The Observation Deck

Naomi Epel’s Observation Deck is a collection of 50 catalysts for inspiration contributed by authors from around the world. It takes the form of a 160-page book describing the tactics and a deck of 50 cards for randomly selecting a direction. The Observation Deck was conceived as a tool for writers but the techniques can be applied to any creative endeavor, including design.

Here are a few examples:

  • Feed Your Senses
  • Start with a Title
  • Create a Sacred Space
  • Switch Media
  • Change Your Point of View
  • Eavesdrop

The Observation Deck is similar in concept to other creativity toolkits like Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies (for musicians) and Roger Von Oech’s Creative Whack Pack.

The cards help jog the memory, but most don’t make sense without the context supplied by the book (though they’re not as inpenetrable as Eno’s Oblique Strategies). It’d be nice if more context were printed on the cards but the stories are memorable and the book itself is a quick read.

Each of these “pack” designs work pretty well as desktop widgets. I’ve got all three on my Macintosh. Eno’s Oblique Strategies widget is available on Apple’s site. I simply changed the list of aphorisms and swapped out the cover graphics to create widgets for the other two.

The full list of observations is available on Google Books (check the table of contents) and images for the Creative Whack Pack are available on

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