Herron faculty are constantly engaged in creative research related to their teaching, studio, and scholarly practices.
Their work is at the intersection of visual arts, design, technology, culture, and many other disciplines. And the outcomes, which include scholarship, production, and presentation, help to advance and refine the work being done in their respective fields.
A Frank C. Springer Family Innovative Faculty Award, as well as a semester-long residency with the IUPUI Faculty Crossing, recently funded one such research project. Gurkan Maruf Mihci, an assistant professor of foundation studies and visual communication design, created a game called "Stages of Visual Creativity" during the residency to help his students understand the concepts of creativity and how to create meaningful images.
HERRON: What inspired you to create a game about creativity?
GURKAN MIHCI: The project idea is based on the World Economic Forum's report on the top skills you need to succeed in the future. The top five skills are (1) analytical thinking and innovation, (2) active learning and learning strategies, (3) complex problem-solving, (4) critical thinking and analysis, and (5) creativity, originality, and initiative. Our world is currently based on automation, digital systems, and artificial intelligence and learning machines are all around us. I believe that creativity is one of the most important skills today.
Creating, sharing, and developing are the main concepts in my courses. Collective learning, in my opinion, helps students learn social skills and critical thinking before they graduate. With this project, I wanted to explore whether creativity can be taught or if it is an innate trait, and how an active learning strategy could explain the importance of creativity and help participants in learning the skill through video games.
HERRON: What influenced your decision to use a video game format?
MIHCI: Video games are very useful tools for teaching creativity. Both playing video games and teaching art/design employ the same "learning by doing" approach. In video games, players face different and various problems that they try to solve. The mistakes can be part of the learning and playing process. Lastly, gamification is very effective for managing and fostering creative skills.
HERRON: What are some of the key principles that you featured?
MIHCI: Teaching creativity is always a challenge for teachers because of abstract thinking. However, game-based learning activities often help to teach it. So, during my residency at IUPUI Faculty Crossing, I designed and developed this one-level online game for my students to demonstrate visual creativity strategies. I began with semiotics and how we can read the visuals and images around us, and then I focused on basic strategies for manipulating images to create unique art/design works.
The game begins with emphasizing Thomas Kuhn's paradigm shift illusion. The player sees a big duck/rabbit, and the voice-over explains the illusion and how we can change our perception. After that, I emphasized Ferdinand de Saussure's and Ronald Barthes' ideas on sign systems and denotative and connotative meanings of images, as well as three main creative strategies – breaking, bending, and blending. Image creation and creative process techniques can also be helpful not only for learning the forms and properties of images, but also for demonstrating how artists' and designers' ideas evolve during the artistic and design process.