Exploring the Four Biggest Myths of Creativity. Design Educators Take Note.

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The party at Idea Couture London office last week was a fantastic event. Get to meet many young talented people there and looking forward to work with them on projects. My work takes me around the world and it is hard to get to know everyone in different offices. I enjoy talking to creative people from creative engineers to designers. And I have a very different idea of what “creative” people means.

Idea Couture is a creative powerhouse and it is creativity in the deepest and most systematic sense, looking at challenges from new perspectives but anchor in a highly logical manner. That’s our creative algorithm and it is rooted in every IC office.

Design educators take note. Design schools have built up an expectation that they can equip students to tackle complex problems through the power of creativity alone. They can’t. They don’t. And they continue to fool themselves with four big myths about creativity.

The first myth is that creativity and design are inseparable. Here, we have led ourselves down a garden path of consensus where many of us believe that because designers are designers they are creative. But design is not creativity manifested, and creativity is not the exclusive to the design mind. One can be creative without having any design skills or sensibility, and there are many skilled designers who utterly lack in creativity. Design doesn’t = creativity. It needs creativity.

The second myth is that analytical people are generally not creative people. Here, in subscribing to the popular oversimplification of human complexity that there are right-brain thinkers and left-brain thinkers, we assume that those of us who lean towards analysis, process, logic and science are – admit it – a little uninspired. As anyone who understands what goes into big and small leaps of science knows, this is rubbish. The analytic and the creative can, and often do, live side by side in the same brain.

The third myth is that, when it comes to design, creativity must be unbound from the laws, structures and processes of the day-to-day world. Bound up in the long-standing mythology of the artist as a visionary or hero who must be free to do what he/she – and he/she alone – does best, this can sometimes be little more than an excuse for the fact that the artist or visionary lacks the ability to apply his creativity beyond his own imagination. Nowhere is this more prevalent than at the intersection of business and design where many creative people prove themselves incapable or unwilling to grasp (and design for) the realities of what a company does and how it operates.


The fourth and final myth is that which surrounds the recent and very popular theme of ‘design for social change’. While the output of many such projects is little more than a poster and a campaign, not an actual solution, most of us would agree that such work starts with the best of intentions. Here, as in the third myth, the challenge is that designers are generally not educationally or experientially equipped to identify the social or cultural genesis of a problem and are typically blind-sided by the economics of an issue. The result is that many develop ideas (not really solutions) that are irrelevant, unsustainable and, in some cases, lead to further problems. They were one minute inspiration and not sustainable change.

If I was to start a design school (not sure I would) from scratch tomorrow, the program would be based on Movement, Intuition, Structure and Complexity. These would be the “subjects” that would become the permanent vocabulary of every graduating student for one simple reason: we need to train a new breed of professionals that can live up to the promise of how design can change the world. Only by balancing the ‘general’ with the ‘specific’, the ‘whole’ with the ‘part’, the ‘abstract’ with the ‘concrete’, and the ‘indefinite’ with the ‘definite’ can we prepare young people for the increasingly competitive job market, the stakes of what it means to be a citizen of design in the global community, and the what it means to be a human being who enjoys deeper forms of beauty, meaning and purpose while understanding economics.

Adapted from an article in Dec 2013 issue of MISC magazine.

Original Post: http://mootee.typepad.com/innovation_playground/2013/11/a-future-for-design-education-exploding-the-myths-of-creativity-.html