PART 2: YOUR PASSION FOR DESIGN: Do You Have To Be Passionate To Be Creative?
Where Does Your Passion Come From?
It was always just a whispered aside. Something quiet. A glance in one direction, then back so no one would notice. A comment. And the only comment ever said out loud. But hushed. Always and only in that hushed voice. A voice conveying alarm. Embarrassment. Bravery. Humiliation. Horror. Survival. History. Culture.
“She has a number tattooed on her arm. Did you see it?”
And I had. It was difficult to hide. Everyone spoke with so many gestures and drama, whatever the subject, and the sleeves pulled up on their arms.
And not another word was said about it. It — the situation. The larger situation. I never knew their specific experiences. Nor their views. Nor their feelings. Nor their understandings.
They never shared their terror. Or spoke about their anxiety. Or explained what they thought had happened, or how they had managed to survive.
I could not see anything in their faces. Or their eyes. There was nothing different about their skin. Their height. Their weight. The way they walked. Or talked.
There were those in the room who escaped to America during or immediately after the war. There were those in the room who had escaped similar horrors, but many decades earlier, fleeing Poland and Russia and the Middle East. There were their children. And there were their children’s children, I being one of them.
And while I was only 4 or 5 or 6 years old, I remember the collective feeling — even 60 years later — of the hushed voice and the tattooed numbers. I was never privy to any person’s history. I never heard about anyone’s experience. It was inappropriate to talk about it. But that one memory conveyed it all. The full story. I wrote the full story in my mind. And attached all the full emotions.
Passion Starts With Curiosity
It is the little things that come up every so often that imbues a curiosity in you. That makes you want to make sense of the world. Find understanding. Make sense of things where you do not know all the details. Or where things are headed. But you fill in the blanks anyway. And keep asking questions. To clarify. To intensify. To soften. To connect with other stories your curiosity has led you to.
Passion starts with curiosity. But not just curiosity. Passion is sparked by curiosity, but goes further. It creates this emotional energy within you to make meaning out of ambiguity. For passion to continually grow and develop, such derived meaning must be understood within a particular context, and all the people, actually or virtually present, who concurrently interact with that context, and your place in it.
Passion involves insights. Passion is about finding connections. Connections to insights and meanings. Connections to things which are pleasing to you. Connections to things which are contradictory. Connections to thinbgs which are unfamiliar or ambiguous. Connections to others around you. And finding them again. And reconnecting with them again. And again and again.
Passion requires reflection. It demands an awareness of why you make certain choices rather than others. Why particular designs draw your attention, and others do not. Why you are attracted to certain people (or activities), and others not.
Passion affects how you look at things and people. It is dynamic. It is communicative. It affects all your interactions.
Passion is not innate. You are not born with it. It is not set at birth waiting to be discovered. It is something to find and cultivate.
The elemental roots of my passion were present at a very early age. I was very curious. I tried to impose a sensibility on things. While I wanted people around me to like me, that wasn’t really a part of my motivation. I wanted people to understand me as a thinking human being. And I was always that way.
In some respects, this situation when I was around 5 years old has been an example of the root of my passion. My jewelry designs resonate with that hushed, quiet voice. That voice conveys my intent through the subtle choices I make about color and proportion and arrangement and materials and techniques. I usually start each design activity by anticipating how others will come to understand what I hope to achieve. How they might recognize the intent in my designs. How my intent might coordinate with their desires.
My jewelry designs tell stories. They tell my stories. They tell my stories so that other people might connect with them. And understand my passion for design.
Are Passion and Creativity the Same Thing?
As designers, we bring our creative assets to every situation. But we must not confuse these with the passion within us. Passion and creativity are not the same thing. We do not need passion to be creative. Nor do we need passion to be motivated to create something.
Passion is the love of design. Creating is making an object or structuring a project.
Passion is the love of jewelry. Creating is making a necklace.
Passion is the love of color. Creating is using a color scheme within a project.
Passion is the love of fashion. Creating is making a dress.
After college, I had some great jobs. Lots of creativity. Not much passion.
I was a college administrator for a year. I was hired to organize the student orientation program. As new students arrived at the university in the fall, I created social activities, like dances and mixers and discussions. I arranged for greet and meets in each of the dorms. I worked with each club to generate their first meetings and some of the marketing materials. I set up religious orientations and services for Jewish, Christian and Islamic students. I set up orientations for women’s affinity groups, black groups, latino groups, and many others. I wrote, photographed and published an orientation handbook and a new faces book. I even planned the food services menus for the first week. I did a lot. I loved it. It was very creative.
But not my passion.
I also had an opportunity to become the Assistant Editor of the American Anthropologist for a year. The regular Assistant wanted to go on a sabbatical. The Editor knew me and asked if I wanted to do her job for a year. I edited and saw to the publication of 2 ½ issues. I worked with anthropologists all over the world in helping them translate their work into publishable articles. I loved this job too. I did a lot. It was very creative.
