This is a worthy concept. For a deeper dive, read IBM art director, Paul Rand’s piece, The Play Instinct (1965).

The creation skills we need to succeed as adults were learned in the sandbox when we were children. There was no right or wrong. There were no critics or editors or managers or data-hacks bent on evaluating the merits of our sand-thing (there is a time for critique, but all in good time).

No, when we were children, we were engaged in creation.

It was not without rules (don’t throw sand in Joey’s eyes) or constraints (we were bounded by the time of our recess) and other game-like factors. Uninhibited, we labored within the possibilities of our raw material – its granularity, its moisture and sticky properties on a Tuesday mid-morning when our plot of beach lay shadowed by the Jungle Jim.

There was collaboration as we tunneled, tunneled – two partners working in unison toward the same mid-point, eventually meeting, celebrating our joint accomplishment with a subterranean handshake.

We learned elegance, that Prince of design principles, which teaches us to make the most from the least, our minds filling in the voids with meaning.

For creatives who nurture the instinct, properly-posed problems become play.

Constraints motivate us, they frame the problem. Without them, we’d be bored because there is no challenge.

Limitations cause us to stretch, to synthesize meaning from the scantest bits of working matter, analogy and metaphor filling the gaps of abstraction. Audience participation (don’t underestimate your audience) builds the other side of the bridge and has us meeting them in the middle.

Ultimately, that’s where we hope to end up, with an audience whose difficulty we solved, whose problems we cleared up and eradicated so that they can, in turn, play.

Anthony Rotolo plays in the sandbox of various spaces, including publishing, podcasting and pedagogy.