Posted in creativity, design-thinking, product development

“Garbage In, Garbage Out”

Our course director always says, that she hopes that we’re now able to connect the dots in all that we’ve learned so far. I want to take a couple of seconds to talk about how a book I read a while back, all of sudden found its way into my line of dots – and share some of the dots with you. The book is by artist and writer, Austin Kleon – He is, per his own definition, “a writer who draws”, and what a fantastic combination that is! Using both of these skills, he published his second book, “Steal Like an Artist”, in 2012. Basically, the subject of the book is how to “unlock your creativity” with a series of steps to consider in the ideation and creation process.

If you’re interested in reading the book it’s available as an e-pub here.

“Steal Like An Artist” by Austin Kleon

One of the things that Austin Kleon discusses in his graphic book is “Garbage In, Garbage Out”. He says: “The artist is a collector. Not a hoarder, mind you, there is a difference… Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by” (Steal Like An Artist, 2012, p.13). 

This year, as a part of my Design-Thinking for Startups module, we are creating a Start-Up in collaboration with Young Enterprise, and as a part of that process we are involved in all sorts of exciting activities. Recently, we had the pleasure of visiting Fab Lab London for a workshop on prototyping, hosted by Unlimited Lab. The job was to come up with a product based on the idea of ‘up-cycling’. Up-cycling is the creative reuse of unwanted materials and waste materials – simply creating a new product from something used.

The criteria was to create a product that could be used by hobbyists at home to up-cycle some of their waste. How is this connected to dots and Austin Kleon, you might ask? Well, our team came up with a lot of different ideas just before the prototyping workshop. Our first idea was to reuse lightbulbs. We wanted to create a self-watering plant kit, using the lightbulb as a miniature pot to hold a small plant. Did it work? No. Not only was it impossible to remove the bottom part of the lightbulb, it was also potentially dangerous considering the thin glass on the bulb.

Prototyping the Thermo-Mug Kit @FabLab

We went back to the drawing board just before the prototyping session, and by the end of the day, we decided to do a Thermo-Mug Kit to reuse old tin cans, which turned out to be both easy and a lot safer!

We are not hoarders in any way in our little group, but I believe that humans have a tendency to cling on to ideas even though they are complete garbage, and it was tough to come up with a new solution after declaring the ‘bulb-plant’ out, but the generation of several ideas in the brainstorming process allowed us to collect the ‘good idea’. The ‘Bulb’ was unsuccessful, so it had to go. Garbage In, Garbage Out.



Kleon, A. (2012). Steal like an artist. 1st ed. New York: Workman Pub. Co.


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