Chris Poole tells PSFK about his mission to bring expression back into people’s everyday lives.
Many of us doodled around in their notebooks in school. Whether out of boredom or inspiration, youngsters have a drive to create and most get it out with pen and paper. But as we get older, we tend to lose this creative drive (as a result of stress, and lack of time) and like any muscle, the less one exercises creativity the weaker it gets.
Chris Poole, founder of 4chan, and Canvas wants to bring creativity back into the average person’s daily life. Starting with Canvas, a free drawing website, he has been working on fostering communities of people, not necessarily professional artists, who like to doodle and draw with others. Now he’s out to incentivize and stimulate creativity with DrawQuest, an iOS app for iPhone and iPad. We caught up with Chris to discuss his app, 4chan and how he is exploring the world of digital expression.
How did you get started on DrawQuest? What made you want to work on this project?
DrawQuest began as a phrase in the back of our minds, a fuzzy idea that evoked the spirit of adventure and fun, and a game-like approach to drawing. When we decided to make a creative application for tablet and mobile, we chose to explore this new idea rather than port over Canvas, our web product. Canvas is just that — a blank canvas for all kinds of visual expression: Text, images, drawings, shapes. DrawQuest is something different — a challenge to draw every day and awaken your creativity.
How did your work at 4chan contribute to your decision to make this app?
4chan inspired Canvas, and Canvas inspired DrawQuest. Working with 4chan every day made me wonder: If I could reimagine forums today, using new technology and a refreshed user experience, what would that look like? That’s how Canvas was born. Once Canvas was up and running we discovered an underlying problem that was human, rather than technological. People lose confidence in their creative abilities as they grow older, but creativity should be a daily habit in our lives. So we wanted to build a solution to that problem, and that’s how DrawQuest came about.
Why did you chose a ‘quest’ format instead of more freeform drawing like Paper?
We call it the “blank page” problem — if you hand a blank page of paper to 100 people and ask them to make you something great, maybe 10 of those people will start drawing right away, and the other 90 will just kind of freak out. It’s a lot of pressure to go from zero to work-of-art. So the Quest, which is really just another type of challenge-response format, was born out of a desire to reach those other 90 people, to get them exploring their creativity by kick-starting the process.
What is ‘the point’ of the app? How are you facilitating and fostering creativity with it?
The point of DrawQuest is to bring creative expression back into our daily lives. Almost everyone has fond memories of drawing in school, yet few draw at home regularly. We think there’s something broken about that. Studies continue to show a link between health and creativity, so why is it that so many of us don’t make time for it every day?
There are a few ways we try to foster the creative habit. First, DrawQuest isn’t a competition. There are no losers here. You win by drawing, and that’s reflected in our game economy. Second, DrawQuest asks for something very simple: To draw every day. To form a habit you need the right combination of ability, motivation, and trigger — and everything about DrawQuest is meant to facilitate that. Third, we demystify the creative process. You can watch a stroke-by-stroke replay of anyone’s drawing. No matter how good someone is, their talent is within reach.
What challenges did you face in trying to stimulate people’s creativity?
Our biggest challenge has simply been to provide a year’s worth of inspiring daily challenges. That’s why we’ve done two exciting things. First, we’ve started accepting ideas from our community for what the Daily Quest should be. Second, we’re opening up the Quest platform and letting our users create and share their own Quests.
Are there plans to build the app out into a more professional art tool?
Simplicity is fundamental to DrawQuest. We don’t want there to be any barrier to being creative. We’re not the most complex or feature-rich drawing tool out there, but we might be the easiest to use.
Is there every going to be integration with Canvas and DrawQuest, since they do have a somewhat similar theme?
Not as of now. The communities on Canvas and DrawQuest are strong and very different, and if we ever did any integration we’d want to be mindful of those differences. Though, we hope that by getting more people into drawing via DrawQuest, they would feel comfortable participating in Canvas.
What direction would you like to see this app take in a year?
Our mission is to bring creative expression back into people’s daily lives. Drawing is just one facet of that. Writing, taking photos, singing, playing music — there are lots of other kinds of expression we’d love to explore.