(photo from http://www.skiphop.com/product/zoolunchies.html)
I once saw a really great ad for an art school. It was a whole sheet of paper printed with circles. The idea was to try to see how many different things you could draw using the circles. Theoretically, the more different things a person comes up with, the more creative they are.
I think industrial design schools should present students with a similar sort of 'test' on their first day of school. Not so much to test creativity (fingers crossed that if you've made it to design school, you're reasonably creative), but to see what people draw when given the opportunity to doodle. I've never done the sheet full of circles evaluation, but I can almost guarantee mine would be full of googly eyes and silly little characters. So maybe it's not such a surprise that I'm spending a lot of time working with a toy company these days.
There are a few rogue companies in the toy industry right now (I'm pretty partial to this one.) One of those companies is Skip Hop. They have a number of well-thought-out products—like this one—that are beautiful and functional. Their name is fun, their logo is nice and simple, and their color palette is refreshingly modern. But most recently, the Zoo Lunchies lunch bags stopped me in my tracks. Why? There are so many options! They took one simple lunch bag and dressed it up as eight different cute characters. Something tells me that the designers over at Skip Hop would pass the circle creativity test with flying colors...