Creativity Debate

“The Creators’ Patterns” by Howard Gardner


Is it even possible to conduct a study on creativity with large enough scope to generate an organized framework around it? The “inherently interdisciplinary” nature of creativity as described by Gardner makes it seems daunting task.

Argument against:

“Clearly there is a bias toward individuals who have been revolutionary rather than evolutionary” – It is very difficult to conclude that such bias exist, because the judgment of “evolution/revolution” itself is very subjective. The example that Gardner gave of this through music of Bach may support his line of reasoning, but would it necessarily work with other domains. We are also disregarding the nature of artistic domain, in which judgments of works are more subjective than other domains. Beyond the evolutionary/revolutionary debate, Gardner seems to contradict his very own previous statement, in which he admits that his study was limited. How can he make this conclusion, when he himself admits his study was limited in sampling?

“Faustian Bargain” – The conclusion that “creators are willing, so to speak, to sell their souls in order that their creative juices can continue to flow”, seems too dramatic and again reflects Gardner’s limited sampling. The examples he cites certainly illustrates that the creators made self-sacrifices or behaved in eccentric ways for their creative works. However, this conclusion does not account for much serendipitous creativities that has come past. Would Gardner characterize Sir Alexander Fleming to have “sold his soul” to accidentally discover penicillin? How about George Crum’s invention of potato chips when he was frustrated by a customer and attempted to play a practical joke?

“Environments for Creativity – A Lab for Making Things” by Ellen Yi-Luen Do and Mark D Gross

Argument against:

The conclusion that creativity can be cultivated seems too “conclusive”. Results from exercises and workshop lessons, may yield the results that can suggest improvement or creation of creativity within individuals. However, would the experience gained in such activity be generalized well enough for said individuals to tackle all kinds of activity beyond those practiced in an instructed environment? It seems to ignore the question that individuals with similar instruction or training produces vast differences in resulting works.

“Engineers tend be more goal-oriented and stay within their field of expertise and treat ambiguity as something to be eliminated.” – This statement seems very naïve perspective upon engineering field in general. It is universally true that engineers rely heavily upon precision and accurate interpretation of the design space. However, it is quite unfair to conclude that engineers want to “eliminate” ambiguity. Engineers certainly recognize the need for ambiguity, especially in process of designing a solution to overcome their design problems. This is very evident in software domain, in which companies pride itself to challenge recruits with creative design problems and riddles.

“Design Protocol Data and Novel Design Decisions” by Omer Atkin and Chengtah Lin


Is there a practical limit on the amount of information collected during the design exercise? How would the information correlate to the exact “eureka” moment? Would bandwidth for such information be “infinite”?

Would there be any difference if the design process was performed in a “virtual world”? Will the environmental effect change the parameter for design decisions and its work flow?

How would changes in the experimental subject affect the study’s conclusion? How would a non-professional designer (unlike the Xerox folks in the paper) perform in such study? Would they also show similar patterns in design decisions?


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