A Peek into Gensler's Creativity Boosting Workshop

A recent Gensler workshop to brainstorm the design process reaffirms the importance of design charrettes, idea sharing, or brainstorming for every project, writes San Diego Gensler Design Director Marin Gertler.

2 minute read

October 20, 2018, 11:00 AM PDT

By wadams92101


Donna Barry and Marin Gertler, both design directors in their respective Gensler offices, were invited to present and moderate a workshop entitled ‘Bring It’ at a recent regional firm conference.

Justin Farrel of Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford opened the conference as the keynote speaker.  One of his statements, in particular, was tailor made for the workshops:

“Think of verbs, not nouns when trying to come up with solutions”

There were workshop sessions. Each one lasted 45 min and was attended by about 40 Gensler architects and designers.  

The objective was to engage in a self-critical conversation around the state of Gensler’s current design approach and how to improve the design creativity process. More particularly, it was to move the group towards “design thinking” and away from time management tools. 

One of part of the workshop involved a poll with a question about roadblocks to achieving the best design. All three workshops concluded: time is the biggest challenge and people are the biggest asset.

The next polling question was about the primary ‘tools’ or strategies Gensler uses to facilitate the best design every time. Again, all three workshops came back with very similar results and every time the words people and talent rose to the top.

Part of the workshop was about learning how to reframe a question or a challenge.  Attendees were asked to draw a shoe on a white stock card in under 60 seconds. Later, the attendees were asked to draw a “representation of a shoe” in 60 seconds. Surprisingly, in both shoe exercises almost everyone completed the drawing in 30 seconds – a time that would be inconceivable if the exercise was done as a 3D computer model. 

The pairs of shoe drawings were dramatically different. The first round illustrated almost without exception elevations of a single shoe.  The second round was wide open. It ranged from shoe prints to horseshoes.

The takeaways from the workshops were as follows: 

Solutions and ideas were not linked to the participants titles or labels (Design Director, Project Architect, Project Manager, Principal or other). Everyone had the same pen and the same voice and yet ended up with hundreds of different ideas in a matter of minutes. 

Almost no timeline is too short to accommodate a similar exercise around an actual project. There should be no excuse for bypassing brainstorming, charrettes, sharing of ideas, and collaboration.  For more a more detailed account of the workshops, please see source article.

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