Workshop advanced creative thinking at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute – China

How it all started.

The final works following a 5 week workshop about advanced creative thinking with sophomores of the English experimental class of Artistic Talents at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute (SCFIA) were presented on the 28th of May 2016. This was also the last day that I spent with this special group of students of different majors, after an amazing journey.

It all started in the beginning of April, when I met Victor Liu. We were talking about this idea of having a 5 week workshop on creativity. Because of my background as an Art Director, it made sense to theme the workshops around Advanced Creative Thinking. I was really curious how the students would react to such a proposal and my expectations were high.

Teaching at MIADA revealed that the Academy is familiar with the western philosophy of applied creative thinking, but when embarking the SCFAI workshop project, I had no idea what to expect in this regard. During my first visit at the Institute, I was overwhelmed by the creativity on the SCFAI campus. Art and nature intertwined. Also, the individual works we saw in small art galleries and during the guided tour given by Victor looked really promising.

Workshop Advanced Creative Thinking

We used the first workshop to introduce ourselves, the students and I. We communicated in English, which was great because it eliminated the extra filter an interpreter would represent in our dialogue. During the second workshop, we got down to business and learned about the steps to creating a good brief and determining the Unique Selling Points (USP’s) of a product or service. The students were used to spending a longer period of time over one concept. Because we had a limited amount of time, I directed them to narrow down their assignment to a clear briefing: too much freedom means a more difficult task. From the early stages, it became clear that this approach was new to them. They were left to do the thinking, choose direction, decide and be confident about it all on their own. This process takes time to own, and a workshop of a couple of hours was not enough of course.

Playing around with as many ideas as possible within one briefing was also something new for the students. The usual approach would be to come up with an idea and develop from there, together with their teacher. I may have overwhelmed them in the first workshop but they rewarded me with eagerness and sharp focus. The class was pretty quiet. They worked disciplined, and they worked hard. And their submissions convinced me that we were on the good path and that I managed to tune into their creative frequencies.

The second workshop went way better. I made it clear from the beginning that I was not questioning their methods and skills and had the upmost appreciation for their majors. That aside, I opened the challenge again: rethink your idea over and over again and make it better each time. Why? Because it is a good exercise for the creative mind and can also generate amazing unique ideas, from a simple play of thoughts.

We worked in groups for this workshop, to subject students to an approach other than individual work. The assignment was the same: create the briefing, determine the USP’s and brainstorm for ideas. The students acted more naturally than the first time and the output was very interesting. Students did not only follow my direction but also added their own touch to the assignment, which was great to spot.

Workshops three to five consisted of the preparations towards the final presentation, and were highly productive ones. The final assignment was to come up with a concept/campaign that will help raise awareness of air pollution in China. For this assignment, the students also applied a reversed strategy technique to determine the target group, media application etc. This allowed students to think in a more structured way which worked well to balance out the element of pressure (tight deadline). Preparing works that would be presented in a public space exhibition on campus, within 3 weeks, was pretty daunting to some.

We used workshop four to practice presenting ideas (in English) to the rest of the class and receive feedback. It was interesting to see how colleagues evaluated each other’s work and shared some sharp (but constructive) criticism. Students received one extra week between the last two workshops, to prepare thoroughly. And they came through.

The final presentation

The last workshop was the final presentation, which started at 10 AM. The oral defense round went perfect and the students were very well prepared. I shared some last tips and advice with some of them but, overall, I was very impressed and pleased with the results.

Victor arranged a beautiful location next to the SCFAI Museum in the red building (houde building). Their works were amazing and really came to live inside the spacious exhibition hall. We had light approaches to a heavy theme (balloons campaign), original approaches (fingerprint campaign), and oversized approaches ( huge paper with data about pollution). Some stunk it up with smoke! With a smile on my face I thanked them all for their energy, happiness and eagerness. I couldn’t have been prouder to teach them and to be rewarded with such results.

They made the last workshop / presentation an amazing goodbye. I really hope to meet them again sometime, in China or some other part of the world.

I met them as my students, and I parted with them as my friends for life.

Some of the pictures are made by Victor Liu
Chinese blog of SCFAI about the workshop: Blog link
The Creative Globetrotter blog:
Sichuan Fine Arts Institute website:

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Victor and The Creative Globetrotter

During the workshop

Focus during workshop

Also Victor is focussed

Presentations during the advanced creative thinking workshop

Houde building – Exhibition Space Sichuan Fine Arts institute

Presentations & final exhibition:

Workshop advanced creative thinking at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute – China

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