Thursday, 10 October 2013

Triangle Vision : Personal perspective on problem solving


" A different perspective on creative problem solving.Inspired by what is working against us and focused on the process, not the end result. "


This project started as a personal goal : "I want to to learn something new every day!". 
It quickly evolved in exploring what my personal vision was for problem solving and how I could improve this. I ended up challenging myself to create a vision that I could explain to any kind of personality, to any kind of discipline and from any kind of industry. 
Because if a lot of people understand it, there should be some truth in it ... right ?


After talking to a lot of friends and strangers, the vision grew into this ...



The Triangle Vision





Simplicity - How complexity became layers of simplicity


I experience a lot of frustration when things start to feel too complex. Not only are you loosing energy on frustration, but seeing the whole picture and understanding what you need to focus on can quickly drain your happiness. So keeping things simple is the message!

We do this by writing down all the words you can think of when imagining the problem you want to solve. Don't take too long for this, as there are no good or bad answers to this step.

For every word you feel comfortable with, you want to place a triangle that is pointing upwards, next to each other.


This sequence of triangles ( or called building blocks ) will be representing your foundation and safety net for the small steps  you will be taking to explore the solution that will work for you.

All building blocks will be your inspiration through the whole process. This is where you can get your motivation to fail fast, recover and learn. And do it all over again.


You can mix up your sequence of building blocks with your personal values ( or maybe even the company values ). I have a long list of values that mean a lot to me that I use in my problem solving to support the foundation and mix up the experience.


Connection - Creativity lies in how to connect 2 pieces together, not in how to reinvent the wheel

This is not one of the steps from the vision. I just want to take a second to explain why the following steps will be the most important part of the vision.

When you want to get into a flow and follow a direction, the path has to be clear. The importance behind a vision is that you can see how everything can come together. Defining the connection between all the different inspirations will bring transparency on how you and others work. This can improve collaboration, communication, less frustration and many other reasons.

I believe that many people can create a new vision by experimenting with different directions on what the connection could be. I hope that my vision will inspire others to find a vision that they feel comfortable with and explore new opportunities.

In the visual representation of the triangle vision, we see a connection of a triangle upside down. So the triangle pointing upwards will be our inspiration and the triangle pointing downwards will be our limitation.


Limitation - Too much freedom can create fear to get started


I believe that every person has the possibility to be creative. It only depends on from what perspective you are looking at creativity. For this vision we are going to push for creativity by the use of design constraints.

How I learned from design constraints is when I followed a breakdance workshop from a friend of mine in Belgium. He challenged us to create a dance out of 8 counts, but we had to choose how to constraint our creative freedom. This constraint gave us control about our creativity, allowed us to fail fast and experience new opportunities for our dance that we did not thought about before.

For example : You could try to dance by only using one leg, always be upside down or maybe just using a twister map and only use 2 colors that you can touch.This way you make it fun to fail, you have control about your creativity and you are creating your own challenges.

So for every connection, we want to define 3 design constraints. I would suggestion to make it fun, personal and challenging. Maybe even ask your friend to set some design constraints up for you to follow.

No limits ...



Experimentation - Your own experience becomes the truth, as your perception matters

 A forgotten skill in life is how to ask interesting questions. A discovery in life can be related to a question you asked before. If you want more interesting experiences, maybe start asking different questions ?

I believe in experiencing truth, instead of copying knowledge. Depending on the person, you gain a different version of the truth. Your own perception becomes very important so you end up hearing a different side of the story. It stays important that we respect each others constructive opinion, as there might be always inspiration to find in it.

Being inspired by the building blocks, limited by the design constraints, you want to ask yourself a question. This question has to be the start of an experiment that will give you a different experiences.

In the triangle vision, the 3 questions that you ask represent the sides of the triangle upside down.The question is the orange dot in the center of every line. You can see a line as an experiment that is relative to the question.




Association - We are all good with comparing with others. Use this skill now to find what connects your experiments

Once created these 3 experiments, you want to use a skill you have been using every day for as long as you can remember. We all compare ourselves to the worst and to the best. These comparisons tend to support many assumptions you make in life. In some cases it might inspire you, but in many times it can frustrate you.

