Does constraint positively influence creativity?

It’s a myth. Or, perhaps, a misnomer at worse. Creativity through conceptual conflict is more appropriate. Does X fit with A, if not, how can I make it fit—*

With this said, the only constraint or conflict that exists unilaterally for everyone is; people who approve or disapprove of the creative expression. Individuals’ who posit that they’re experts in knowing what creativity is and how it applies to the problem—ugh. You know the types. They see something new, but can’t process its relative association. So they find deprecated statistics, conflate correlation from the old thing with the new thing, and then systematically attenuate the new to be more like the old (they’re being creative, too!). Some do it deliberately—other’s, a result of their education and personal experience.

We all demonstrate creative thinking, daily, hourly, minute-by-minute. The commercial and industrial world loves to tout this as a selling point to garner new business from prospects. In a sense, we’ve allowed pundits and self-appointed arbiters to propagate their narrowed field of perception amongst us all.

Creativity is the combining of two or more elements in order to synthesize something new.

We do not judge this new thing, whether it’s a good or bad expression of creativity, but we accept that this expression has resulted in a familiar likeness with this new thing. By accepting it, the technically capable begin accentuating the expression into something emotionally and mentally approachable.

With this said; many people and companies presume that there is a process; something repeatable; learnable on a mass scale—predicated on the industrial model, to consistently produce and express creativity with identical success each time.

Unfortunately “creative process**” is an oxymoron. Creativity is idiosyncratic, rarely pragmatic, and often a result of informed ignorance (another oxymoron). Technique is making a perfect mistake—an unintended discovery, while having honed the technical skills to refine and shape the mistake (or discovery) into something familiar. Technique is what defines the expression of creativity into something useful; acceptable; beautiful, ugly, useless, abstract—

We should also be clear and isolate creativity from art, or art-forms. You do not need to be an artist to express creativity. But artists (in all fields/art-forms) are generally more receptive to receiving external input and thinking, translating it through an art-form, yielding a form of creative expression (writing, music, design, art, sculpting, architecture, fashion, industrial design). Show me anything in the modern world that wasn’t created by someone (nature excluded)—regardless of their job title or function, artistic ability or skill. The world around us has been shaped and refined through creative-human-expression, for better or worse.

Implying constraints or limitations provoke creative thinking is a self-induced allusion and another creative attempt at expressing—expression. It generally depends on the individual and their ability to receive; interpret; translate; and express their creativity within the external world.

How badly do you want to express something, and how hard are you willing to work for others to understand it?

Many people incubate, many rapidly iterate, many work methodically—linearly. But under no circumstances does everyone work in the same exact way. That would be the antithesis of creativity. And limit the diversity of thought and expressions of culture and humanity as a whole. We’d all be a bunch of self-replicating, unaware bots.

Many people can and do work in teams, but rarely do you ever see one head, and many wrists. If you do, it’s because many of the concepts and creative forms have already been decided or expressed in such a way that other’s are simply copying a defined technique, not engaging in a creative process.

*This implies that creativity is a result of a specific problem or task, but creativity is not dependent on the need to purposefully solve or complete a task

**I forget where, or from who this term originated—

New UI trends

I’ve been utilizing a lot of these types of models within the past 6 months, as I’m sure a lot of other designers are doing. Here a few of the models that have been introduced to the masses with little resistance and a low learning curve.

Dashboards : Top tiered navigational or user initiated functions located in a fixed or anchored position within the environment (memory retention)

Less iconography : Text based navigation elements while icons are reserved for second or third tier subsets of functions located within the main content (progression and regression within the environment forces elements to become smaller or larger based on the depth of the interactive experience)

Interstitials and pagination of content : While subtle elements were used for kinetics within interactive experiences that introduce new information are still popular, we’re seeing more content presented in a linear format that is animated in an obvious and recognizable way. This has led to the more open-space design because more content can be served up with less clutter for the user

Device independence : A lot of designs are very neutral in design, development and function because companies have to rebuild and distribute apps across many different platforms. So you want a design that doesn’t require a lot of development, production, and redesign for multiple devices. You want consistency and familiarity across every device

Bandwidth : Clean and subtle designs don’t take up a lot of bandwidth

Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagan:

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there — on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Originality is done

I hear this a lot, expressed in many different ways; It’s been done before, I’ve seen this but a little different, This reminds me of that one thing, So and so is already doing something similar.

This is a lonely sandbox to play in, isn’t it? I think this is oxymoronic. Ideas beget ideas. Perhaps the real point of interest is, we’re exposed to more ideas and communication than ever before in history. Not that lots of ideas and notions haven’t been thought of in previous years.

Today we have direct access to a lot of content. And while ideas borrow from ideas, there will always be originality. So it may appear that everything has been done before (the lonely sandbox), but questioning the propensity of originality is analogous to suggesting that a wade of clay will always end up the same shaped ceramic.

Turn off all the content long enough to think about what it is you’re thinking about. Spend time on iterative design, thinking and exploration. It’s okay to be a little like something else, too. Technique is making a perfect mistake. It has nothing to do with talent.

