When the world changes shape, Clixo changes with it.

When the world changes shape,
Clixo changes with it.

By Clixo Team

September 2020

In this final piece of a three part blog series, Clixo founder Assaf discusses the importance of adaptability, and how Clixo can be a useful aid in the age of COVID-19.



Raise your hand if you’ve built a slide down your stairs out of cardboard boxes, turned the entire apartment into a playroom, or decided the whole family should don formal attire for a Tuesday night dinner? Times are crazy. We work, socialize, and play differently now, and there’s no instruction manual–parents are just making it up as they go along. 



In the first blog of this series, I talked about the role of constraints in creativity, and what COVID-19 has taught me about them. In the second blog, I talked about letting go of control, and how important that is for creative development. Now I want to turn to the third aspect I’ve reflected on during COVID: adaptability. 



In many ways, adaptability has to do both with constraint and with letting go of control. If we are adaptable, we are able to shift easily into new environments and circumstances. We are flexible, not rigid. Sometimes we get to have some say over adaptability in our lives. Other times–like right now–we don’t have a choice. The world has changed, and we have to change with it. 

One of the aspects of Clixo I am most proud of is this very characteristic: adaptability. Working in the toy industry for over twenty years, I have often been struck by how static and contextual toys are: sure, many of them are small or lightweight, but they don’t pack or travel easily, they are always underfoot, getting lost behind car seats, or require flat surfaces to play on. These toys can be very fun or very educational, given the right context, but they minimize potential creativity and enjoyment by being tethered to location or critical mass. 



What we need, I thought, is a modern twist on the classic building block: something that can be taken on the go, is easy to store and pack, requires a minimal number of pieces for maximum possibilities, and is just as fun to play with in a car, on a plane, at home, or on a playground. 

Clixo’s paper design and durable magnets makes it just such a toy. With even our largest pack weighing less than a pound, it stacks quickly and easily, integrates with objects around you, and is built for wear and tear. Best of all, with only seven shapes, you can already create millions of possibilities. 


At a time when our regular methods of travel, play-dating, and home life have been disrupted, I truly hope that Clixo can offer even an ounce of relief to parents everywhere who are struggling to adapt to the times. Whether you bring Clixo to the beach, turn it into a soccer ball, wear it as a crown, or make a duck while taking a bath, Clixo is there for you.

When the world changes shape, Clixo changes with it. 

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COVID-19, parenting, and the illusion of control

COVID-19, parenting, and the illusion of control

By Clixo Team

September 2020

In the second part of this three-part series, Clixo founder Assaf shares his experience and insight on why trying to control play and creativity is foolish.



How many of you feel in control these days? If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent your adult life paying lip service to a buddhism-esque mantra that we’re not really in control of things, but secretly you’ve thought you’re the exception to the rule. Bad things happen to other people. Plans come crashing down on those who don’t safeguard themselves well enough. But not you–you will emerge victorious and gracefully in control! 



With the arrival of COVID-19, no one can lie to themselves anymore about just how little control we have–just how easily the world can turn on its head. It’s a terrifying and stark reminder that life very rarely colors between the lines. 



In this series of blogs, I’ve been trying to make use of some of the reflection time I’ve had during COVID-19, and share my thoughts on how it relates to the realm of design, toys, and play. 

One of the big ideas I keep returning to is how as adults we have this white-knuckled grip on life, especially when we deeply care about things (like our children). We don’t want them to just play–we want them to play the most, the best, have the most fun, make the most creative things, learn the most they possibly can. But the simple fact of the matter is that when we approach creativity and play with that perspective, we are completely missing the point. You can’t control creativity. You can’t control play. What makes them so essential to childhood (and, let’s be honest, to adulthood too), is the fact that they resist linear, predictable development. Play is at its best when it is unexpected, when it breaks down boundaries, when we let our imaginations and intuitions take over. 



There’s an assignment I frequently give undergraduate students to try and get them back into this space of ‘uncontrolled’ creativity. By the age of 18, most people have already trained themselves to think there’s a right or wrong way to do things, and that the goal is to control yourself and the world around you as much as possible, so as to perform the ‘right’ way as much as you can. It’s a difficult habit to break. So I give my students an assignment they can’t google. An assignment that seems ridiculous, but which forces them to think in new ways. 

