Play, Four Days and a 1/4 ton of Clay

This paper explores the use of play as a catalyst for creativity.
Presented at The 4th International Conference on Design and Emotion, 12th-14th June, 2004, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey.

Co-Author: Alex Milton, Edinburgh College of Art

This paper explores the use of play as a catalyst for creativity. Freud suggests that “The creative writer [designer] does the same as the child at play. He creates a world of fantasy which he takes very seriously — that is, which he invests with large amounts of emotion.”
Play is an unavoidable and essential element in the design process, but one which is largely ignored. The dry, reductionist view of design that seeks to promote the designer as an objective, emotionless entity struggles when looking for explanations of recent design trends. It is argued that play is an essential part of the creative process, and one that is ignored at great cost. This is illustrated through several recent industrial/product design examples as well as a recent example of a group, mass-participation creative endeavour (film to be shown of ‘Claystation’ event held at Designersblock 2003 – long standing London-based showcase of innovative, independent design). This begins to explore the role of an audience in the appreciation of design, to suggest that authorship is not always everything, and that creativity can be explored through the ephemeral.

Keywords: play element in design, participation, creativity, user-complicity.