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Getting creative: students find ways to design for 72 days

Published: April 25, 2022 Author: Jalyn Bolyard

If you had to create something new every day for 72 days, what would you want to make?

This is the question Julie Elman, professor in the School of Visual Communication, asks the Ohio University students in her Creative Process class.

The Scripps College of Communication undergraduate and graduate students taking Elman’s class are tasked with creating something new each day and making an Instagram post about it – picture or video – every day for 72 days straight.
 

A drawing of two people with a speech bubble that says, "Welcome to creative processes!"
Artwork created by one of the students in Scripps Hall 210. Photo Credit: Eli Burris/Ohio University

“I have students ask me, ‘Should this project challenge me? Or should it be easy for me to do?’ I say, it’s up to you, if you want to learn a skill, go for it,” Elman said. “But if you’re not up for that right now, and do something more relaxing, do that.”

Greeting cards, animations, makeup looks, playlist covers, positive affirmations, and drawings of monsters are just some of the 72-day projects students have taken on this semester. Students are required to post using the #72dayproject hashtag as well as a hashtag unique to their own project.

The 72-day project is just one part of the class, Elman noted. She also teaches students the idea of “play,” from creating with guided prompts to creating with total freedom without digital interference. The students also keep an observational journal before they start their 72-day project.
 

Professor Julie Elman is standing, smiling as she talks to some of her students who are looking in her direction.
Professor Julie Elman teaching her students during a class day in March. Photo Credit: Eli Burris

While the students work on their projects, they are also encouraged to use some class days just to create. Elman has worked on curating their room, Scripps Hall 210, into a welcoming space for students to relax, think and create. From thrifting furniture to adding a bit of paint to hanging up students’ artwork, it is a classroom that invokes the power of design and offers the comfort to create.

“I am a total believer in space affecting mood. Whether it is a rug there, some colors here, a little bit of curtains, better lighting, some paint, finding refurbished furniture, it can really make a space come to life and be inviting to create in,” Elman said.

According to Elman, in the four times the class has been offered, the #72dayproject has generated over 4,000 posts full of student work.
 

A student hangs up a collage on the wall of a classroom.
“[Julie] values creativity as part of being a human being, and we’re able to practice that without any pressure. I like the freedom of the class” – Emma Dengler, a senior majoring in information graphics/publication design, hangs up a collage in the classroom. Photo Credit: Eli Burris

“One of my favorite parts of this class is being able to come in and just paint, talk and decompress some days,” said Morgan Timms, a first-year photojournalism graduate student. “It is very freeing.”

Timms’ 72-day project consisted of painting nudibranchs, shell-less mollusks that live underwater. She took inspiration from photos online, but the class also helped her stay connected with her family in Australia; throughout the project, her mom sent pictures of nudibranchs she had seen while scuba diving.

It can be daunting for students to create every day, Elman noted. She hopes her class helps students learn it is okay to create and not worry about perfection, and that the process of creation becomes enjoyable.

“There is a simple therapeutic nature of creating,” Elman said.

Amanda Weisbrod, a second-year visual communication graduate student studying information graphics and interactive design, enjoyed the freedom and relaxation the class offered. Weisbrod’s 72-day project consisted of making an Instagram Reel each day, showing the process of drawing monsters from the game “Dungeons and Dragons.”

“For me personally, this class was a little intimidating at first to just be set loose in a creative space like this because you can do anything and that’s a little overwhelming to think about,” Weisbrod said. “But then if you just sit down, and let go of perfection and trying hard, it can be fun.”
 

A student has her back to the camera, looking at drawing of purple swirls, spiders, a green face, a green house and more.
“I always leave this class in a better mood” – Olivia Dutkewych, a senior majoring in information graphics/publication design, looks at some of her art she created during creative free time in class. Photo Credit: Eli Burris

During the semester, Elman also invited speakers to present in-person and remotely from a variety of backgrounds, including fellow OHIO faculty and also design directors, potters, and other artists. This allowed students to hear about creative processes in a variety of different artistic settings.

The students also participated in out-of-classroom trips to the Kennedy Museum of Art, the GRID Lab, Passion Works and more.

A senior majoring in information graphics/publication design, Megan Syer’s 72-day project consisted of designing a new greeting card each day. She could not pinpoint one favorite aspect of the class, but enjoyed simply being a part of it.

“I’m really grateful I got the opportunity to take another class from Julie before I graduate. She just creates such a welcome environment for students, where you can explore, create, take risks and not feel pressured by other people,” Syer said. “Everyone here is so accepting of whatever you’re working on.”