U and I

User Interface: Communicate, Direct, Alert
User Experience: Express, Emote, Experience

These two terms mean more than their current contextual usages imply. These words relate to everything we see, experience, buy, drive–things we use. We’re always excited and inspired by the new, but find it callous, cold, unusable without a familiarity from the old.

The icon on an iPhone has a traditional phone receiver as an indicator to make a call from a device that looks nothing like its predecessor. However, it does do the same thing a standard landline phone does. Their basic purpose and function remain the same. Their ergonomic functions are identical, too. They look nothing alike. Intentional or not, we’ve slowly accepted progressions like this throughout our lives. In more areas of our life aside from a phone.

There are several layers to user interface design and user experience. There will always be a compromise in designing for the few versus the many. Especially considering the rate of adaption and learning required for adaptive or just generally new things.

A year or two ago, I posted a definition for Skeuomorph. Over the years, through graphic design, writing, user interface design, art–anything that requires an expression of thought to relate to a narrowed perspective, I’ve learned that there are no rules. Only familiarity with what people know to be a norm and what people are willing to accept as a new form of graphic design, writing, user interface design, art. In my industry, clients often cling to the old, while I strive for the new, ideally we arrive at median that satisfies the people who will be exposed to the graphic design, writing, user interface design, art–things.

As I continue to re-iterate and innovate, as best as my abilities allow me to, I’ve come across another term that has been around since the 1930’s; Umwelt. “The term is usually translated as “self-centered world”. In a sense, it means; to make meaning(s) possible for you. This is a very holistic approach to how we as people communicate, navigate and express ourselves using things we didn’t necessarily create ourselves or even need initially. Familiarity often breeds contempt. Learning something new or discovering a thing that may have been previously inexpressible or hard to understand, means a lot to us as people. It’s like a leap forward. The epiphany, cognizance, awareness–we feel like our IQ jumped 10 points.

Design or create with purpose, even if it’s end purpose wasn’t your initial intention. Everything we create is utilized, seen or felt by another human being. Skeuomorph and Umwelt–I’ll be working harder than ever to express these two words in my day-to-day activities.

Utility + Message = Experience ≠ Branding

Someone proposed the question; Is Consumer Generated Advertising the next big thing? And by someone, I mean someone on a participant network. I was a little confused by this question for a few reasons.

The fact that someone has asked this question in a quasi-public forum while having it answered by industry professionals and lurkers alike, is testimony enough. This survey is community-driven and in-effect, user-generated. It has been contributed to and advanced upon by many without provocation or payment. I think the term; Consumer Generated Advertising,(CGA) is over-defined or not implicit enough. Every brand should expect that all users will participate in brand development. And as technology for synchronized communication with ubiquitous access to information on home/mobile devices grows closer, we’ll see more participation. A brand that enables and contributes to its prospects voice(s) will see greater return on their marketing. Public Relations, as a term, has taken center-stage from the industry’s perspective as a way to market itself. But it has no more value than any other channel in the branding arena.

Utility + Message = Experience ≠ Branding.

Let’s also consider something else; This approach to marketing is not always the best approach for every brand. CGA isn’t a push, it’s an unexpected result. People creating their own How-To’s with products and services are doing it because they can. Not because they we’re asked to endorse something. This type of CGA, in itself, is nothing new. Everyday day we help others out. Especially with recommendations and demonstrations of our intimate understanding about a topic of some sort. If a brand provides a product, service or idea that merits discussion, it will happen with or without Public Relations.

Remove those mental barriers.
Mitigate crisis with a conversation.


How difficult is it–trying to explain a new idea or concept to someone? Especially when there may not be supporting materials to substantiate the use/need/purpose of the idea. It’s difficult. And even more difficult when the people you may be communicating with have absolutely no familiarity with what you are talking about.

I think most agency’s do not want to claim a style, or look, or type of work. Styles are very transparent. And very disposable. They eventually become peripheral noise. Many struggle to remain neutral regarding their personal brand positions, as a company that builds brands–how ironic. I think one key reason may be that, we generally pride ourselves on being able to learn, understand and communicate new ideas, products or services across a broad spectrum of markets. This also tends to yield ideas and creative that are not subjected to the existing rules.

There may be criteria that is applicable and consistent across a wide spectrum of markets, but that does not usually last very long. And this criteria often creates lethargic behavior and tendencies. Innovation is good. Newness is very profitable. Often, an idea works once, and someone thinks that it’s a perfect package. They believe it can be mass produced. Which ironically, is the exact reason a client will hire a new agency. We’re hired to help the brand reignite it’s fire and reposition itself within the market place.

Because we are in the business of ideas, to take a position ( visually inferred through the broader visual language of design; interaction; writing; communication/media arts ) might mean the lose of a potential prospect. There are niche-based agencies that demonstrate extremely successful portfolios for one market. But this talent for specialty becomes a scapegoat for stagnant creative and slumping sales–this becomes the excuse for an agency review. When something new is presented, like new creative for a campaign, it’s immediately measured by/against an existing system that was previously used for another objective. How biased is that? How truly new will this campaign be if it’s measured against a floor plan that was designed for someone else’s house?