We want to use our associative behavior now for a good cause! Your next challenge is to find what is common between these 3 experiments. Keep in mind that it is important you feel comfortable with the answer you eventually. Many different solutions are possible.




Construction - Focusing on the process, not the end result

If you move the associations you explored to the next layer of the construction, they will serve as the inspirations or building blocks for the next layer of your construction for the solution.

By using both inspiration and limitation, you experienced how your solution came together. It is not the top most triangle that will be the solution. It is the whole construction, process, history that defines the solution you discovered. This is an important characteristic that defines the triangle vision.

Too many people and companies invest so much energy, time and money in predicting what the solution will be without focusing on the actual process. We can be more efficient by failing fast to experience what we do not know. We show transparency towards others by visualizing the entire history of the solution.

The whole process becomes the solution, not the end result ...



Thank you for your time. I hope you enjoyed this blog post :)

Robb

What is next ?

 "Iteration is quality : 

How to iterate by reusing the knowledge of gaming. "












Sunday, 26 May 2013

Body language: Written and verbal communication get all the fame ...






When I talk about communication, my first action could easily be the use of verbal language. It can be quite the challenge finding the right words to explain the message that I want to bring over to someone who possibly thinks in a different way. When I notice someone is having trouble understanding me and words can not support me enough, I tend to use non-verbal communication like gestures, visual aid, body language, ...

Even though I now use body language as a tool to support my communication, I did not use to be aware of how I could use this in my daily life. I think there are 2 ways to use body language. By sending a message or receiving a message. Body language can be very powerful in collaboration with other communication tools like words, tone, clothing, ... I see communication as a cluster of information that gives the receiver the perception of the message.

From the receiving point of view, I will be working as an observer. Detecting problems, searching for feedback based on their reactions, movement, poses, timing ... It is about getting the cluster of information from my observations of the body language and trying to see the underlying message. A good example would be to look on how their expressions and posture change over time while using software I made. Observations like the flow of their typing, how close they are to the screen, how much they change their position on their seat in front of the computer and many other data can give me interesting information that helps me improve the software I made.

A big challenge  is to understand where certain frustration comes from. Body language can sometimes be a cue for understanding where certain frustration are related to and how much they occur. This way you can prioritize the problems you detected and decide how much time you want to invest in solving it.

There are moments where I have to explain why I chose a certain decision, so the person can understand  and make easier the best out of the situation.  A lot of frustration happens when the person does not have a clear understanding of what the current situation is about. Transparency of information is key to an enjoyable collaboration. So a tool like body language can be a great support to reach that goal.

We can use our body language to show a certain attitude that could be beneficial for the situation. Extroverted people can easier connect with people who are expressive in their communication. This makes them more comfortable at talking to you and tell you the things you need to know to solve problems. Using your body language could be useful for breaking the ice when trying to make things happen. People are scared to make mistakes and keep a lot of information for themselves. By behaving yourself as a relaxed person who is not afraid of making mistakes in front of other people and you follow up with showing how to deal with these mistakes, can be a very good influence on the people around you.

Body language is not an exact science. If you would like to have any control about it, you might want to put more time and energy in your daily observation and trying things out yourself. Experiment! Your own experience will become the truth you can build from.

You can use your own body language to appear strong, energetic and ready for action. You might not be all of that when you try to appear like this, but giving this impression to other people can be a good influence. The great benefit of behaving with this body language, is you eventually start to feel like how you are trying to behave. For example : While being in a meeting room, sitting properly with a straight back and chin up, with eyes focused on the person who is talking, can make you feel more confident about your decision making.

Our body shows the current mood of our mind, but we can influence our body through body language. This evantually influences our mind. It works both ways.

I would like to end this article with a reference with an inspirational talk on TED about body language.
This video is definitely worth checking out :)


Have a good day and feedback is always welcome! :)

Robb / Nysuatro


Monday, 20 May 2013

Design constraints : How pain became a good design constraint



Don't worry! I will not be talking about how to hurt yourself to create more creativity. Mentioning pain as a design constraint will be just an example on how to use the negative to create the positive.

