Truths about Creativity

I have been thinking about the relationship between creativity vs. design vs. where it comes from. I have also thought and wondered why some people, not just designers, are more creative than others? Here are some thoughts on creativity that may help you understand what it is and how to get it going for you.

Creative Hands
Image by: Dalydose

1) Creativity does not exist in a vacuum.

The thing about creativity is that it cannot exist without a baseline, starting point, trigger or input. In other words you will not be able to come up with a design or a design solution if you do not set the parameters or boundaries first. A good clear brief and/or design strategy is always required to start the ball rolling as it gets everyone excited. Therefore I am a strong believer that nothing beats the freedom that comes from a tight brief. The trick here is to ensure the boundaries are set wide enough so that it gives designers enough space to maneuver.

2) Creativity is free, work is where the value is.

I highly believe that everyone is creative in his or her own way. Given the right conditions and stimuli, great ideas can rise to the surface. Therefore I find ideas are overrated as almost anyone can come up with some – often without much effort. The problem is when you have to convert creativity from an idea into reality. This is the hard part – so hard that it pays to do it well. The genius sketch is an urban myth, the real heroes are the designers in the trenches that realize it and make it happen.

3) Creativity is better shared.

One nice thing about creativity is that an idea can grow into a much more powerful idea if shared. Bouncing ideas around with each other or in your creative community really works. I always look, with sadness at close-minded individuals who refuse to share; or overly competitive design students hiding in their holes. They do not know what they are missing. This goes back to point 2: Ideas are cheap, execution is the key.

4) Creativity can be fostered.

If you want to excel at being creative, you can. All you need is to know how and practice. When you start out in design, getting a designer’s block is a very common thing. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you just cannot get a design right, or out of your head. A small part of this is confidence, but most is about practice. As you get better in design or when you do it more frequently, creativity seems to flow a lot better. Getting into a mental state of design readiness also keeps you from getting rusty. At the end of the day you need to use it or lose it and a busy designer is never stuck.

5) Creativity is not Design

I find people who look at a product or sometimes a piece of art and say “even I could do it” are pretty naive. My usual response is “why didn’t you?”. That is the thing, while having creativity is a prerequisite, being creative does not equate to being a good designer. There is a certain mix of elements that makes a great designer. Some of these skills include having the right training, story telling, EQ skills, people management, analytical thinking, synthesizing ability, perseverance etc., the list goes on and I am sure you can come up with more. Being creative is a good start, but I have never heard of successful designers that are creative and lazy.

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Brian is a multidisciplinary industrial design leader that goes under the pseudonym of “The Design Translator”. He muses about the art of design leadership and the business of strategic industrial design over at his website Design Sojourn. He often laments the lack of good soy mochas and Italian pizzas (with Rocket and shredded Parma ham) in Asia.

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