Mural - detail

Big fish in the study – a mural

I’ve been wanting to paint a mural at home for ages. It actually took a friend, who was over at the time, to casually remark on the empty study (that I was painting a nice shade of light mushroom at the time): “You know, you should paint a mural”.

The study had a dark blue feature wall (remember those?) that the owners before us had thought was a good idea to do. I knew it would take me at least 3 coats to get that wall looking the same colour as the others, so yes, paint a mural instead, why not?

Taking the dark blue as a lead, and some earlier drawings of subject matter I’ve always been fond of, I sketched up some oriental-style koi and water patterns first, before opening the paint.

The making…

Mural - first step

I set to work on the lighter blue circles first, then overlaid that with white spiral patterns.

Mural - second step


I knew I wanted a fairly loose diagrammatic treatment for the fish, so I looped in some abstract watery white areas for where the fish would be.

Mural - third step

The next step was to add the orange lozenge areas.

Mural - fourth step

Once that was dry, I drew in the final outlines of the fish using prussian blue acrylic paint thinned with medium.

Mural - final step

And boom! It didn’t take that long to do, not as long as I thought it would. You should try this yourself, it’s loads of fun and creates a grand statement for any room.

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Making is as valuable as what is made: design thinking at Link Festival 2015

If ever there was a conference that was my happy place, Link Festival is it. In spades. Link Festival is organised by Engineers Without Borders, and this year by Wildwon as well. Earlier this year, over 450 of Australia’s current and emerging leaders came together to work on applying design and technology to social change. See? Three pet topics, right there!

I was fortunate enough to speak on bringing out your inner design thinker: crafting your own tools for change (over on Slideshare), followed by a highly animated workshop.

Let me give you a quick rundown.

We’re not making anymore. This is a problem.

Here’s the thing: as knowledge workers, I think we’ve been conned. Over the eons, we’ve gradually outsourced the making of everything to others. No matter whether you’re in software, finance, health… any domain at all, other people now do the making for us. This sounds acceptable; I mean, we should be paid to think and not do the drudgy menial manufacturing work, right?

But what this has done is, it’s gradually removed one of the greatest means of solving complex problems we have in our toolkit: using our hands to make things — prototypes, real working things — and make things together. And we need to get it back.

Design thinking engages the head, heart and hands

See, I believe people change when they’re engaged in all 3 areas: the head (facts and figures), the heart (the feels, the stories), and the hands (doing and making things, not just talking). Design thinking as a way of solving problems in teams employs all three areas.

So what this means is that if you give people ways of making stuff together, it expands the language that they can use, it helps them to come with more ideas (and riff off each others’ ideas), and to iterate and improve on those ideas. Something else happens too: people experience this making together, and share of themselves more for mutual benefit, in ways that they never would if they just sat around talking and pontificating.

In other words: making is as valuable as what is made.

Solving the ‘blank tool’ problem

Many people will give a nod to this, but often they get stuck in going from principle to practice. It’s easy to read articles online about brainstorming and the like…. but how to start? And what makes for better brainstorming?

Here’s where I find some templated design tools can help people kick-start their problem-solving:

  1. Canvases
  2. Scorecards
  3. Posters
  4. Playing cards

My talk goes into detail about each of these 4. We also did a workshop straight after the talk, so that people got to open a pre-fab prototyping kit and make their choice of one of these problem-solving templates.





Here’s a great write-up of the 2 days as well, by Wildwon’s Sally Hill. Can’t wait for Link Festival 2016!