Melanie Hoo, VP Marketing

WE ARE OFTEN ASKED to shorten our project lead times by our clients. I get it, they are being leaned on by their higher-ups to get the product out faster. In addition to that, packaging always seems to be one of those items that gets compressed in the overall project timeline. While we always try to accommodate tight timing, squeezing time out of the Phase 1 creative exploration is not where you want to do that. Phase 1 is where everything is possible, where questions are answered, where all the uncovering happens. Phase 1 can make or break a project. The kind of creativity and exploration that is needed to really make some break- throughs takes time. It’s not that we can’t create and provide solutions in a shortened period, but the solutions run the risk of being expected, rote and often times uninspired. There is a reason for that. It’s just the way the mind works.

Case in point: When I was at Ontario College of Art (Toronto), my very first year in our foundation drawing class, the professor asked us to come to the following class with a sketch book of a certain size and an object of our choosing. It could be anything; it had to have moving parts, and it had to be small enough so that we could bring it back and forth to class with ease.

We all showed up the following week, sketchbooks in hand with an array of objects. There were small toys, wine openers, gadgets and all manner of knickknacks. I chose a pocket knife; small, portable, and it had an added benefit of protection while riding the subway and walking to my car after a late class.

The assignment was as follows: We were asked to represent our item once a day for the entire school year. That was it. It was going to be at least 50% of our grade for the year, so pretty darn important. It was up to us if we wanted to create the item once a day or if we left it, to have to do several in a day. We could use whatever medium we wanted. The sketchbooks would need to be shared and presented at the end of the year. He would not review it until then.

Fast forward to the end of the year. It was the most amazing thing to see; everyone started off representing their items as they were, day one-front, day two-back, day three-top, day four- bottom etc. However, the magic and the transfor- mation of the objects started to happen right about day 14. By then you could see that all of us had gotten tired of just showing the object. We had 14 drawings that gave us familiarity and the knowledge of our objects, and with those things in our arsenal, we set about to create, to show some insight about this object that only we could now see. After day 14, the objects were blown up, animated into cartoons, papier-machéd, sculpted etc. You name it, it happened to our objects. And while some of the things that were created were silly and crazy, everyone had at least a dozen inspired, thought-provoking ideas. Also, maybe just as interesting, by the time we got to the last month or two, almost everybody went back to just representing the object.

Now, when it comes to scheduling a design project at CMA, that experience in foundation drawing class comes back to me. Allow too little time, and the result is almost guaranteed to be solutions that are safe and break no new ground. Too much time, and the impulse to create is slackened. If the designers have time to push the expected out of the way, but work under the discipline of an oncoming deadline, there’s a chance for a creative breakthrough.

— Melanie Hoo