Design schools have built up an expectation that they can equip students to tackle complex problems through the power of creativity alone. They can’t. They don’t. And they continue to fool themselves with four big myths about creativity.
Myth 1: Creativity and design are inseparable. Here, we have led ourselves down a garden path of consensus where many of us believe that because designers are designers they are creative. But design is not creativity manifested, and creativity is not the exclusive to the design mind. One can be creative without having any design skills or sensibility, and there are many skilled designers who utterly lack in creativity.
Myth 2: Analytical people are generally not creative people. Here, in subscribing to the popular oversimplification of human complexity that there are right-brain thinkers and left-brain thinkers, we assume that those of us who lean towards analysis, process, logic and science are – admit it – a little uninspired. As anyone who understands what goes into big and small leaps of science knows, this is rubbish. The analytic and the creative can, and often do, live side by side in the same brain.
Myth 3: is that, when it comes to design, creativity must be unbound from the laws, structures and processes of the day-to-day world. Bound up in the long-standing mythology of the artist as a visionary or hero who must be free to do what he – and he alone – does best, this can sometimes be little more than an excuse for the fact that the artist or visionary lacks the ability to apply his creativity beyond his own imagination. Nowhere is this more prevalent than at the intersection of business and design where many young creative people prove themselves incapable or unwilling to grasp (and design for) the realities of what a company does and how it operates.
Myth 4: is that which surrounds the recent and very popular theme of ‘design for social change’. While the output of many such projects is little more than a poster and a campaign, not an actual solution, most of us would agree that such work starts with the best of intentions. Here, as in the third myth, the challenge is that designers are generally not educationally or experientially equipped to identify the social or cultural genesis of a problem and are typically blind-sided by the economics of an issue. The result is that many develop ideas (not really solutions) that are irrelevant, unsustainable and, in some cases, lead to further problems. Enter the big difference between design and design thinking. Today, the number of students graduating from school who are equipped with design thinking skills is still alarmingly low.
This article appears in MISC Winter 2014, The Balance Issue