Creativity Grows Up

Part of a series on celebrating and optimising creativity

Photo by Mink Mingle

I was recently invited to speak at Experience Haus: A Conversation, a conference about design. This post is the first in a series exploring some of the ideas I presented that day.

As a user experience designer and design educator, I have a special interest in creativity and its relationship to contemporary technology and design practice.

Growing up, I always found myself surrounded by highly creative people. Some of it was luck and circumstance, but much of it was due to identifying art and design as a window to explore the world around me.

Before moving into user experience design as the dot-com boom cooled, I studied graphic design at Parsons The New School and architecture at The Cooper Union in New York City. Even before my uni days, I was an art and science nerd in high school, deep in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York. I can safely estimate that I was one of only a handful of girls who took both Art II and Advanced Placement Computer Science back in 1994.

Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, from what I can remember, being an artist or designer wasn’t celebrated as a responsible career choice. As a 16-year-old, my passion for studio art was real, but its fundamental value was unclear.

It’s been a few years since I was a teenager, and design and technology have changed dramatically in that time. The shift from STEM to STEAM has brought opportunities that I couldn’t have imagined as a little girl. I’m happy to say that in the past five to ten years, I’ve seen a dramatic shift in how the public views and values creativity. As the discussion and debate on the value of creativity continue, I hope we don’t lose sight of the spirit and power of creative thinking and mindset.

These days, I regularly spot articles in the mainstream media celebrating and debating creativity’s emergence as a powerful force. Here are a few:

Underscoring this shift in thinking, research by The World Economic Forum forecasts that creativity will sit safely within the 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Creativity sat in the 10 spot in 2015, but it’s projected to move to number three by 2020, just below complex problem solving and critical thinking.

In part, we can be grateful to the new technologies emerging around us. In their report New Vision for Education — Unlocking the Potential of Technology, The World Economic Forum offers some interesting trends data. In the 1960s, the average U.S. workers’ time was split between manual, routine cognitive, and non-routine interpersonal and analytical tasks. As we move forward, manual and routine cognitive tasks will be handled by automation, leaving non-routine analytical and interpersonal tasks to humans.

If we do it right, we’ll have more time to be creative, and optimised creativity will become even more valuable.

For creative spirits, the future is bright.


A special thanks goes to Carlota Iglesias who helped me whip my talk into shape.