Are we lacking knowledge of the creative process?

Sometimes, I wonder why designers (me included) seem to have a lack of understanding of creativity. I know that my uni. taught me nothing about what is known about creativity. Has anyone had courses?

I read a couple of great books over the last 2 years that I highly recommend for people looking to fine tune what we do:

Imagine by Jonah Lehrer - Yeah, he made up some Dylan quotes and plagiarized, but this is a great book and I think the fundamentals were spot on correct.

The Myths of Creativity by David Burkus - He includes a little more process and his sources are clearly identified, so if you want to dive deeper, this is a great starting point.

The core thing that I took away from Burkus is what psychology suggests is how the creative process works. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi developed a five step process of creativity in the '90s. It closely followed a four step process from a French psychologist in the 1800’s. In any case it goes:

preperation: the knowledge and experience that you have along with whatever your design brief or experiements have taught you about the challenge you are facing

Incubation: The brain is complicated. It’s not a calculator that can spit out the results for 24^69 in .01 seconds. However, it’s so powerful that it can learn how to walk, talk, interpret the world better than anything else known. Therefore, it takes time for the brain to make the creative connections between disparate thoughts, ideas, knowledge and experience. This is the time for vacations, walks in the woods or on the beach, surfing, bowling, etc.

Insight: This is when we make the connection. All of a sudden we see the problem in a new light.

Evaluation: We decide if the insight is worth pursuing.

Elaboration: Make it work.

I’ve found my education to be focused on “elaboration” only. We did touch on evaluation, but we did it horribly. The first three steps were completely ignored beyond the vague and seldom comments like, “go take a walk when you hit a wall” on a project.

Anyone else have any juicy sources or experience?

I’ve always appreciated the following speech from John Cleese. It’s awesome so much of what he talks about resonates with the type of work we do.

That is excellent Mitso. I love the part at the end (34:00 about) about how to squash creativity in your employees.

This GOLD, man! Thank you so much for sharing. Didn’ t expect much of “Monty Python” on a serious subject
but that one is impressive! Apart from the surprisingly substantial content it is a joy to see him work with the audience and our expectations…

For myself I have learned that a key problem of mine is switching between the modes. As a kid I could gaze at the fog in the garden for hours instead of doing my maths homework… Nowadays doing .“research and inspiration” on the net has taken that place. Really got to cut down on this and take a lesson from Cleese. Thanks again for sharing.


This is great.

The idea of time, plus time really resonates with me and I’ve found that this is true not just in design but also in my music writing.

I’m going to leave my phone in another room and give myself an hour and a half to ponder a project this weekend.

I guess that’s an open question based on definitions and what you mean.

Years ago I was part of an exhibit team that was working on an exhibit about creativity, “Creativity Workshop” was the working title at the time. The Content Developers did much research, (mostly) read many books and papers on the subject. There were other sources, pretty much anything that seemed related to the topic was looked at.

Using my dusty memory we broke down the creativity into 8 or so ‘methods of creativity’ based on a number of similar categorizations of types of, practices of, creativity.

The project was shelved for various reasons and most of the Content Developers have moved on.

I could try to dig up some of the sources if I can find the time, if you want.

In the meantime this NPR TED talk show about creativity was on this weekend.


It’s funny how Sting doesn’t seem to know how to be creative either.

The John Cleese interview has been pulled :frowning: Anyone save it?

I tried to find it but I couldn’t :S

Here there’s an essay I just read from Asimov on creativity, quite interesting.

I’d be interested in seeing this interview as well if anyone can find it.

In this interview, Cleese recommended this book

Also, is this video close to the original video?

So, from what I gather, the video is a lecture from Cleese he performed in 1991, but his company “Video Arts” is taking down all for the opportunity to rent it to you for the low low price of £495.00 (!?)

Here’s a decent enough paraphrase

Random THought Processed: That video is actually pretty close. It might be better as it is more concise.