Design Cross-Training Exercises, #3: Time in a Bottle

Dig into one of 10 design exercises featured in the Summer issue of HOW Magazine, and share your creations on Twitter or Instagram with #DesignXTraining. 

Design Exercises: Time in a Bottle

Time limit: 45 minutes

We live in a “right here, right now” kind of world, but designers are always asked to think about what to make for the future. It’s difficult to think about the potential impact of our work over a long periodof time. It’s even more difficult to communicate that kind of impact to others. Here’s an exercise that will help you in developing this skill.

Draw 10 pictures of a bottle (any bottle shape is fi ne). In each bottle, draw one object. The bottles, when placed in sequence, should convey the passing of time. For example: an easy solution would be 10 apples, from ripe to rotten. Try to take this further: How much time will pass from your fi rst bottle to your last? What will you show in the bottles? What impact can you convey? Challenge yourself to include multiple objects, rather than a single, repeated one.


Using 10 bottles, tell a familiar story through the objects in the bottles. Consider movies, books or even fairy tales when deciding on your source material.


Using only the objects from Exercise 1 and 10 new bottles, tell another story. You may repeat objects. Ask several people if they can guess your story from the bottles.

In the Summer issue of HOW, David & Mary Sherwin present a series of 10 essential design exercises to keep your creativity agile, energetic and powerful. Each one is paired with skill-building next steps and creative cross-training activities to help you work out different parts of your brain. Why is creative cross-training important? As Sherwin writes,

“Cross-training taught me a different sort of discipline as a designer. You can work on improving specific skills that come up as part of projects: Arranging elements in a page spread, crafting a compelling identity or icon, laying out a responsive website, or animating graphics for a video. But your biggest gains will come from design cross-training—moving through a variety of different design exercises that help you build and extend your skills.”

Keep an eye out at for more exciting design exercises, and check out all of them in HOW Magazine!

The extended deadline for the HOW In-House Design Awards is July 5. Don’t miss this opportunity to recognize your team’s work—because a boost of confidence really is in reach! All it takes is one entry.