Sparking Creativity : How Play and Humor Fuel Innovation and Design book cover
1st Edition

Sparking Creativity
How Play and Humor Fuel Innovation and Design

  • Available for pre-order on May 10, 2023. Item will ship after May 31, 2023
ISBN 9781032232157
May 31, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
352 Pages 122 Color Illustrations

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $39.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Blending popular culture and design theory, framed by a decade of scholarly research, this book highlights how play and humor fuel innovation. Now, more than ever, we are in need of creative solutions to global problems but these creative skills and abilities decline over time without intervention and practice.

Sparking Creativity provides empirically supported methods for embracing the often-trivialized domains of play and humor to increase our creativity. It shows that topical examples, such as Seinfeld's humor, the Apples to Apples board game, and the Adventure Time cartoon series, are more closely related to innovation than you might first think. The book is organized into five main parts, each containing short, engaging subsections and informative, playful, and colorful illustrations to demonstrate concepts.

Written in a humorous and accessible style, this book is aimed toward creative-minded entrepreneurs, designers, engineers, industry leaders, parents, educators, and students. It encourages a playful approach throughout a design process to produce truly innovative solutions.

Table of Contents

Biography and Acknowledgments



Chapter 1: The Four Requisites of a Creative Person, Dr. Momen's Clothing Dryer, and Captain Planet

Chapter 2: Divergent Thinking, Rocket Racoon, and Scribblenauts

Chapter 3: Convergent Thinking, Bunny Scissors, and Sherlock Holmes

Chapter 4: Verbal Creativity, Code Names, and Puns

Chapter 5: Fluency, Originality, and Family Feud

Chapter 6: Flexibility, Elaboration, and Scattergories

Chapter 7: Inspiration, da Vinci's Notebooks, and RuPaul's Drag Race

Chapter 8: Diffusing Focus, Shower Thoughts, and (a few) Psychoactive Drugs


Chapter 9: Three Requisites of Innovation, Utility Patents, and a Tanning Booth Toaster

Chapter 10: Silly Ideas, Shitty Robots, and Poop Ice Cream

Chapter 11: Flavors of Innovation, the Nonstick Frying Pan, and USB Drives

Chapter 12: Radical Innovation, Whiskey-Infused Lotion, and High Fashion

Chapter 13: Questioning the Status Quo, Taboo Topics, and Toilets

Chapter 14: Questioning the Status Quo, Taboo Topics, and Toilet Paper

Chapter 15: Hindsight, Toothbrushes, and Smart Phones

Chapter 16: Science Fiction, Superheroes, and Aliens

Chapter 17: The Adjacent Possible, The Simpsons’ Predictions, and Rick and Morty


Chapter 18: Defining Play, Puppies, and Tom Sawyer

Chapter 19: Play Taxonomies, Adult Play, and Jake the Dog

Chapter 20: The Criteria for Play, Flow, and Bluey

Chapter 21: Work, Montessori, and TPS Report Coversheets

Chapter 22: Play-Creativity Connections, The Little Prince, and Positive Affect

Chapter 23: Steve Jobs vs. Mary Poppins, Kindergarten, and Spinach Brownies

Chapter 24: Adding Play Value, Overcooked, and The Holle Bolle Gijs


Chapter 25: Two Theories (and Larrys) of Humor, Throwing Shade, and Throwing Pies

Chapter 26: The Incongruity Theory of Humor, Cartoon Captions, and the Excalibur Toilet Brush

Chapter 27: Remoteness of Association, Garth’s Spew Cup, and Apples to Apples

Chapter 28: Metaphorical Thinking, a Finger Trap Biopsy Needle, and SCAMPER

Chapter 29: Connecting Domains, the Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, and TRIZ

