Posted by: crustynomad | June 20, 2007

Encouraging Creativity in Children

I have had an interesting, if a little daunting, task to do this week. Our local village is staging the 38th edition of its annual carnival and being a graphic designer by trade I was ushered into the role of judging the schools’ poster competition for the event.

I’ve never had to do anything like this before and felt it a real privilege to be asked. However, when it came down to it I realised I had to think very carefully before making any decision.

There were approximately 20 entries which while wasn’t a great response it was clear that a great deal of time and effort was put in by all concerned. Some were painted, others were just drawn while there were some who created theirs totally by computer.

It was those in the final category that interested me most. While the standard varied considerably I was reluctant to choose one of those as an outright winner because it is a lot simpler to create an effective poster that way. If you make a mistake you change a font or move a picture which isn’t so easy with traditional media.

Don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a skill in creating artwork using computers and I should know as I do it everyday but I didn’t want to chose those because it excluded children that didn’t own a computer system.

It was because of this that when I chose the prize winners I made sure that a category for computer art was included rather than just a single winner. It would be unfair to dismiss quality work in that way.

It was such an interesting process anyway because while many were clearly very creative they had effectively failed to read the brief. It sounds incredibly pompous to say that in relation to 8-11 year olds but it was important.

The best drawing by some distance included an image of a carousel which was beautiful but it bore no relation to anything that was happening on the day. Others missed out vital information in the wording so in that sense to award it first prize would not serve the promotion of the carnival.

In the end I chose four designs: An overall winner, a runner-up and two highly commended and wrote a detailed explanation of what I thought about the designs on the back to be given to the artists.

Here lay the crux of the problem.

Do I say that each was wonderful, the best thing since sliced bread, and yet not point out any of the shortcomings? There were ways of improving all the designs and if they did want to improve creatively I felt I should at least make suggestions as what may help them with other art projects.

Some children would react differently given the same information. There would be those who would take it to heart and be upset while others would take the ideas and try and learn from them. It is a very fine line.

As it was I ‘reviewed’ the first four but I do wish I’d done that for all of them now. If they have taken the time to enter I should’ve respected that and done the same for them. I will take it up with the organising committee to see if I can do anything about that.

This leads me on to another idea which I’ve already initiated with my daughters’ school. That is to help the children create a real school magazine.

I want to teach the basics of design whereby you make the best use of space and don’t over clutter the page, you make text interesting by emphasising different words in different sizes and fonts and the taking of creative photography. I can even help with copywriting.

This concept I find so interesting I am even considering rolling it out to different schools whereby I would visit each in turn as we move through each stage of the production from blank page to printed material.

Personally I think that the children would take enormous benefit from this. The freedom to write about what really interests them, making the choice about the material included in the magazine, laying it out in the most creative way and working together as a team.

I have a meeting to discuss the project in greater depth with the school’s headmaster in September so I will let you know how it goes.


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