Skip to content

The Bayles Exercise

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
1 min read

Brooks Jensen, in his 1018th podcast, describes a technique he can't believe he hasn't mentioned 1018 podcasts. It's a technique he learned from David Bayles in the 1980s for coming up with projects for your photos after you've printed them (or nowadays, have them in your photo app of choice).

The technique may be familiar to designers.

He told Brooks to take his stack of prints and divide them in two by any arbitrary means (composition, subject matter, color, etc.). If a pattern emerges you hadn't previous seen, you have a new project (photo essay, book, article). If no pattern emerges, do it again using another arbitrary means of dividing in two. Keep doing this over and over until patterns do emerge.

What this is doing is forcing the brain to see in new ways.

Out of 100 photos you took this week, there may be 3 photo essays you could post. You won't know that just by staring at your screen and thinking really hard. You have see them in a new contexts.

There may be an opportunity here for an app to come along and intelligently suggest hundreds of  patterns you can't detect due to your own biases. But, I'm willing to bet, nothing beats the human brain (and probably physical prints) for coming up with unique ideas based on your personal experiences.

Thanks to Brooks for sharing this technique. Listen the full episode here.