Growing Up Creative: Problem Solving in the Digital Age

I recently attended the Y21 AIGA San Diego Design Conference, featuring 20 inspiring hands-on workshops and 10 informative speakers from across the country.

Tara at the Y21 AIGA San Diego Design Conference

Of the many intriguing stories conference speakers recounted, one in particular stood out to me, that of Amy and MaeLin Levine, two sisters from Colorado who started a design firm together in San Diego. After discovering an unmet need in the community, the agency spawned the formation of a design-focused charter school called Urban Discovery Academy. The Levine sisters envisioned and created a unique learning environment for K-8th grade students, where children learn through an experiential, design-based approach. Students play an active role in their learning by iteratively creating and testing potential solutions within teams. The Levines assert that an academic focus on the arts helps children develop the skills they need to be creative problem solvers in the 21st Century.

While I didn’t have a chance to attend a school like that, I love the concept! Their story inspired me to reflect on the way Bixal’s team of graphic designers approaches projects. Like students at Urban Discovery Academy, we use modern, creative problem-solving techniques. For example, we apply agile and lean processes to identify the root problems, then evaluate potential solutions from the perspective of a diverse, cross-functional team, with the client’s needs and the end user always in mind. As we brainstorm concepts, we begin to narrow the list of solutions and then prototype and test our best ideas through an iterative process. In addition to our agile methods, we also use a lean approach to create a focused workflow from start to finish, always aiming to eliminate unnecessary steps. This streamlined approach is fueled by powerful prototyping tools, as well as open lines of communication among team members.

Creative problem solving and its processes are ever-changing and developing. To keep relevant, successful problem solvers of the digital age are those who actively engage with both new media and the greater design community. By continually exploring and collaborating on different angles and ideas, designers can approach challenges with fresh and renewed energy. Soon we will be learning from the next generation of designers—possibly graduates of the Urban Discovery Academy—who will be shaping our future experiences.