Chapter 30: The Humor of Discovery, Hidden Gorillas, and Seinfeld

Chapter 31: How Comedy Makes Change, Satire, and South Park

Chapter 32: Improvisation, Yes and...ÒBoom! Freeze! Michael Scarn, FBI!Ó


Chapter 33: Thinking About Design Thinking

Chapter 34: Researching Design Research

Chapter 35: How Might We...Define How We Define Our Prompts

Chapter 36: An Improv Warm-up Progression for Team-Based Idea Generation

Chapter 37: Ideas for Idea Generation

Chapter 38: Models of Testing and Testing of Models


View More



Barry Kudrowitz, PhD, is a professor of product design and department head in the College of Design at the University of Minnesota, USA. There, he founded and directed the product design program from 2011-2021. Kudrowitz received his PhD from the Mechanical Engineering Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), studying humor, creativity, and idea generation. Kudrowitz is interested in how creativity is perceived, evaluated, and learned. He has years of experience working with the toy industry and has taught toy design for over a decade. Kudrowitz co-designed a Nerf toy, an elevator simulator that was in operation at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., and a ketchup-dispensing robot that was featured on the Martha Stewart Show. He is also the associate editor of the International Journal of Food Design.


"From Amy Klobachur's use of a comb to eat her salad to the invention of the Squatty Potty, from The Little Mermaid to Ru Paul's Drag Race, from robots that poop ketchup to Green Eggs and Ham,  this playful, smart and engaging book by designer Barry Kudrowitz takes us on a twisty path to surprising and unfamiliar places as it helps to explore the nature of human creativity, how we can enhance it, and what ways we can use it to improve the quality of our lives. This is the ideal book to get your juices flowing."

Henry Jenkins, Civic Imagination Project, University of Southern California, USA

"I once did a cartoon where a dad says to his young kid, ‘Go out at play, Norman. It’s your job.’ It’s a joke based on the idea that work and play are antithetical. Barry Kudrowitz has written a book that shows they mustn’t be if we want the creative solutions our 21st-century workplace demands. He makes a compelling case for work being more like play and vice-versa to maximize the benefits of both."

Bob Mankoff, former Cartoon Editor of The New Yorker Magazine, USA

"It is not easy to write a serious book about creativity and innovation that is not to be read too seriously. But Kudrowitz does just that through a prolific use of playful design, humor, inspiring quotes and rigorous research. The book is filled with Silly Ideas, Shitty Robots and Poop Ice Cream -- both the title of Chapter 10 and also examples of ways in which real innovation can spring forth from ideas, products, and designs that are fun, fanciful, and surprising. Kudrowitz writes, "Things that seem silly at first may actually be innovative in the future." And so an academic book that makes you laugh out loud might turn out to be a transformative approach to understanding the origins of and possibilities for creativity in our lives."

Steven J. Tepper, Dean, Director and Foundation Professor, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, USA

The beauty of humor is that it resolves tensions between opposites, aka as a pleasurable relief. In a world full of societal challenges, characterized by conflicts and polarities, we cannot underestimate the need for humor to spur innovation and creative solutions, connecting the non-obvious. Kudrowitz’ incredibly rich and entertaining book demonstrates how we can design ourselves playfully out of any crisis. Meanwhile, you learn what is so great about very old Dutch cheese and our children’s farms...

Paul Hekkert, Professor of Design, Delft University of Technology The Netherlands

"Barry Kudrowitz has conducted years of rigorous, experimental studies on fostering creativity in designers, and he makes those results come alive in a playful, engaging way in Sparking Creativity. This book is a must for anyone who wants to unlock their own creativity, or teach others how to be more creative, using research-backed, yet accessible strategies. Barry will make you seriously creative!"

Maria Yang, Associate Dean of Engineering, MIT, USA

"This book provides great suggestions for using playful and humor-related experiences to enhance creative thinking and promote innovative actions. Readers from many professional fields can benefit from exploring its many ideas for fostering effective and wide ranging actions to address contemporary issues and problems that need creative solutions."

Doris Bergen, Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology Emerita, Miami University, USA