Over the past five years one thing I have tried to improve in my department is the inspiration behind students' design ideas. Across key stages, stereotypical images of gender abound: flowers and stars for girls; football, sports and computer-game branding for the boys. These may be relevant to pupils' social world, but can lead them up a creative cul- de-sac when trying to generate their initial ideas.
It can be easy to criticise the limited creative ability of some students, but many teaching areas also lack imagination. As a designer, the space I work in has to be inspiring, so I surround myself with images and objects that I find interesting and unusual. This helps to create the right working atmosphere for generating ideas. Most design studios will have areas for designers to pin up pictures that help fire their imaginations.
It can be difficult to find a dedicated space for such a resource in workshops, as walls are normally filled with safety notices, school rules, and hopefully exemplar student work. My solution has been to turn dead space into "the door of inspiration".
First, I had to choose a door that was not on a main thoroughfare. My storeroom door was ideal. I covered it with a pin board and stapled brown paper to it.
I collaged the door with a selection of images: nature-based pictures of dandelions, lichen patterns on stone, crop circles; images from art and design, including sculptures by Anish Kapoor and architecture by Zaha Hadid; and innovative technology such as a solar-powered house that revolves to follow the sun's daily path, new materials and sustainable energy solutions.
It was then important to make all my students aware that the door was there to be used. I told them the door was a growing and fluid resource to which they could add their own pictures. One GCSE student took a photograph on the way to school of frost on a leaf, printed it out in my lesson and added it to the door. Originally, the plan was for students to look at the door for inspiration. However, when one particular student was short of ideas we both ended up drawing on the parcel paper as an idea started to form. This has continued and it helps to get students out of their seats, away from the blank sheet of white paper and stops them from relying on traditional and fixed ideas.
This is only one of a number of ways to improve student creativity and it does not work for every child. But it is a resource that is constantly available and can raise the visual language of your teaching area and give an insight into how many designers work in the real world.
Andrew Millicheap is assistant head of Damp;T at Droitwich Spa High School, Worcestershire, and member of the Damp;T Association's James Dyson foundation innovation group
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