Ideas, as a service or product, are not tangible goods. It is very difficult to reference something new without using an existing context to reference it, or re-represent it. I could show you a new way to draw a tree, but you would only perceive it as a tree if it resembled the types of trees you are familiar with. And if you didn’t recognize it as a tree, you’d say it was abstract. How then, does someone show something new, without being subjected to the old? Basically, you can’t. And matrices won’t *insert dramatic music* qualify new creative work either. If that where the case, I’d begin to feel ashamed for contributing to such a boring creative pool. And subsequently screwing a client’s campaign up. Having been fortunate enough to work under a lot of creative people, I’ve come to understand that everyone has ideas, at times, even the same idea. But it’s the execution of that idea that helps a brand rise above it all. It’s the new tree we’ve created against a backdrop of older trees within the forest.

Marketers and clients alike are known for saying, “we care about the ROI.” Fair-enough. Who doesn’t? –well, the consumer doesn’t. And your ROI is dependent on the consumer being able to relate, understand and be informed about your products, services or ideas. The means by which these ideas, products and services are communicated are, as we all know, considered media. Media must look, act, and communicate/interact in a way that is relevant to the surveyor. Relevant to the surveyor, not to you, me or the guys sitting at the table next to you. This often requires us to uproot the old tree and plant an entirely new species. This tree has been created around someone else’s idea of a tree. It references their understanding of a tree, more so than it references mine. We’ve seen this tree before. We’re looking for something a little more unique.

Advertising is an end-result. It has no true form. And in this brand landscape, interactivity and engagement are facilitated by people and online users. Those matrices and plans are being circumvented more and more by x-factors. Form can not over-power function. However; due to the increased value of Saas, brands are beginning to consider Function more important than Form. –Be very careful with this. The power of context rules the internet landscape. As it does the world.

It is very easy to sell advertising or to sell another iteration of the same idea. My point; there are those who create new forms of communication and media and there are those who reiterate what has been done before, in an attempt to mass produce advertising itself. I can’t imagine a client wanting to hear that their budgets are being spent on revisions/iterations to an old idea when their paying for ideas that are new and unique. Never underestimate the power of peripheral vision and contrastingly, peripheral visual noise filters. People will ignore the uninteresting. Especially when we’ve seen the same thing over and over again. Changing a color or typeface isn’t a reinvention. We cannot paint a new portrait if the brand is continually wearing the same outfit.

10 years ago, someone on the agency-side might have mentioned using Craigslist as a means to promote something. I wonder what that knowledge was worth? Such a simple task–yet, the RIO was huge. And for all that it was eventually worth, how long did it take us to convince a client that it was an emerging medium? A tool that exceeded expectations and unfortunately, someone’s personal frame of reference.

Websites and blogs have begun to explore the notion of fluid brands and interchangeable logos that work as containers for the centralized used of a specific campaign, but I’m not really sure that this is a new idea. It’s a strong approach to an old problem but I have concerns. It can also have the reverse effect in that, someone experiencing the communication my not connect with the work at all. It’s become to abstract.

As software and web-based applications, desktop applications and programs that automatically do things for us are being packaged as DYI marketing kits, remember that it’s only providing you results based on what has already been done before. And it can only produce results based on what it has been programmed to understand as a viable result.

Your tree will be slightly taller or shorter and perhaps a little more green, but it still blends in far to much to be noticed. And I can’t imagine a client allocating their budget towards a simple trimming and topping.




Roy Wagner

Excerpt from: Too Definite for Words

… The distinction here is not a trivial one, because all words, and all symbols, insofar as they are points of reference, can be considered “namings”. It is clear that both modes of viewing symbols, as coding and as analogy, have a certain potential, and that the construction of an explanatory microcosm called “structure” realizes only part of the potential…

( using something, to make something else still leaves the result, open to individuals respective interpretation )

… Dealing with primitive elements that are themselves configurations, our problem is very much the opposite of the semioticist or structuralist, who seeks to determine the manifold systematics by which elemental units are combine so as to construct complexity. Appropriate transformation (“how to paint”), rather than accurate reconstruction (or deconstruction) is my goal…

( using a concept to create a concept, everything in essence, is contrived from something else. )

… Such a generic need not be a determinant, or a picture, or a structure, of “culture,” but rather what we could call an image of our own “interpretation,” and hence of meaning.

( despite one’s best effort, some will not see what a majority of people–may see )

A single metaphor, regardless of its scope, invariably presents the enigma of what Freud called “condensation”–a richness of potentially elicited analogies, all at once, that makes the “reading” of the expression, or the fixing of its intent, a matter of the interpreter’s own selection.

… using the pattern or tendency of other associated tropes as guides in the interpolative interpretation of a particular example.

( the surveyor is comparing and contrasting the experience of the art or ‘object’ and constructing a perception based in their previous perceptions of something they consider related )


Source: “is a term used in the history of architecture, design, and archaeology. It refers to a derivative object which retains ornamental design cues to structure that was necessary in the original. Skeuomorphs may be deliberately employed to make the new look comfortably old and familiar.”

A deliberately placed ornament, function or otherwise–superficial element added to something to help the surveyor or prospect relate. Look in the old–to find something new.