“I want you to come up with a way to move a cloud from New York to London,” I tell them. This is usually followed by crickets, some anxious questions, and a fearful silence as the students exit the class. But by the following week, when everyone has presented their often humorous and always extremely creative ideas, we’ve broken through into a new space. 



At Clixo, we’ve worked long and hard to develop a tool for creativity that puts all of the ‘control’ back in the hands of children. By control we don’t mean something rigid, but rather the opposite. We want kids who pick up Clixo to be immediately invited in, but not told there is a ‘right’ direction to go in. In fact, the goal–if there is a goal for Clixo–is for it to never reach a final form. As soon as something is created, we hope for it to be broken down and turned into something new.”

It can be counter-intuitive in the current day and age to correlate endless process rather than outcome with value, but it is indeed the cornerstone of creativity and all the good that creative engagement brings with it. 



So next time you set out to build a giraffe with your kid and they turn the head into a helicopter, we encourage you to congratulate, rather than try to rein them in. Let go of your illusions of control. It’ll do you–and your kids–a world of good. 



[Check out Part 1 of this series here and part 3 over here]

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How (some) limitations can be helpful

How (some) limitations can be helpful

By Clixo Team

August 2020

In this first part of a three-part series, Clixo’s founder Assaf shares some reflections on creativity and constraints during the time of COVID-19.



Nearly six months into COVID-19, it’s safe to say many of us are a little stir crazy. 😅



Seemingly overnight our worlds shrunk from, well, the world, to small, contained spaces, sometimes no bigger than single room apartments. The pain of this transition is particularly acute for parents, who have needed to suddenly fill in the gaps left by dozens of external structures that normally contribute to their childrens’ development, creativity, engagement, and sense of self. Summer camp? Cancelled. Play dates? Dubious. School? Remains to be seen. The disappearance of these integral parts of day to day life is more than just an issue of filling time. These activities are part of what help children grow, learn, and understand themselves, others, and the world. As parents, how can we possibly make up for all these critical aspects of development? Amidst all the unprecedented challenges and tragedy, are there any silver linings?

When I think about COVID-19, I think about the extremity of constraint it places on our lives. Things we have taken for granted forever–whether it’s taking the subway, offering your arm to an elderly person crossing the street, or having friends over for dinner–are suddenly dangerous at best, and quite often socially irresponsible. The interesting thing about freedom is that we notice it most acutely in its absence. As if made of gas, we tend to expand out to fill as much space as freedom allows us without a second thought. It is only when it is taken away that we notice the edges. 




But constraints aren’t entirely a bad thing. From a design perspective, constraints can actually be a critical part of encouraging freedom. Yes, that’s right–boundaries around freedom can actually strengthen freedom.”

Think about the following examples – Your boss walks into your office (this is back when offices existed) and tells you that the company needs to come up with a creative idea. You ask a few follow up questions, trying to figure out the perimeters. Your boss shrugs and tells you to just come up with something. What do you do with all that freedom? Is it liberating, or actually oppressive?



Another example. Your teacher asks you to write an essay on anything. Or you’re given a blank page and some crayons and told to draw whatever you like. Certainly, I think the vast majority of us would say there’s more pleasure to be found within total freedom than total control, but the ideal actually lays somewhere in between. 

In the toy world, I have long been fascinated with discovering what the exact ‘right’ amount of constraint is. From a psychological perspective, humans tend to be most creative when we are given some kind of perimeters to work within, the right tools to explore that space, and then the freedom to be and do in that space as we will. Even seemingly totally unstructured things, like playing in a sandbox, actually have very specific constraints built in, when you think about it. First off, there’s a literal box around the sand. Then there are the tools (the shovels, buckets, etc.) that children have to play with. Finally there is the material consistency of sand: some things are made easily with sand, some things can’t be made.

Now, am I saying the constraints COVID-19 has placed on us are a good thing that we should just be grateful for? Absolutely not. But it is also possible to take up creative possibilities in this time of constraint. A quick scroll through social media these days can reveal all sorts of fresh, innovative ideas parents have come up with for their kids during this time–ideas that never would have grown without the constraining factors that led to their genesis. 