There are moments when I go dancing, I got some pain in my back, knee, arm , whatever hurts that day, ... Everything can hurt when you do breakdance! This pain makes me feel very uncomfortable when dancing which results that all my concentration and energy goes to that focus of pain and eventually creates frustration. Such a waste of time and it does not make you any happier.

Through a lot of experimentation and the motivation to see the good in the bad, I started using my pain as a design constraint to improve my creativity. Imagine having pain in your knee. You can then setup a rule which does not allow you not use your knee while dancing. Supported by the energy that you would normally waste on frustration, you start to experiment with the possibilities. ( It is always strange to say that limitations create possibilities ... ) These experimentation become the start of many failures that teaches you many moves that you were not aware of at first. Only just the feeling of this challenge can make you feel more focused and ready for more experiments.

Every time you are frustrated, whether it is when dancing, solving a problem or working. See that moment as a cue for creativity. Instead of letting that fact make you stop with what you were doing, let it inspire you to push your own boundaries.

So the next time you are frustrated about something that is holding you back, ask yourself the question :

 " How can I use this shit to push my creativity? "



Another good example of the use of design constraints and what is working against you is the TED Talk of 
Phil Hansen: Embrace the shake





Sunday, 12 May 2013

How breakdance taught me to be a technical artist



Hey everybody,

Thank you for watching my blog. I am happy to notice people are interested in what I am writing.

A couple of months ago my university requested for me to do a presentation. So I reworked my Game developers conference presentation and uploaded it on YouTube.






My goal is to become a lot better in public speaking, so any kind of critics or constructive feedback is welcome. I appreciate your help

Have a nice day!

Robb

Monday, 6 May 2013

Design Constraints to boost creativity





" We do not know
what we do not know "



Creativity can be seen as the exploration of connections between the building blocks we already know, so we can find out what do not know. So far I have observed that creativity lives in all of us. but we might not be all aware on how to make efficient use of it.

Design constraints is one of those existing methods to take control on our personal creativity. To push other people to think out of the box. It is a way to challenge yourself by limiting the freedom we currently have, so we can find ourselves experimenting for an experience that might work as a solution.

I found out about design constraints at a breakdance workshop in Gent (Belgium). Sam, the teacher was giving a task to make combination of dance moves on 8 counts. The challenge he demanded would be to constraint your movement by your own made rules.
  • do everything on 1 leg
  • hold your hands together
  • always look to the ceiling
  • never touch a specific tile on the floor
Not only was this insanely fun, but you noticed people had a lot more focus. They felt a personal connection because they choose those design constraints themselves. You saw a concept in their movement because you could read their inspiration through the whole routine. They made a combination they never thought about. 

You could directly sense that everybody felt a very rewarding feeling after this difficult challenge where they took control about their own creativity by applying their personal design constraints. Through the whole process there was intense motivation in the room which was inspiring to say the least. And this inspiration was spreading to everyone.

Imagine applying these design constrains on your daily job. Imagine challenging your colleagues with different design constraints and make the whole process of solving problem more creative and challenging.


Sunday, 30 December 2012

Animation : Using animation techniques to teach people how to dance



This blog is the first step of a new project of mine. Learning people how to dance by referencing 2D/3D animation techniques from the animation book : The animators survival guide

Before I started working professionally as a technical artist, I used to teach breakdance and other urban related dance styles. Now that I have worked 2 years in the industry and not having taught dance all that time, I am missing the feeling of sharing my knowledge. And when I say dance, I mean learning how to dance, not a dance. More specific, I want to teach what makes movement interesting, and how to develop your own freestyle skills so you can express your own creative mind.

Computer science has made a big impact on me. One of the disciplines of game development that I love is animation. Out of personal interest and part of my education in Belgium, I learned the basic knowledge of animation techniques. (You can see some results of that experience on my Portfolio ) All this knowledge has made a positive influence on my style and perception of dancing. By using animation, I am looking through a different perspective at dancing, allowing to iterate on my foundation skills and becoming more confident about my dancing.

I have a huge to-do list, so I am trying to combine multiple goals to be more efficient. This is also very challenging and hopefully creates a lot of motivation and adrenaline.

