Because she shares and gives so much when asked, I took it seriously to respond to Amy Burvall’s request

A video would be me blabbing generalities. Pass. I got the idea a few days ago to represent them as done possibly my favorite DS106 related activity, re-editing old posters to generate new messages (most fervently for MOOC Mocking).

It brings together design principles, visual metaphors mixed with the tech skills of removing backgrounds and re-shaping the original content. Plus sarcasm.

I grabbed a few retro style posters while waiting for my plane to leave Phoenix on Friday, and did a few of these on the plane, the rest tonight.

Submitted for your approval, Amy, Five Not Necessarily Comprehensive Points about Creativity

(1) Noticing Details

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Based on an Eye Hygiene medical poster from Medical Posters as Art from the New Scientist (click image for bigger version)

One of the thing I have enjoyed most in our ds106 activities are things that help students notice the details in their world or media they have never paid attention to. The Daily Create tasks and things like the Photo Safari (Visual Unit), and Design Safari (Design Unit) in-directly result in students looking for details of light, converging lines, shadows, shape, texture, font, white space that they usually have not noticed before.

We start with listening exercises in Audio for them to fine tune their ears to what works in audio radio shows (Unit 4 listening to audio). In the expanded audio unit they enter the world of manuafactored sounds, or foley. When we do video, we do not start with software, but with learning how to read video (understand cinematic techniques) and what has especially worked well is the Look, Listen, Analyze activity where the watch a movie scene without audio to notice the camera work, then to listen without the visuals to understand the use of sounds, and a third time together to synthesize them together again.

“Noticing” may be the most under valued aspect of creating, it means tuning your senses to the way effective media is assembled, and to better appreciate the parts that work well enough to not be noticed.

(2) Be Your Own Creative Authority

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Modified from the Chicago Transit Authority poster from Vintage Posters Chicago (click image for larger version)

This image drew me on two message levels, the idea that there is a lot of congestion of ideas (what everyone is doing)– being creative really means moving to a different plane, of going opposite, or just running differently from the crowd.

But the bottom of the original poster, which read “Chicago Transit Authority” got me thinking about what it means to be your own authority (not expert) on creativity, but really, listening to and doing what moves you.

Okay, it sounds patently vague.

But it’s the spirit of the message I give my students that they are free to do an assignment in a different way or idea than I wrote it up in IF they can rationalize it, and that what they creative serves the same creative goals. What merit is there in doing an assignment the way I tell them? If they can show me creative skills by doing the opposite, what more can I ask for?

(3) Tinker With Expectations

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Based on Attack of the 50ft Woman poster found in Wikimedia Commons (click image to see full size version)

This idea follows on (2) but it focuses on the elements of storytelling (covered in unit 3 of ds106 and a number of my Storytelling presentations).

The plot element we crave in movies (Sixth Sense like) is what makes a story dig deep, the Mystery Box of JJ Abrams. What good is a movie if we follow the sage advise of “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them?)


The un-expected turns is to me, the best element of storytelling, and the one we use least on education.

(4) Create With Others

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Based on Which Family Reads Together Poster found at All That is Interesting Library Posters.

What energizes the open course energy of ds106 is when people are doing similar work in a similar frame of time. I did assemble/compile all of our materials into a standalone course but I bet very few people have taken it on themselves to motor through on their own.

Creativity happens together. I try to liken to the energy in an art studio (something I do not really know first hand, so I am projecting wildly) where people are working in proximity to each other, but often not communicating or noticing each other. There is a energy effect of creating in proximity, and the twitter+blog fueled activity in ds106 to me approximates some of that co-creative atmosphere.

(5) Share!

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Based on Vote poster from Celebration of Vintage and Retro Design from Smashing Magazine (click to see larger version)

Well yes, sharing is obvious, and to me, a personal blog is the best (thought not a required) means to do it.

But there is more to it than just sharing your stuff (“there is all my stuff on my blog”) – sharing is also celebrating the work of others (e.g. to share what inSPIRES you) but also to share by giving constructive feedback in other people’s blogs.

Well there you go Amy, five ideas represented in remixed vintage posters. I can say I have seen you practice all of these (and more). You can grab them all from my dropbox

The post "Five Points on Creativity as Retro Posters" was originally thawed from a previous ice age and melted at CogDogBlog ( on May 25, 2014.


  • Darren Kuropatwa

    Alan, these posters, and the thinking behind them, are fantastic! Fabulous examples of your ideas that also concretely model creativity. Especially your 5th point. ;-)

  • Stefanie

    The mix of teaching and creating is an awesome idea. I love the posters.

    I may have to thank Amy for inspiring you, but certainly I thank you for sharing this!

  • Mariana Funes

    John and I were talking about creativity on DS106 on the DS106 Good Spell on the Radio :) Wish we had this post to add to the mix. We could have than a photos for your ears with the posters – heck we might do that next week anyways!

    I so enjoy your writing – ’embody and do’ rather than ‘vague and meta’. The posters are a beautiful thing and I want to make a movie, a gif or a something with them….

    So much is said about creativity, often not about the hard slog of making stuff, noticing, and just working at your craft. DS106 generally and you in particular bring into the open the ‘set up time of innovation’. That amazing artefact is not born of a vacuum but of hard work and dedication to one’s craft.

    You also show here the care you take to nurture your relationships online – the sharing element in your post. Taking time to honour Amy’s request in such a special way. She will be dead chuffed, I am sure.

  • Sandy Brown Jensen

    Did you put a tdc 816 Flickr tag on those?

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