Week 5: Design & Creativity, a Love Story

Like creativity, design is a field that is highly valued, but not always well understood. To enhance our understanding of design, its important we examine the role that creativity plays in shaping a great designer (Quay, 2012). From a wider perspective, this study can also provide insight into problem-solving techniques used for overcoming creative stalemate. In particular, Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats method can be explored as a means to inspire creative thinking in the field of design. This analysis of the relationship between creativity and design can perhaps enhance our own skills in the creative discipline we belong to.

From a general perspective, the cornerstone of design is arguably driven by the motivation to improve or create new products. Despite this, the creative process applied by any designer has always been a “highly debated and researched component of the human psyche” (Gross, 2011). As author Steven Johnson claims, “by learning to recognise where and how patterns of creativity occur in design, we can possibly discover the secrets towards unlocking our creative potential” (Where Good Ideas Come From, 2011). In recent studies, this notion has led to the development of design thinking, “design-specific cognitive activities that designers apply during the process of designing” (Visser, 2006). This involves the method of combining ‘empathy’ for the context of a problem, ‘creativity’ in the generation of insights and solutions, and ‘rationality’ in analysing and fitting various solutions to the problem context (Cross, 2011). From a personal perspective, this practice is applied to various design-based units, often producing the highest result for a creative product or service.

In relation to designing a creative product, this week’s lecture also took a key interest in the notion of applying rules and parameters to our work. As explained by Dr. Stuart Medley, deciding on the rules and parameters can be as personal to the individual as well as the industry they belong to (Lecture Week Five: Creativity and Design, 2014). For example, the use of gridlines is a strict rule that enables graphic designers to be aware of how elements are positioned prior to printing (Harris, 2012). In contrast, restricting the use of typefaces, lines, and shapes for layout, may be seen as a parameter that caters to my particular design style. For many creative companies, these types of rules and parameters are a vital means to upholding consistency throughout their designs. This is perhaps evident in the products of Apple, bringing order to complexity by delivering simple and consistent interface (Isaacson, 2011). In turn, this adherence to self-imposed rules or parameters can possibly increase our chances of achieving a particular design.

From a creative standpoint, there are numerous techniques inspired to explore, evaluate and implement ideas throughout the design process (Pink, 2006). In particular, Edward de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’ technique has the potential to look at design decisions from a number of important perspectives. To expand, each ‘Thinking Hat’ represents a different style of thinking (see Fig 5.1), providing a means for groups to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way. As explained by de Bono, “this technique forces you to move outside your habitual thinking style, often helping you to get a more rounded view of a situation” (Six Thinking Hats, 2008). In relation to the creative industries, the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ technique can be highly beneficial by blocking confrontations that happen when people with different thinking styles discuss the same problem (Mind Tools, 2014). Perhaps the collaborative nature of animation and graphic design may someday provide the opportunity to further explore this technique.

Fig. 5.1

Fig. 5.1: The ‘Six Thinking Hats’ of Edward de Bono

For many designers, manipulating elements and principles can also provide a means to explore ideas as well as challenge the status quo. From early paintings to contemporary cinema, this notion can be observed throughout the history of creativity. As Csikszentmihalyi explains, “this process of discovery involved in experimenting and creating something new appears to be one of the most enjoyable activities any human can be involved in […] there is no worry of failure and all self-consciousness disappears” (The Flow of Creativity, 1996). To expand, perhaps this enjoyable experience is responsible for driving many creative practitioners to challenge the present state of art and design? In relation to this statement, historian Dr. Neil Swanson claims, “we remember the mavericks […] the creatives that explore new ideas and confront the social expectations of their time […] they are careless for opinion, caught in their own creative flow” (Ganeri, 2002). In contrast, the modern dominance of digital technologies has also encouraged many creative practitioners to support traditional ideas, methods and styles. From an animation standpoint, this notion can be observed throughout the work of director Hayao Miyazaki (see Fig. 5.2). Despite belonging to the digital age, Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli has become one of the most beloved animation studios, producing a wide selection of films in the style of pre-digitalised times (Williams, 2014). Like many creative practitioners, Miyazaki represents a core ideal at the heart of Csikszentmihalyi’s work – “creative persons may differ from one another in a variety of ways, but in one respect they are unanimous: they all love what they do” (The Flow of Creativity, 1996).

References

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