What is Creativity
“The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes. If you foolishly ignore beauty, you will soon find yourself without it. Your life will be impoverished. But if you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life.”
Frank Lloyd Wright
In the summer of 2013, Lance my business partner, and I found ourselves in the Environmental Design Director office (pre-architecture department) at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Our business was growing and we were looking for employees. After some discussion about what our firm does, and how we conduct business the director asked us if we could teach the engineers how to design. She explained that their department was responsible for one of their courses and was looking for an instructor. The course has been taught by a handful of people in the past without much success.
The task of the course is to teach freshman engineering students how to sketch, hand draft, learn Revit, (a computer aided design program) and design. They had a problem filling the role with an instructor who could competently teach all of requirements in one course. The crux of this course is teaching engineers creativity while also learning technical computer and hand drafting techniques needed in the professional world.
Since we have been teaching the class has been a roaring success. Students often praise it as their favorite course. One student said this class kept her from dropping out of college. Each semester the buzz and excitement during the first day grows. At the end of each semester we ask guests to sit in on the final presentation, and have them critique the students work. A professor from the Environmental Design Department stood up at the end of the class and told the students he wished they could be in his third year architecture studio.
This book, originally started out like most architecture books with a background about the author and then successive chapters each explaining a particular project. But I couldn’t write that book. I could not provide you with the transformational impact that we had in class by going down that route. The book needed to explain, explore and teach the process behind the designs. Not just show my own designs. It needed to transmit the power of creativity, for you to use and have the skills in your own life. It needed to show how you can turn intangible ideas into concrete reality.
This book is about how to shape the system you operate in. It addresses the designer as well as the outcome. I believe this book will not just be useful for those who design, but for those who are interested in understanding themselves.
WHAT IS CREATIVITY?
Creativity the ability to make new things or think of new ideas. (1) It is part art, part rip off, part imagination, part soul. It is the idea that stands alone, the shadow behind the thought, the spark that creates the idea.
Tina Seelig explains in her talk: The 6 Characteristics of Truly Creative People that creativity is used to solve problems with infinite answers (2). She explains that in grade school we are given problems like: 5+5=?, and are asked to solve them. These problems have one correct answer. The questions get more complicated over time, but there is always only one right answer.
Really creative people look at the world though a different lens. They look at problems from different angles. For example, instead of what is five plus five? They ask what two numbers add up to 10.
? + ? = 10
Here you can see there are infinite answers. 5+5, 3+7, 2+8, 5.5+4.5, 7.3+2.7, 6.24+3.76, -4+15, etc… Creativity leans more on investigating the questions you ask first, before seeking a solution.
Rational thinking is convergent thinking, where creative thinking is divergent. Most people think creativity comes from a guru, a spiritual journey, psychedelic drugs or that you need to be an “artist” of some type. It is thought if you are not in painting, or music creativity isn’t worth the cost of acquiring it.
I am not of this persuasion. I believe creativity comes from an underlying rationality. I believe, like Robert Green, creativity is in the mud, in the dirt, the grime of daily life. It is not outside of you, but through your work that you will find the structure to hang your creativity hat on. It is connected to who you are. (3)
Elon Musk, a very rational thinker, has created three of the most creative companies of our era while being hyper rational: Paypal, SpaceX, and Tesla.
The power of design and creativity is here to stay. Apple, AirBnB, Twitter, and a plethora of new businesses have shown how great design can outperform more established, deeper pocketed firms. In today’s era not only must be able to come up with a great idea, and be able to convey and convince others of its merit, but often you must even produce it yourself. Now, more than ever design matters.
For me, my work is in the field of Architecture. I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Architecture and a second Master’s Degree in Construction Management. I worked for a world renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, and co-founded an Architecture firm, F9 Productions with my business partner Lance Cayko. Most of the examples and thoughts in this book were developed with or by him. Over the years we have forgot who has come up with what, so for your purposes you can attribute the thoughts and ideas in this book to both of us.
To me architecture is more than a roof over my head and fancy buildings in magazines. It is a reflection of society. Art made of stone, steel and glass. It is the culmination of the masses. Every great piece of architecture had both a great architecture and a great client. In my experience the client, and team we are working with is just as important in making the design amazing as I am. Frank Lloyd Wright said “The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.”
In this book architecture serves as physical examples to the creative process. Creativity and ideas can be abstract and sometimes hard to grasp. Buildings are physical manifestations of ideas, and the process behind those ideas. The design process is a way for creative ideas to become concrete reality.
What we do, what we produce, whether it be architecture or accounting, manual labor or service, our results are a mirror into our internal process. This book is about creativity, design and architecture, but it is also as much about you the reader and how to manifest an idea into something physical. It is about how to create your reality though the tools of the design trade. It is a lens through which to view life, one of many, but important none the less.
In this book I hope you see examples that will inspire you, and ideas that will excite you. Design is visual storytelling. It clarifies ideas, and has the ability to cement your voice in the world. It is part art, part science, and part soul. For 15 years I have been creating designs for myself and my clients. Winning competitions, being published, and working for top firms in the world. Now I want to help you create your own designs.
2: Tina Seelig: The 6 Characteristics of Truly Creative People. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://ed.ted.com/on/M4ZoDQqr
3: Green, R. (n.d.). Watch “The key to transforming yourself — Robert Greene at TEDxBrixton” Video at TEDxTalks. Retrieved May 02, 2016, from