'Knock the Block'—Winner of $12K During the UP/Start Venture Competition

"Knock the Block," the venture of Book Karnjanakit ’21 (Illustration Practice MFA), was one of seven finalists in this year's competition.

Creativity is the execution of an original idea, which means for creatives, ideas are everything

And when someone creative experiences an inability to find inspiration—a lack of ideas called art block—it’s not an easy feeling to break out of.

That’s where Book Karnjanakit ’21 (Illustration Practice MFA) hopes her venture, “Knock the Block,” will come in to help.

“Knock the Block” is a gentle deck of playfully decorated card prompts to help creative people of all experience levels overcome this universal artistic challenge. Each deck contains 60 cards divided into three different categories: subject prompts, technique prompts, and self-care prompts. Users—whether they are professionals or those who pursue creative interests in their spare time—are encouraged to keep the deck within reach so they can easily pick up a card when encountering an art block.

Art block can lead to disappointment or doubt within the person experiencing it, which just creates more blocks. The causes of a block can range from being mentally and physically tired from constantly creating, to just the opposite when one hasn’t created anything for a while. 

“It’s common for artists to go through a period when they feel like they’re running out of creative juice or energy to do anything. I thought it would be helpful to have a toolkit they could use whenever they had a block,” she explained. “I started drawing as a hobby and took it more seriously, and now I’m a professional illustrator. But along that journey, there was so many times I had art block. So this started as something I wanted to do for my own use.”

The idea for “Knock the Block” was born from Karnjanakit’s personal experience and was incubated after her graduation from MICA in 2021.

“Someone I knew in the Illustration Practice program went through UP/Start, and I was able to watch them go through it. Realizing there was this program at MICA to support business ideas—I thought ‘this could be fun.’ After I worked on my thesis and graduated, I used my time afterward to work on ideas and applied to UP/Start myself,” she said. “I had this idea before, but the UP/Start program inspired me to sit down and think about it more seriously. What kind of product could I make to serve the purpose of my idea? How could I take this idea and make it into something real?”

Karnjanakit plans to use potential funds from UP/Start toward the production of the card deck, with a small amount going toward a marketing campaign and social media campaign. Her goal is to have the design to the manufacturer by summer, and within a year, have the first edition of the product available in local retail stores and online.

She described “Knock the Block” as a “pretty straightforward product,” and she sees potential in expanding it for use by groups within creative organizations.

“I’d like to work on an expansion pack, to develop a product to tether to the deck so it could work as a group exercise” she said. “I’ve gotten feedback throughout this process that this would be a good conversation starter, or ice breaker, or brainstorming exercise for organizations.”

Being in the UP/Start competition has not helped Karnjanakit take her idea for “Knock the Block” from an idea to a product, but she says it’s done more—she credits Stacy Stube, associate director of creative entrepreneurship at MICA, for offering encouragement when she became focused on the scale of her idea compared to other ventures in the cohort.

“There are times when I feel small. Some of the others in our UP/Start cohort have really big ideas. Mine is just a little card deck. I sometimes feel my idea is not as grand as the others. It’s not going to change the world,” she explained. “But I talked with Stacy about my feelings, and she reassured me that my voice matters too. Small things, small ideas, matter. You don’t have to have super large-scale ideas to be involved in UP/Start. It’s important to hear diverse voices, and that different kinds of projects and work are represented in this competition. That helped me go forward, and I’m grateful about that.”