Everyday Creativity

When a neighbor fawns over their corner punches for a “Creative Memories” album or your buddy shows you his DIY designed restaurant menu, do you cringe? Or maybe give a silent groan? If you’re honest with yourself as a professional designer, you’ve probably experienced tremors of revulsion toward everyday displays of creativity.

I’m guilty too. Often overlooked and frequently disdained by professionals, ordinary people practice extraordinary creativity everyday. Here are three insights I’ve gained recently by observing people whose creativity is not part of their professional identity (a.k.a. “non-designers”):

You don’t have to be perfect all the time.

I have two very different sons of 8 and 10 years old. The 10 year old, Javan, is definitely the artist/designer/inventor type who has to have everything perfect before it can be seen in public. My 8 year old, Noah, is good with people, tries his best with creativity but is willing to live with good enough. When you look at Javan’s work table, it’s strewn with projects that are not complete and probably never will be. When you look at Noah’s table, it’s filled with completed projects that are good enough but not perfect. While there is a time for perfection, I think many worthy creative ideas never become reality because of the inner pharaoh of perfection. Good enough really is good enough.

Function with out aesthetics in design is boring, but aesthetics without function is useless.

My wife needed to design an list for daily grocery shopping. We’ve tried many elaborately crafted grocery lists over the years, but none ever stuck. So, she came up with this simple, yet effective shopping list ordered for Super Wal-Mart aisles. She just prints out a copy of the list before going to the store and circles what she needs. Aesthetically pleasing design? No. Functional? Yes.

Design professionals have cornered the creativity market…a very small corner.

As “creative professionals,” we sometimes think that we hold all the really good ideas. Now we may say we listen to clients, but when was the last time a client had an idea and the idea was actually used? Would this be unprofessional? Aren’t they paying us to be creative? Would using a client’s idea be a concession that we couldn’t come up with anything better? Some of the most powerful creative work I’ve seen lately has come from non-professionals. What’s going to happen when we go head to head against a Korean or a Chinese firm for a design account? Their creative might be better, fresher and even (gulp) more relevant in our culture. Our main advantage may then be proximity and relationship with the client—a relationship that listens and acknowledges their creativity.

One Response to “Everyday Creativity”

  1. Jonathan

    My son is only two but he is already making his mark – there on crayon markings on the walls and floors and funiture all over our house and there is hardly a single key on either of my two computers keyboards in my home that don’t have magic marker streaks on them. It’s only a matter of time before he draws something on a piece of paper he is really proud of. And I am dreading the day because I am afraid I will respond like the art director I have become, never quite satisfied and always pushing for perfection. But my son has something that I do not; he, and I figure most like him who do not design for a living, do not fear the white canvas the way I do. Perfection doesn’t even enter the equation. He is free to make sheep purple, the sun green and the people every color in between. I only hope I will be able to put down my golden pencil long enough to discover the kind of freedom he will experience during the imagination of his youth.


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