills and do something really better...which will then be copied.
But those copies & the original will still be a creative advance, regardless of the fact that part of them are copies and now they "are hopeless copies of copies of copies".
People doing original work are inspiring. It helps keep me going, as at:
www.sciencenews.org
Bo
FlowerPot wrote:

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Creativity...... is at it's most beautiful and bountiful when done for selfless reason. The most wondrous things in this universe were created for others to enjoy. That being said, I think I am at my most creative in a group environment. Where a bunch of nuts are pulling out crazy concepts from each other for each other to rip apart and rebuild together with new, old & radical ideas. Brain storming sessions have no place for ego's nor hurt feelings, they are the fertile play ground for crazy people with one foot in reality! Dead line usually help the creative juices start flowing also. There is something to be said for wild despair, when everything is on the line, no looking back, last chance, only hope, what do I tell the family if I fail, type of motivation. The spice of life is pressure not just to do good but to do the best you can in the worst of circumstances. Got to love living in these wild_tyms.
ambush

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Ok, I'll open up here and bare a well-kept secret. Some of my best solutions come to mind in the first 5 minutes of a shower - that "OHHHH!" moment. Crazy? Maybe so......
WT

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I must admit the replies in this thread exceeded my expectations in the different ways people look at where solutions come from. I am copying out all the notes so I can reread them later.
No one else has mentioned this, so...
In my case, I still find I need to know what the competition is doing. The last thing I want to do is design something another person has already patented. I can also check both existing patents & patent applications which have not issued.
Hence, rather quickly, I check in at: http://www.uspto.gov/patft/index.html
and do a good patent search to see if I am on a good track. It may be I can buy a solution better than make it, but I don't have enough information without seeing what others have done. There are many other sites one can check for patents, including paid sites like Delphion <http://www.delphion.com/products-subscriptions , but the US Patent Office is free.
Bo
Wayne Tiffany wrote:

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