Conversations, Design, Pattern Languages, Rheomode and the Emergence of Creativity

Carlos E. Perez
Intuition Machine
Published in
4 min readAug 16, 2023


Generated by Midjourney — Prompt is Title

Creativity, conversation and design intersect in their shared iterative, purposeful nature aimed at valued re-structations:

All three (creativity, conversation and design) involve cycles of opening possibilities through divergent re-levating then narrowing through convergent re-evaluating and selecting. In a design team’s conversation, divergent possibilities are opened through brainstorming many unexpected directions (creativity).

All three are focused on goals and effective action, not just abstraction. All three produce emergent outcomes, rather than pre-defined solutions. Potentialities arise through the process. Goals themselves may be re-levated. Their new problem framing leads to innovative solutions (creativity). These possibilities are then critically evaluated to select the most viable ideas (design).

When an artist has a flash of inspiration for a new creative direction, they discuss it with others to explore how to develop it (conversation). Their conversations spark further creative insights. During a critique, designers creatively reframe problems in the design based on feedback (conversation).

All three adapt based on feedback and context, requiring systems re-vidating. Mis-steps trigger re-orientation. All three involve reflective sensemaking to integrate new perspectives. Insights emerge through re-levating in action.

By conversing about goals and constraints, a product design team aligns on creative approaches that address user needs within system limits (design). A collaborative team designs a flexible platform allowing users to have diverse conversations (design).

The platform enables future creative adaptations based on emergent user needs (creativity). A writer creatively develops a metaphor to capture a new perspective on an issue (creativity). By sharing this metaphor, it initiates dialogues that build on the new viewpoint (conversation).

A photographer finds a new way of seeing mundane objects from unexpected angles (creativity). By sharing these novel perspectives, they spark conversational evaluations about meaning and value. A scientist creatively theorizes a new model explaining experimental findings (creativity).

All three are fundamentally conversational, both inwardly and with others. Dialogue propels the process.

All three create novelty by re-framing familiar issues in new combinations to see afresh. All three construct novel syntheses that introduce valuable change to a context. By presenting their theory, they invite critique to refine the model through scientific conversation (design).

A writer creatively develops fictional stories depicting diverse characters (creativity). The stories enable readers to converse about new perspectives and values (conversation). An improv troupe conversantly builds on each other’s ideas to unfold a scene (conversation). All three are shaped by values and social dynamics that bound possibilities.

The interplay between creativity, conversation and design creates an ecology where they build on each other in cycles: Conversations foster shared framing required for creative insights. Creative ideas initiate exploratory conversations to unfold them. Design conversations integrate creativity to solve problems. Creative design solutions enable future conversations and meanings.

In summary, creativity, conversation and design exhibit resonant iterative processes focused on novel and purposeful re-structations. Their interplay forms an innovation ecology where they mutually catalyze one another. This open-ended collaboration leads to imaginative new directions (creativity). In summary, the recurring interplay between creativity, conversation and design propagates novel insights, meanings and possibilities in a collaborative, evolutionary ecology.

Christopher Alexander’s pattern languages can be introduced in a creative, conversational design process in several key ways:

— As a framework for design conversations — Alexander viewed design itself as a conversational process. Pattern languages provide a shared vocabulary and structure for designers to have generative discussions about design situations and solutions.

— To spur creative re-framing — Studying and applying pattern languages encourages designers to re-see design challenges from different perspectives. Patterns act as leverage points for reframing problems creatively.

— To scaffold exploration — The patterns provide designers a launchpad to divergently imagine many possible directions. Conversations can leverage patterns to open creative possibilities.

— To evaluate and select options — Discussing which patterns fit a context and synthesizing them into coherent wholes involves convergent thinking. Conversations evaluate applicability.

— As a source of tested practices — Patterns encode design expertise and best practices to inform creative solutions. Designers can build on this platform of collective intelligence. — To align on design intent — Discussing the patterns chosen clarifies the rationale behind design choices. Conversations build shared understanding of goals.

— To allow flexible implementation — The patterns articulate intents but allow room for creative variations in execution. Improvisation and customization are still possible.

— To enable participatory processes — Applying patterns is often highly participatory and conversational with end users. More ideas and values are integrated.

— To support incremental evolution — Patterns allow systems to be designed, critiqued and refined in an iterative, piece-wise way over time as new needs and ideas arise.

In summary, Alexander’s pattern languages mesh well with creative, conversational design approaches by providing a scaffolding for generative discussions and exploration while encoding design expertise. The patterns come alive and evolve through participatory and critically reflective design conversations.

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