With Clixo, the idea of constraint being wedded to creativity is built into the design. It took us over a thousand iterations to come up with a toy that provides just enough structure to alleviate the fears around starting, but which helps kids immediately establish a sense of infinite creative potential and autonomy once they start clicking.” 

Can you think of a constraint that initially irritated you, but ended up leading to a creative breakthrough? How can we work with constraints, rather than have them work against us? We’d love to hear your thoughts!



[Part 2 of this series is here and part 3 is over here]

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Play as the Antidote to Perfectionism

Play as the Antidote to Perfectionism

By Assaf

August 2020

Perfection is a tricky one. It’s something that has interested me throughout the years, maybe because I myself suffered from perfectionism. I’ve learned how to deal with it in my work and my practice, and I want to pass those lessons along.



On the one hand, we all know achieving perfection is impossible. On the other hand, we tend to harbor a half-baked secret belief that we are the exception to the rule: that perfection is impossible for everyone else, but that we might have a fighting chance at it. In fact, it’s that unrealistic belief that spurs action and makes us strive towards our goals.



Sometimes when concepts are hard to wrap our heads around, it’s good to take another look at the words we are using. The word ‘perfection’ comes from the Latin Perficere, which means “to complete.” At first, that may seem a little confusing, but when you think about it for a bit, it begins to make sense. We tend to think of perfection as reaching a final form that couldn’t be made better. Perfection means an ending. 

But when you look at your life, isn’t it true that the most important ideas, experiences, and insights always come in the middle of things? In fact, isn’t it true that in the rare event that we actually ‘finish’ something, it no longer brings us as much joy or inspiration as we had during the process? Sure, there’s that initial burst of satisfaction when you read the last page of the book or put in the final puzzle piece, but then what happens? The book gathers dust on the shelf. The puzzle sits forgotten on the coffee table.



“At Clixo, we call this “gathering-dust-on-the-shelf-syndrome,” and it’s exactly what we try to advise against. We don’t want kids to fall in love with their creations, after spending countless hours following instructions. Instead, we want kids to create in a faster way, and in a zen approach that encourages them to disassemble what they’ve made and put it back in a different shape, or continue on from a shape they’ve already made.”



Rolling our sleeves up and diving into the messy, ever-evolving creativity of life is where we most become ourselves. We learn about problem solving, collaboration, and imagination. When we treat life as an ongoing journey rather than something that can–or should–be perfected, we create the most space for play, and by extension, for growth.

o nurture this unstructured space is important for people of all ages, but absolutely critical for children.When we are young our brains have more plasticity, and can create all sorts of neural connections that are harder for us to do as adults. Those connections aren’t made by following rules and executing in a standardized, ‘perfect’ way. They are made by approaching things from entirely new angles, without expectation or the need to achieve anything specific. 



Going through over 1,200 prototypes for Clixo before landing on our current design might look like a classic arc of striving for perfection, but here’s the thing–Clixo is far from finished. My whole process of creating Clixo has been built around an open-ended, exploratory approach, where one idea sparked a totally different idea which led me forwards, backwards, and sideways. Most importantly, what we are offering is just the start: Clixo will always evolve. It will never be finished.



So here’s the message from the Clixo family: keep on striving and keep on creating. Build the biggest, most elaborate toy you can, and then break it down so you can begin again. That’s about as close to perfection as you can get.



All the best from the Clixo fam,
Assaf

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Overcoming Creative Blocks

Overcoming Creative Blocks

By Clixo Team

April 2020

The importance of creativity in a world of consumption. 



One of my favorite things to do with a fresh set of design students is give them an assignment that’s impossible to google. For example, I’ll tell the group to come up with ten ways to move a cloud from New York to Paris. 



This request is usually followed by crickets, and then a tentative request for clarification. 



“Anything,” I’ll tell them. “Come up with any and all creative solutions to the problem. Nothing is too ambitious or too silly.”

