What’s Your Creative Style?

When you think of someone being creative what do you think of? Do you think of someone dressed in overalls with paintbrush in hand? Do you think of a group of friends writing songs together? Do you think of an inventor constantly adapting something to improve it? A few years ago the RSA’s Royal Designers* did some research on creativity and they found something surprising. They asked a wide range of people of different ages with different backgrounds and different jobs about their creative process. What they found was that most people seem to fall into one of three creative styles. The researchers gave each of these creative styles a name, they called them Artist, Artisan and Philosopher.

The Artist

If you are an Artist you are creative by jumping from one thing to something very different. One day you are writing a story about a music concert, the next day a story with romance and the next day a story with unexpected drama. You bring ideas from one thing into the next. Learning from one area and using it in another.

One example is the structural engineer Chris Wise who has designed all kinds of different buildings from iconic bridges to Olympic cycling venues to bronze sculptures. He likes jumping from one thing he is interested in to something completely different.

The Artisan

If you are an Artisan you are creative by constantly improving something. An example would be James Dyson when he developed the Dyson vacuum cleaner. He started with a cardboard model and then changed one thing and then another and then another. In total it took 5,127 prototypes before he was satisfied with his vacuum cleaner.

Another example would be the painter Paul CĂ©zanne who liked to paint the same subjects over and over again. He did many portraits of his wife or landscapes paintings of the same view slightly changing things each time until he was happy with it.

The Philosopher

If you are a Philosopher you are creative by thinking about something until you have a complete answer. You might think about it from different people’s viewpoints or based on different criteria until it is fully formed in your mind.

An example would be the physicist Albert Einstein who did thought-experiments (“Gedanken”). He would imagine what the consequences would be if something went faster and faster until it was travelling at the speed of light. His thought-experiments led to his Theory of Relativity and his Nobel-Prize winning work on the Photoelectric Effect.

Finally..

So what’s your creative style? Are you an Artist, an Artisan or a Philosopher? Do you like jumping around trying different things? Do you like refining something until it’s just right? Or do you like pondering a problem until you have the perfect solution?

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*specifically theatrical designer Tim O’Brien RDI, civil engineer and lecturer Ed McCann and academic and engineer Chris Wise.

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