Shapes on the board

A model of the design process used at my school. A framework for design
Originally uploaded by anselm23

As you can see, those cut-out card stock shapes are taking form as a semi-public talisman — in the sense of an abstract but energetic reminder of a thought form — on this bulletin board in my school. I wish the shapes were larger, actually, and that I’d put the text in place a little more cleanly. But I wanted them to be readable at a distance.

While it may not be obvious to the teachers who read this blog, magical readers may notice that the colors and positions of some of the symbols are designed to reflect another model of another thought process — the Sefer Yetzirah, or “tree of life” in Kabbalah. Students of Kabbalah claim that the Tree is a perfect model of the universe, which can instruct anyone in the process of attuning one’s self to the mind of God. Whoa.

We don’t want to cause 15-year-olds to have that sort of experience, really, at least not while having a class on how to think through design problems. Maybe in their own religious education classes, sure. But not while they’re trying to learn how to operate a saw or a drill press.

But a lot of the principles of design run parallel to the concepts of the Tree. A problem has to be defined clearly before it can be solved; a problem has to be unpacked or brainstormed before it can be solved; visualizations of the problem’s possible solutions need to be imagined; something needs to be built; and very few people go it alone in design — so it’s important to keep asking others if they’ll help.

At the core of everything is the Sun — a source of creativity, of energy, of the constant question, “What next?” It’s a phenomenally difficult, perhaps impossible, question to get away from. No creative person can just sit back and let things happen — we have to be a source of the fire and energy we want to express in the world.

Because of the nature of design work, I couldn’t reflect the mindset of Kabbalah’s “lightning path” accurately, nor place the figures in exactly their order or associations in Kabbalah, but I made a point of trying to build up the associations in a way that would be recognizable to designers and thinkers, while still explainable to children. And if the children eventually want to learn the more esoteric aspects of Kabbalah… well. In a sense, the pump will have been primed.

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  1. “What’s next?” is the fire that propels us. Anything made can be commented on and improved.

    Move steady and always forward.

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