Trusting your Creativity

Thanks to the Noun Project for the icons. Image assembled by Charlie.

Our belief at Particles Design Lab is that creativity is present in all, but with forms that are infinitely different from person to person.

Despite common belief, creativity is not limited to those that are artistic. Artists simply exhibit artistic creativity, but would you trust a painter to tell you which formula would be best to calculate the risks of two competing solutions in an engineering problem?

We’d hope not—and if you answered yes please point us to the building which resulted so we may place a “Never enter” marker on our Google Maps.

The reality is that we’d rather trust an engineer with this decision and we’d readily call the engineer that proposes the best solution “smart” or “genius”, but oddly enough we’d never call that person “creative”. Would you like to know a secret about artists and designers?

Very rarely do we call another designer’s decision to implement a particular feature or visual flair “creative”. Often we simply tell a fellow designer that it was “smart” or “interesting”.

The reality is that creativity comes in many flavours and each person has their own, each discipline will manifest it differently, and different people have different tolerances to the levels of creativity they are met with. For the longest time, we have been trained to believe that only designers and artists are creative, but if we look at a possible history of why this may have happened, it could have been a marketing ploy from the get-go. Do you know who is traditionally highly underpaid in their organisations? Designers. Why? Because someone realized that “creatives” are willing to work hard to achieve their vision because they are obsessed with finding interesting solutions to problems. They’re happy with a tap on the back and being called “creative” then taking home a $600 cheque to wipe their tears with at the end of the month.

Looking around the startups in the space and staff at D3 — basically the entire community, all we see is people that are obsessed with finding solutions to the problems we have, yet over the past 3 weeks several community members walked into our space and claimed that they needed help with something because they didn’t feel they were creative.

The reality is that we’re not doing your job because, put simply, you are better at it than we are. In other words, given a problem with your area of work, you will likely be more creative in coming up with a solution that is more effective than we can.

“But,” you may start responding, “I don’t feel like I come up with creative solutions to my problem, and when I come in here to the Design Lab you guys helped me get one.”

“Exactly!” we’d reply, “That’s because that’s our job! We help you get creative or, put more cheekily, we’re creative about making others creative.”

What the hell sort of twisted statement is that?

Remember what we were saying before about the reality of why artists and designers got creative in the first place? Turns out there is a positive for us that comes in lieu of our financial woes. Our schools, and training in general, have evolved to include tools and methods that help eke (isn’t that word fun as fuck?) out our creativity. That’s because in our industry we need to do that often to keep our job, and to make paper boats that can float on our pool of penniless tears.

“So you’re saying there’s tools that I can deploy and then I will become creative?” you ask wryly (man, English has some fantastic word spellings).

“Well… yes,” we reply, “and no.” (just because it’s not a life lesson article if we didn’t have a twist).

Of course creativity is not merely deploying a tool. It gets sharper with training and practice, and most importantly with confidence and an open mind.

One of our favourite recipes for it, however, is in fact devilishly simple:

You copy something into your brain when you learn or see it, you transformthe new idea when you recall and consider it in different ways, and finally your brain neurons combine it with other ideas if you consider the idea long enough and a new thing is born — or created.

Photo credit: Kirby Ferguson and his fantastic, 30 minute, Everything is a Remix documentary

In other words, the simple act of considering what you know and mashing it up with other things you know is the central tenant of creativity.

The trick is figuring out how to enable each of those three things to better work out creative muscles.

At Particles, we have an idea of the simplest tools for each:

  • Effective copying can be achieved with deep and careful observation as well as asking the right questions
  • Powerful transformations can be made with alternative perspectives either through others’ opinions or your own exercises of sketching, writing, or whatever gets your brain going
  • Meaning combinations , and thus creativity, can be attained when you are given a playground where your ideas are uninhibited and you feel encouraged to explore — sometimes they even appear when take your mind completely off work, and your mind is free to wander

Fortunately for everyone, we love doing what we do! We’re ready to help you with this falsely elusive, creativity thing — in fact we’ve already been doing that to others through our new Creative Dose that, as far as we can tell from the follow-up survey, have been really helpful!

They can be addictive so beware.

We want you to consider the ways in which you may have been creative in the past and not considered that action or thought to be something creative, and, if you’re in Montreal, we want to encourage you to come by Particles for a chat, some inspiration, or to dance to some music — casual conversation, walking, and changing your thoughts completely are fantastic ways to combine ideas, aka be creative. Notice how ideas come to you in the shower? That’s because you’re not forcing yourself to shove in “productivity” during every second of that steamy experience.

Think of Particles as your shower! Better yet, let’s figure out a way to make it possible for you to have a shower in every inch of D3 or anywhere you work, at will!