Selective focus

Last week, I had a talented fellow named Ryan Cole do a guest lecture for my Ideas Generation class at Prague College. He talked about the difference between vertical thinking (hierarchical, problem-solving, precludes creative thinking) versus horizontal thinking (associative, lateral, creative but unable to accomplish anything on its own). This is basically something that designers like to talk about a lot, just phrased in nice concise terms.

Two days earlier, I was reading a New Yorker article about the neuro-enhancer revolution- i.e. the fact that lots of people take drugs like Ritalin simply to make themselves function at a higher cognitive level, not because they need it for any corrective reason. One of the concerns about this ‘revolution’  in the medical community (in addition to more obvious worries about health and so on) is the question about what part of people exactly is being made smarter by neuro-enhancers. Is there only one kind of intelligence, or are there some that are made smarter at the expense of others? Studies have shown that concentration (which is enhanced by drugs like Ritalin) actually works to the detriment of creative thinking. One researcher expressed the idea that we might be raising a generation of super-skilled accountants through over-prescription of neuro-enhancers.

Armed with these ideas, it occurred to me that perhaps the primary skill that graphic designers seek to cultivate cant best be described as selective focus: learning to expand and contract the locus of attention, rather than aiming for any kind of ‘genius thinking’ per se. I think this term can also be used to explain the intent of the writing on this blog and its peculiar idiom.

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