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Training for your brain in 2018: A follow-up to "How to overcome 3D chocolate designer's block"

Feb 4, 2018

With Christmas just passed and Valentine's Day on its way, it's during these winter months that we give the most gifts to family, friends and loved ones.

One member of our team received an interesting self-help book designed to increase one's ability to master complicated tasks by consciously changing the way in which we think. The content of the book was all quite complicated even for our expert scientists, but it did spark a conversation about something called Positive Imaginative Restriction which appeared in one of the book's passages. Positive Imaginative Restriction relates to controlling the imaginative thought process so as to be able to approach tasks in a manner which instinctively focuses on the achievable elements and automatically blocks the consideration of anything unachievable. Incidentally, this kind of thought process plays an important part in designing suitable models for 3D chocolate printing. So what does Positive Imaginative Restriction mean in terms of the way in which we think?

Put simply, Positive Imaginative Restriction is the concept of training one's mind to start the imaginative process at the simplest possible point and increase the complexity of the idea in gentle steps, rather than starting at a point where one's imagination is already running wild and overcomplicating itself. This concept is particularly applicable to both new 3D chocolate designers and their clients, neither of whom may have a great deal of experience when it comes to the possibilities and limitations of printing in chocolate.

The example of Positive Imaginative Restriction given in the aforementioned self-help book featured a group of people (the test subjects) drawing out a maze/labyrinth. When asked to draw a maze/labyrinth, no matter how simple the final result would be, the test subjects instinctively responded by aiming to sketch what they deemed a maze/labyrinth to be - a highly complicated layout of linework with multiple confusing routes and a single successful path. As you may have expected, the majority of the results were flawed and impossible to navigate, as the test subjects had aimed to depict what their mind had envisioned as the 'gut reaction' to the term 'maze/labyrinth'. However, a small number of the subjects started with a very simple direct route, and then slowly added a false route, then another, and so on. The experiment demonstrated that a small number of people in the randomly chosen group displayed a greater control over their imaginative thinking, consciously or subconsciously aware of the necessity to start a complicated task (the drawing of a maze/labyrinth) in its simplest possible form. Still confused? Well, so were we until we described it to each other in a way more relevant to the work we do.

To provide you with our example; When one's mind is unconditioned to think in a restrictive (yet still positive) imaginative capacity, the mention of the word [example] "bicycle" may instantly conjure thoughts of the type of detailed frame and spokework used to construct an ultra-slim racing bicycle - a structure that is unsurprisingly a challenge to translate effectively into a miniature chocolate sculpture. When practicing Positive Imaginative Restriction as a 3D chocolate designer, the mind's initial reaction to the term "bicycle" would most likely be to print a 2D chocolate drawing, analyzing the possibilities of 2D-relief before carrying the thought process towards a 2.75D construction of the frame, wheels, handlebars, etc. Finally, the designer may attempt a true/direct 3D print, which may prove no more satisfactory than the 2D or 2.75D construction. Starting at the most complex point and working backwards to simplify an idea often has a negative psychological effect on both the designer and client, with a sense of losing details and compromising heavily, rather than gaining details and pushing a design to the limits of the technology.

Positive Imaginative Restriction is the conditioning of the human brain to automatically consider set restrictions and limitations while still maintaining a high level of creativity by adding details and complexities to ideas and concepts in a gradual process - Why not try the maze/labyrinth test? Novice 3D chocolate designers following this process will find they spend far less time rendering designs only to find they simply cannot be printed.