Thinking critically and creatively

No two college majors are alike. Between engineering, middle grades education, architecture, and color chemistry, how can a university program encourage deeper thinking across disparate disciplines?

For NC State University’s TH!NK Program, Jan – May 2015


Sue Carson
Sara Queen




Art direction
Project management


A program designed to improve students’ critical and creative thinking skills in the classroom, TH!NK asked me to help communicate the importance of these skills to a larger audience of students.

Make the conceptual, accessible

How can the TH!NK program use animation to illustrate these abstract skills in context, and help make these academically-framed behaviors relatable and accessible to the NC State student body?

creative thinking skillscreative thinking standards


Build a framework

TH!NK’s framework is built on a set of critical and creative thinking intellectual standards, developed by the Foundation for Critical Thinking and NCSU’s College of Design. We referenced this list of standards for our animation, to ensure our narrative never deviated from these core principles.

critical and creative thinking process


Think cyclically, rather than linearly

Most process models ask you to follow a linear path, from point A to point B. Those models illustrate a simple, linear process that has an explicit starting and stopping point. But that’s not always how life works. People don’t often see a project through from beginning to end: team members are assigned to different project phases, or hop onto a project halfway through. We wanted our process model to reflect this ebb and flow, and illustrate how these skills can be used cyclically throughout a project.


Our story follows one woman’s quest to build the most efficient apple-picking machine. Following each step in the critical and creative thinking process, she iterates and adapts her design until reaching a solution.

Building a narrative

We created a scenario, with a uniquely NC State engineering-tint, to help students translate the critical and creative thinking skills into action.


A fully-formed animatic

With a solid narrative, we added timed, high fidelity storyboards to create an animatic. While only a series of still frames, (and without sound) it helped us identify scenes that needed further explanation.


Stand with the brand

While our animatic had a soft color palette, it was too distant from the larger NC State brand. We initiated another round of color testing, working within tints and shades of the brand.


Curtain going up!

In the final animation we chose a color scheme that balanced the deeper colors of the NC State brand with our original, more-lightly colored animatic.