Blank Canvas Syndrome and Co-Creation

Give people blank piece of paper and ask them to draw something. A lot of people will hesitate and wonder what to draw. In my previous post, I talked about what you could do with a 3D printer at home. In this post I argued that most people are not 3D designers or aspire to be one. One of the reasons is that they simply have no idea what to make.

Blank canvas syndrome (BCS) is similar to what blank page syndrome is for writers — also called writer’s block. You do not know where to start. You have the tools or skills but there is no idea, no creativity. If you ask people what they would like to draw with 3D drawing software they have no idea. The blank canvas is staring in their face.

BCS is actually a problem for unleashing the creativity of people. There is a need to create and express yourself but the what is lacking. Designers — obviously — do not have that problem and there lies also the key. Co-creation or co-design brings designers and consumers together and let them work together on a design. When asked about what people would like to change on an existing product they have clear ideas and wishes. Together with a designer they can make wishes come true. It is how interior designers like to work.
Another solution is to give template-based designs and thus avoiding the blank canvas. Allow consumers to modify a template using a limited set of modifiers. This is basically what the design-your-own T-shirt and canvas companies offer. It made Zazzle and Cafe Press big.

In a next post I will go more deeply into design exploration and how it can help people to realize their ideas.

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