Five Questions with Jennifer Brook: Dropbox Staff Researcher
Jennifer Brook has “cultivated” a creative life through various pursuits, including bookmaking, interaction design, and research. Currently she is a Staff Researcher at Dropbox, where she investigates work futures, teams and organizations, and how our everyday ways of working can become more purposeful, equitable, and inclusive.
How does she stay inspired and motivated? She shares some of her thoughts here, and she’ll impart more wisdom on how to “Go Beyond” when she joins us as a speaker at In/Visible Talks 2020.
What is your relationship to the creative process?
“Of the various creative practices I’ve cultivated across my life, it’s writing, inquiry, and dialogue that are central to the creative process of each. In addition to independent work, much of my work life is spent either working within groups to move projects forward or facilitating groups to align, act, and reflect on work that matters to them. I love experimentation and have cultivated practices across many years that I know support the creative process. I know every group is different, so I try to stay present to what’s needed, what’s working, and be open to influence.”
How or where do you find inspiration?
“Primarily through dialogue with friends and strangers. I keep running notes of people, books, and resources that come up in conversations that I want to investigate. I also spend about an hour in my study every day reading, writing, and reflecting, which has been a tremendous source of nourishment and inspiration.”
When did you first realize you needed to be in a creative field?
“When I was 19 and studying psychology at university, I was feeling incredibly unfulfilled creatively. During that time, I stumbled into a course called Mindful Living: Spirituality as a Life. In class we meditated together, discussed books on spirituality, and supported each other to develop something the syllabus promised as ‘one’s capacity for creativity, growth, and a sense of purpose in one’s life’.
“Across this course, we were invited in various ways to envision what a unique-to-me life might look like. I discovered ways psychology was merging with creative practices like dance, art-making, and music through the field of art therapy, and I began to connect to my longing to live in a more creative way through pursuing an art degree in tandem to psych.
“This was the beginning of learning to live life by my own design. I embraced that inquiry, ambiguity, and risk in the form of a creative practice that has been foundational to my work and life.”
What was your first job?
“I had two jobs the summer right after I turned 16, one serving frozen yogurt and the other selling meat over the phone. I landed my first professional job right after turning 22, and it was a dream job I had pitched to the executive director of a nonprofit organization. I set up a 5,000-square-foot creative arts studio and designed an arts program for a rural residential community and transitional living program for adults with mental health challenges.”
What was one of your biggest creative challenges?
“Making the leap from one form of practice to another. In my late 20s, this leap was from artist to interaction designer, and the process took several years.”
Bonus Round: What’s on your desk?
“At the office, I’m often meeting with people throughout the day or setting myself up to work in different places across the building. I don’t sit or work at my Dropbox desk, so it’s become a shelf and storage area for various workshop materials and supplies.
“My home desk has 100+ books stacked on it, along with rocks, notebooks, pens, markers, stacks of index cards with quotes, and several decks I use as prompt cards, including Van Waring’s Power and Action Deck, Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, and the Grok Cards. It’s a much more alive space for me.”