One hundred dilemmas

In 1975 the artists Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt published a set of cards designed to provoke creative thinking. The Oblique Strategies deck has become a legend of the art and design worlds.

Oblique Strategies
Cory Doctorow [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I use “artist” to describe Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt because their creative outputs span such a ridiculously wide gamut. Eno is probably best known for his music – he coined the term “ambient music” and was the one that made it famous – and Schmidt for his paintings, but the deck that they created together has applications well beyond music and painting.

Both Eno and Schmidt had a collection of sayings to break creative blocks: prompts, questions, suggestions, or cryptic quizzical notes. Schmidt called them “thoughts behind the thoughts” and Eno called them “oblique strategies” and in 1975 they combined them and put out a limited edition of 500 signed decks.

These original decks are collector’s items, of course. Today there’s one original deck selling on eBay for five thousand Euros. But the Oblique Strategies have gone through at least six editions and many online tribute versions (I’ve linked to one below). Next time you have writer’s block or any other creative barrier, try thinking deeply with one of the following:

Honour thy error as a hidden intention.

Don’t be afraid of things because they’re easy to do.

Faced with a choice, do both.

A line has two sides.

Get your neck massaged.

Repetition is a form of change.


The subtitle to the original edition says it all, really: “Over one hundred worthwhile dilemmas.”