  1. Spend more time on dancing and sitting less time in front of my screen(s)
  2. Upgrading my animation skills
  3. Upgrading my teaching skills




I am not going into more details with this blog post on animation techniques that I want to address in the workshop, as I still have a lot of research to do. But you will be able to follow my progress on this blog if you are interested.

Already a couple of notes on the project that should inspire me during the project :

  1. Iteration is key because this will be a practical workshop on site, the participants will have to do many exercises so they make the necessary mistakes and learn the techniques through personal experience.
  2.  The exercises will be developed with design constraints in mind. (if you do not remember what these are, check my gdc presentation )
  3. Focus on inspiration, not rules
  4. This workshop is for both people who want to learn how to dance and animators
  5. I am not reinventing the wheel, but reusing knowledge that already exists


What can you get out of the workshop ? :

  • How to make your freestyle dancing more appealing to the public
  • Become more confident in your dance/expression skills
  • Have fun ...


A small note on the freestyling part for those who do not know what I mean with this. Freestyling means dancing on the moment itself by making use of the current music and vibe. Utilizing the accents and rhythm from the music in a creative matter to express yourself. What it not is, is learning how to memorize a certain dance and do it all together on the same time ...

I am looking forward to any kind of ideas, feedback or responses :)

Robb / Nysuatro





Monday, 3 December 2012

Tool Development : How to create failure!




As part of my research for Project Failure I wanted to ask myself "How do I create failure?". And to make it more interesting, I want to look at this question from the perspective of a level designer.

When a level designer wants to start a new level from scratch, he would possibly go to the menu and press "New level". Sounds logical right?

My personal problem with this, is that an empty 3D space with nothing in it, is as daunting as a white canvas that you start with and you want to draw the image that you have in mind. I remember having loads of fear of starting a new drawing/painting because you do not already want to mess up in the beginning. Or maybe you are not sure how to start on this as there is too much freedom to work with.

So how about just creating that failure instead of fearing it?

The next step for me was thinking about what made me fail. One of the things that came to my mind was the matter of risk. Taking risk in your life can most of the time evolve into failure. You try something new, you fail, and then do something with that experience. Whether it is to learn a lesson or make a decision that will help to define your next step of your process.

How can we have control of taking risk ? One way to do it is by challenging yourself.

So instead of having a "New level" button, it would be maybe interesting to think about a "New Challenge" button. The next step would be to define the challenge.

I really like the idea of modifiers that modify your current object in a particle way based on parameters. A good example are the modifiers in 3ds max. You have a base object, and depending on the modifiers you use and their parameters, you can get an interesting start to work with. The challenge would be to make something awesome with that start.

Another great example would be the software called "Alchemy" Here you can choose a couple of filters that will have a direct effect on the brush strokes you place on your canvas. It allows you to experiment and get new shapes, lines that were by accident. A very cool filter is that it hides your strokes while drawing, but once you lift up your pen, all your strokes appear. This removes the fear of doing something wrong and gives you a quick start to work with.

These filters or modifiers could be seen as the challenge that you are taking for yourself. Do you want another challenge? Choose different modifiers and let some parameters be set randomly. This way you let the program fail for you in the beginning and you have your challenge to make something really cool out of the start that has been created for you.

Not only will you save time with having already something to start with, the process of failure will become a lot more fun. Making your own challenge keeps the motivation high when failing and an bring surprising results.

In development nowadays we are constantly focusing on the end result, but I believe by spending more energy and attention to the process itself, we can motivate the user to iterate more and stimulate to push their own limits. Making it challenging for yourself, will have a positive influence on productivity, experimentation and iteration for great levels. The better and more fun of the process, the more successful the end result will be. With this in mind we do not have to worry about knowing what the end result needs to be, you maybe even find out about things that you were not aware off.

By using challenges in your tool, you can have more interaction and motivation for the user. We are just reusing well game design principles that we are already used to, to make development more interesting and being more open to other possibilities.

So as a conclusion, you could say that "new level" is for when you have a specific plan of what you want. But  if you do not know the end result, using "new challenge" could help you discover and boost your creativity.

So my question to you all is : "What kind of modifiers do you have in mind to challenge yourself or  someone else?"