» September 2004
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I can't tell.
Among the many things I am spinning around in my head nowadays, is the lament that I have not created anything in some time. This has spawned a line of thought that is not new to me, but never seriously considered.
What is creativity? What is Art? What is Design? Are they indeed, different? When did I become a crotchedy old bastard?
Creativity is defined as the ability to create. It is not, as some may protest, the ability to adorn. Perhaps this is the root of my dissatisfaction with the current state of Graphic Design.
At some point I began to recognize the difference in various other "creative" professions and their "adornment" oriented couterparts. Most people, however, do not. The ability to go down to TJ Max and find a pretty bunch of pillows and shams and throws and fake art, and put them on a wall and arrange your furniture does not make you a designer. It does not make you creative. It makes you a consumer...and perhaps a savvy one at that...but you are not creative. You haven't created anything.
It begs the question...does the ability to pull from the ether a system for putting together these nick-nacks and tchotchkes make you creative? I am beginning to think not. And yet, this is what I do 75% of the time. I invent the system that arranges information that I am given. Does this mean that I am also not creative? Does this mean that I am not a designer, but an adorner?
Without a system that the end-user can recognize, the information is meaningless...and the ultimate goal (I believe) must be to make the message clearer...to make the meaning mean more. In the past I have done this through type, and subtle changes in the typeface, leading, colors, etc. I have focused on the subliminal messages that colors and shapes and negative space communicate. This has relied heavily on the research of others. I approached design as a physicist, basing his work on the accepted theory of his day, and I wondered why my universal field theory didn't always work. Well, there are exceptions that prove the rule. Right?
Wrong. The truth is that there is no Universal Truth to design. You cannot produce a set of rules, and the things that I have heald most dear in my pursuit of perfect design are mostly likely coincidental at best. There is no guarantee that application of these theories will produce attractive or effective design. If anything, it gives me an artificial reason to do something in a certain way, without having to spend too much time considering why I did. If I want to make a rectangle, I make a golden rectangle. If I need a second color, I reach for Red, or Orange, or Blue, depending on the industry. Maybe, contrary to what the traditional wisdom tells us, it really doesn't matter. Maybe it only matters to me, because I can memorize the proportions of a golden rectangle and apply when needed, as opposed to actually putting thought into the proportions of said box.
Perhaps I was wrong all along in my judgement of the unschooled, the disorderly, the unrefines...or even (gasp) people who like Purple.