What is to Be Creative? Designers Think Inside the Box
Where do you get your ideas? (It sounds as if one can buy them from a vending machine.) There are all kinds of answers to this question one can find in TED talks and inspirational books but my favorite answer is given by Neil Gaiman. “I made them up, out of my head.” True, in a nutshell. However, how do you made up a story about sword lion if you don’t know what is it? (It’s a mythical creature, not a werewolf, in Tainan, Taiwan. A subtropical island in the Far East, in case you don’t know where Taiwan is.)
Originalities, marvelous stories and brilliant ideas derived from one’s experiences and imaginations which do not come out of nowhere. Creativity is a long cultivation of curiosities, practices and association of ideas based on solid foundation of readings and knowledge.
When people said “think outside the box”, they need to know there is a box and what’s inside the box first. It is the box that contains the soils and fertilizers for creativity to be rooted in and to grow out of it. Creativity is not coming up with something completely new and beyond imagination, but developing based upon things that already exist. History and every tradition were once something new. Being creative is to find the glitters from the dust and to break from the constraint. Creativity is restricted by rules since it is realized according to the rules.
Words, notes, colors, movements, etc. are means to express creativity. How can a poet write regardless of spelling and phrasing? How can a musician play regardless of rhythm and pitch? These constraints are frames and boxes that can only cage the forms but can never capture ideas and thoughts.
Designing needs to think inside the box. Industrial design is more a process of constructing Lego blocks than of shaping clay. The innovation in design is to make the best use of the space in the box and even extend the box. However, there are still unbreakable barriers: science and technology. Getting a thought or inspiration is just the beginning. The idea will die in the cradle if it cannot be brought to the world.
Writers can find an extraordinary material but fails to compose it into an extraordinary book. They can delete the words to revise while designers have to reprogram to make new models. Therefore, designers think inside the box to make sure the technology so far can support the idea. Or, they have to advance the technology themselves to sustain their needs which will be very difficult.
It is the constraint and difficulties in practice that make designing creative. The innovation of design is constructed and demonstrated inside the box. This does not make the creativeness less interesting and less new but more innovative.
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