Squiggling is a form of projection. Norman Hetherington developed this projection technique in the popular ABC television show, with his puppet from out of space, Mr Squiggle. Mr Squiggle found images in a few random lines and shapes sent in by children. He used Mr Squiggle’s broom handle hat to ‘drive’ the pencil on his nose. Hetherington was positioned above the set so his drawings appeared upside down to the audience, adding to the visual journey of the viewer.
Squiggling became a cheap and accessible drawing game that everyone could play. All you needed was a piece of paper, a pencil, and a few lines and shapes to get started. As a child, the challenge to find a picture in the squiggle was so engaging I could do this for hours.
The psychiatrist, Winnicott (1971) used squiggles in his therapeutic consultations with children This psychoanalytical technique, aimed to find meaning and links to psychological problems of his patients. Using squiggles I art therapy is still promoted as a form of art therapy. Steinhardt concludes in The Eight Frame Colored Squiggle Technique;
The technique also can reveal sources of strength and creative potential in a client for finding solutions and directions, and for suitable treatment interventions.
However, the value of using squiggles as a psycho-analysing tool has been disputed, but the process of the game still holds some value in creating a non threatening, fun environment where discussions between a child and their therapist can take place.
Could the humble squiggle be used to develop a fun creative thinking exercise to encourage and demonstrate improvement in creative thinking skills?
The main squiggle exercise consists of the following 3 steps.
- Students are given a squiggle to search for as many ‘pictures’ they can see, describing these in a few words, creating a list.
- They then draw what they saw from their list. Once the initial images have been drawn they are then asked to draw any additional images they have subsequently thought of. Once they have exhausted all possibilities, they then select their ‘best’ picture ie: most ‘creative/unusual/clever/surprising/original’ squiggle response. It may not necessarily be their neatest or best-drawn response.
- They are then directed to consider where in their thinking process did they produce their best ‘picture’?
Preliminary trials reflect fluency results conducted by McKim’s ‘Thirty Circle Exercise’. The ‘best’ responses are generally created in the later part of the creative process.
This exercise demonstrates the need for visual communicators to understand the principals of visual perception; the need for iteration to achieve originality or ‘surprise’; and the need to put your ideas down on paper to realise their potential quickly. It also demonstrates that the level of drawing ability needed to communicate is within reach of most students.