What I love about this assignment is that there is nowhere external for students to turn. They can’t look up an answer. There aren’t even comparable examples they could study. They have to turn inwards. They have to get creative.



This is often an uncomfortable process for my students. They’ve been raised in a culture that rewards those who consume and memorize vast quantities of data or information, but has less respect for the non-linear messiness of creativity. Most leave the classroom in a state of anxiety, afraid that whatever they come up with won’t be good enough.



It makes sense to be afraid of the creative process. It’s a vulnerable activity, with no rubric to follow and no guaranteed route for success. Most importantly, whatever we put out into the world represents our inner lives–that essence that makes us the unique, particular people that we are. That’s a hard thing to lay in the open for others to judge. 

But when my students return the next week with all sorts of wild ideas–birds pulling the clouds, ships with enormous fans–an important boundary has been broken down. They have moved beyond the realm of checking boxes and perfectly executing already-formulated ideas. They are now in the space of play. 



Play liberates precisely because we can’t control it. The thing that’s so scary about letting ourselves enter the world of creativity is also the most powerful aspect of it. We are free to be and do anything. That’s why the most revolutionary ideas and innovations come from this space, but it’s also why we get so fearful of entering it. What if we do or become something we are ashamed of? What if we don’t create anything at all?

As my students share their concepts, a magical thing happens. Laughter and playfulness enters the classroom. Outrageous ideas that a student was initially embarrassed to present are congratulated and built upon. The group grows increasingly excited, the more they come to trust that by openly sharing their ideas–their inner, creative force–they’re doing the most important work of all.

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The Sweet Spot for Creativity

The Sweet Spot for Creativity

By Clixo Team

June 2017

What’s the right amount of constraint?



Have you ever thought about the process of building a puzzle, or putting together a model? You get a bunch of pieces, and the goal is to figure out how to put them back together again. How quickly you achieve this can vary, but there’s only one of two possible outcomes: either you succeed, by making the one intended final product, or you give up. While this process can be challenging and even fun, we at Clixo don’t believe it’s the best method for breeding creativity or innovation.

So is the solution to eliminate constraints entirely? Well, not so fast. 



The truth is that research shows too much freedom is also a creativity killer. Faced with a blank page or a set of non-descript, homogenous objects and told to “do anything,” the chances of sparking inspiration are also low.



It turns out that the sweet spot for creativity lies between these poles. Too much constraint, and we are uninspired. Too little, and we don’t know where to start.



The question becomes: what is the ideal amount of constraint?

This question is one of the fundamental principles integrated into the design of Clixo. Like the art of origami, Clixo is infinitely changeable, but sets of principles guide the way. Designed with a shape and a method of attaching to itself that never runs out of alternatives, Clixo also provides enough structure so that no child is lost at the start. As you discover certain shapes, or sets of shapes, you begin to build a vocabulary of principles that can then be built upon and adapted in new ways.




For example, a child can quickly discover how to make a snake out of Clixo. Once they have that construction internalized, they will then see that possibility when they are trying to make a neck for a giraffe, or legs for a robot. The possibilities are endless, but they are built out of manageable steps.

As parents and adults (but also kids-at-heart), we would do well during these unprecedented times to reflect on how constraints often serve a purpose, or can have a silver lining. As COVID-19 has relegated many of us and our families into our homes, limiting us from playgrounds, playdates, and school, we have been forced to get creative in how we keep our kids engaged. Scrolling through Instagram accounts like Goodnews Movement, one sees slides built out of cardboard boxes, improvised backyard rollercoasters, and whole-family musical productions with lyrics adapted to reflect COVID-19. None of this is to undermine the enormous difficulty and tragedy COVID-19 is, but to offer a gentle reminder that sometimes limits can make us see, engage with, and reimagine things in new ways.



Often, we don’t get to choose what limits us. We take what exists for granted, and utilize it to the best of our ability. What is so wonderful about play, and what children teach us again and again, is how constraints aren’t an end point—they’re a beginning. We can’t play away the laws of gravity or physics, or the materiality or objects, but we can break down our calcified relationship to those boundaries.



Don’t bump up against a constraint and turn back. Hit a constraint and jump off.



With love from the Clixo family,



Assaf

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