But not my passion.
I decided to pursue a degree in City and Regional Planning. I was getting an inkling that I liked things associated with the word “design.” I liked the idea of designing cities and neighborhoods and community developments. I was intrigued with transportation systems and building systems and urban development.
I was about to enter graduate training in City Planning, which meant moving from where I lived, but a family crisis came up. Physical planning — buildings, cities, roads, neighborhoods — had captured my interest. But I resigned myself, in order to accommodate family needs, to attend a graduate program close to home which emphasized social and health planning, instead.
I got a job as a city health planner, and worked for a private revitalization agency. I assisted in getting government approval for a rehabilitation center. I developed a local maternal-child health system. I organized a health fair. I loved this job. I did a lot. It was very creative.
But not my passion.
As I have come to believe over many careers and many years, the better designer needs both passion and creativity. They reinforce each other. They accentuate. When both are appropriately harnessed, the joys and stresses of passion fuel creativity, innovation and design. Passion inspires. It is insightful. It motivates. Creativity translates that emotional imaging and feeling into a design. Creativity is opportunistic. It transforms things. It generates ideas. It translates inspirations into aspirations into finished projects.
The design process usually takes place over an extended period of time. There can be several humps and bumps. Passion gets us through this. It is that energizing, emotional, motivating resource for creative work. Passion is that strong desire and pressing need to get something done. Passion helps us, almost forces us, in fact, to build our professional identities around that activity we call design.
Passion reveals an insatiability for self discovery and self development. But this sense of self is always contingent upon the acceptance of others. Sounds a lot like the design process and working with clients. You don’t need to be passionate to do design and do it well. You need passion to do design better and more coherently. You need passion to have more impact on yourself and others.
While it is not necessary to have found your passion in order to be a good and successful designer, developing your passion for design can be very beneficial and worth the effort. With passion comes greater satisfaction, self-affirmation, creativity and motivation. With passion comes a greater ability to gain acceptance from clients about what your designs mean and can do for them. People are not born with passions. They find them, often in a round-about, circuitous way over a period of time. Once found, they need to be developed, cultivated and managed. And you don’t want to get overwhelmed by your passions to the detriment of balance in your personal and work lives.
PART 1: Is It Necessary To Have A Passion?
PART 2: Do You Have To Be Passionate To Be Creative?
PART 3: How Does Being Passionate Make You A Better Designer?
Chen, Robert. “The Real Meaning of Passion,” Embrace Possibility, March, 2015.
As referenced: https://www.embracepossibility.com/blog/real-meaning-passion/
Financial Mechanic. “Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ Is Bad Advice,” Published: 05 July
2019 — Updated: 23 February 2020
As referenced: https://www.getrichslowly.org/follow-your-passion-is-bad-advice/#:~:text=They%20found%20that%20people%20who,interest%20if%20it%20becomes%20difficult.
Fisher, Christian. “How To Define Your Passion In Life,” Chron (Houston
As referenced: https://work.chron.com/define-passion-life-10132.html
Hill, Maria. “Are Passion and Creativity The Same Thing?” Sensitive Evolution,
As referenced: https://sensitiveevolution.com/passion-and-creativity/
Hudson, Paul. “10 Things That Truly Passionate People Do Differently,” Elite Daily,
April 9, 2014.
As referenced: https://www.elitedaily.com/money/entrepreneurship/10-things-that-truly-passionate-people-do-differently
Jachimowicz, Jon M. “3 Reasons It’s So Hard To ‘Follow Your Pasion’”, Harvard
Business Review, October 15, 2019
As referenced: https://hbr.org/2019/10/3-reasons-its-so-hard-to-follow-your-passion
Koloc, Nathanial. “Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ Is Pretty Bad Advice,” Hot Jobs On
As referenced: https://www.themuse.com/advice/why-follow-your-passion-is-pretty-bad-advice
Millburn, Joshua Fields. “’Follow Your Passion’ Is Crappy Advice,” The
As referenced: https://www.theminimalists.com/cal/
Pringle, Zorana Ivcevic. “Creativity Runs On Passion,” Psychology Today, 10/2019.
As referenced: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creativity-the-art-and-science/201910/creativity-runs-passion
Robbins, Kyle. “15 Things Truly Passionate People Do Differently,” Lifehack, 2018.
As referenced: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/15-things-truly-passionate-people-differently.html
Thompson, Braden. “What Is Passion and What It Means To Have Passion,”
As referenced: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/what-means-have-passion.html
Unger, Roberto Mangabeira. Passion: An Essay On Personality. NY: The Free
Book downloadable: http://www.robertounger.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/passion-an-essay-on-personality.pdf
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Other related articles of interest by Warren Feld:
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