Oblique Strategies, a creative tool, in a web version

Screenshot of oblique strategies web page

In Oct 2022 I made a web-based derivative of Eno and Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies cards.

I read about a deck of cards made by musician Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt in 1975, which had the purpose of spurring on creative thinking by inserting a random prompt.

I imagine Eno composing music in some endless session and the inspiration for the cards coming from that.

Creative block? Here’s a prompt out of the blue that stands a chance at helping you see the work in a fresh light.

Oblique Strategies is for creative thinking

Creative thinking is something I’ve noodled over since childhood, and this card deck “Oblique Strategies” captures so clearly the lateral thinking ability.

To juxtapose dissimilar concepts is an act fundamental to so much creativity.

The dissimilar can be funny: Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

The dissimilar can be playful: While that looks like your tie-died pillow case, it’s actually my new hairdo. (As I wrap it about my noggin.)

The dissimilar can be challenging: Yes, you explained that in 30 PowerPoint slides, but now show me on one page so I can see it all.

The Oblique Strategies deck makes it easy for a person to be quickly challenged to juxtapose dissimilar concepts. Namely, the stumper at hand and the oblique strategy on the card.

Coding for distraction

Years ago I found a list of the text of the cards and stowed it away in a file, wondering about finding an actual deck of cards and wanting to see one.

Well, about this time last week I was frustrated and a bit fried from a punishing week of work.

So in search of therapy, or procrastination, I did something I haven’t done in years. I started coding.

(It’s been so long that I didn’t even have handy software. I had to resort to command line SFTP.)

Roughly, here’s how I proceeded.

  1. Search and replace functions to markup the whole list into HTML.
  2. Wrote the brief, surrounding HTML to complete the document.
  3. Wrote the CSS in the HEAD of the HTML doc. My goal here was basically to lay out the list like a card table full of cards, face-up.
  4. Wrote the Javascript, again in the same doc, to:
    1. Hide all the cards.
    2. Pick a random card.
    3. Show the random card.

Then I carried on with the work week, rejuvenated by working out the little coding puzzle.

A couple days later I looked at it on my iPhone and saw that it was tiny and illegible. (Irritating!) So I added the viewport meta tag to bring it to scale on mobile.

I also made a couple other minor adjustments, like going from a landscape card layout to a portrait, because I liked how the longer texts laid out.

The catch

This little stress reliever of a project uses the work of a couple of creative people from back in 1975. And the heart, and inspiration, for this work is their work. This is a reformulation of the original card deck into a web form.

But do I have permission?! Not yet, I don’t.

I’ve sent an email to an address that in theory reaches Mr Eno. I’ve sent a tweet with his @brianeno handle to ask permission. No response yet…

It’ll be no hard feelings on my part to delete the whole thing.

But it is kind of fun. Even playful. And maybe it’ll spur someone on to see a problem a bit more creatively.

So, if you read this Mr Eno, do let me know if this is alright by you?

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