Open house, open minds


I am amazed by how creative people are. Case in point: the open house at Camp North End last Friday to introduce the site's new tenants, including Wily. We offered no instructions. No manuals. No elaborate setup. Just a few materials within easy reach and a prompt posted on the wall: How might we make Camp North End a creative hub?

What did consultants, IT professionals, higher education professionals, City of Charlotte staff, and other visitors from equally diverse professions and backgrounds have to say?

Not much, actually. Why? Because they spent most of their time putting their ideas to paper and then making their ideas come to life with play-doh, pipe cleaners, and other raw materials. 

Rapid prototyping materials at Wily's open house at Camp North End.

Rapid prototyping materials at Wily's open house at Camp North End.

Rapid prototyping—the act of making ideas tangible—is a highly effective way to tap into our creative genius, and a tool we frequently deploy at Wily to unlock creativity and chip away at tough challenges. Why does it work? Because being visual forces you to make key design decisions that could easily slip through the cracks. In addition, it brings about a shared understanding, which we often think we can achieve with mere words but rarely do (often with costly consequences). Finally, rapid prototyping allows us to get feedback from those who are affected by the challenge we're trying to wrestle to the floor.

Upon seeing the prototyping materials, Josh—a consultant and open house visitor—confided: "I'm not much of a creative person." That is something I hear a lot when facilitating human-centered design workshops. Yet it didn't take long for Josh to pick up tape and a wooden dowel to create something visual and tangible—a dance floor with a disco ball. (By the way, this pattern of being initially hesitant or even skeptical of embracing creative activities is normal and all too typical, and is something I will explore in future posts.)

Josh's and everyone else's creations may not win any design awards, and they may not make their way into Camp North End any time soon, but that isn't the point. The point is: we all possess immense creativity if we give ourselves permission to embrace and explore it. When we do, we may be surprised at just how insanely creative people we truly are. 

Dance floor by Josh at Wily's open house at Camp North End.

People getting their creativity on...

Visitors at Wily's open house build ideas for making Camp North End a creative hub.

Ideas generated...

Ideas generated for making Camp North End a creative hub. Click the image to expand.

Other creations...

Art battles by Adrienne.

Interactive dance floor by Taylor.

Micro hotel by Susan.

Race to the top of Camp North End's water tower by Chelsea.

Eric Gorman is owner and designer at Wily, an agency that makes design easy so people can unlock their genius. Connect at and