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 Royal Academy 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 Cézanne 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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Structural Engineering Blogs

If you’re interested in structural engineering, you may have found that it’s not the easiest profession to learn about. There are a few sources – there are some organisations that are trying to raise its profile, there are a few good books and some youtube videos.

I found the most helpful was talking to a family friend who was a structural engineer about what it was like. He had trained as both an architect and engineer, worked for a famous company, and then was lecturing and inspiring others by teaching creativity and good design.

But for those who don’t know any structural engineers, I think personal blogs are a good place to start. I’ve found blogging to be a lot harder than it looks, so these people are obviously very passionate about what they do to have been so persistent in writing about it. I hope they open up another world for you.

The Happy Pontist – I love this blog. HP’s infectious enthusiasm is backed up by an incredible depth of knowledge. Structural engineering is designing how things stand up, which could be for anything, but the particular fun with bridges is that the structure is on display (unlike most buildings for example). Very difficult to pick favourites from amongst the 750+ posts but would recommend this one on one of Robert Maillart’s gem’s in Switzerland, and this piece of one of Calatrava’s bridges that broke the mould.

My Passion for Structural Engineering – Waseem Rana writes this popular blog, which mostly focuses on particular technical challenges with engineering. Probably most useful for if you’re in the first few years of working but it does give a flavour of the maths and science aspects of the job. Particular highlights for me were reading about his passion for what he does, and also some signposts to his other favourite structural blogs. I was inspired by the layout he’s used when I was setting up my own blog.

Civil Engineering Gyan – I enjoyed reading this blog, which is co-authored by Rakshita Nagayach an Indian civil engineer by training, and a prolific blogger (this is just one of hers). She writes on a wide range of topics related to engineering but I particularly enjoyed this post about great engineers. It’s nice to hear a few names outside the British and American ones I’ve heard of elsewhere.

Being Brunel – This blog inspired me to start my own blog but has now been taken down.

Structural Madness – If you’re lucky as an engineer you get to work at the cutting edge of what is possible, I think that is what co-authors Jinal Doshi and Darshan Pala mean by the name of their blog Structural Madness. For example, some people may have considered it madness when the the Burj Khalifa smashed the world record for tallest building by 300m; but it has proven to be a success. This blog, started when they were both in Grad School in the US is the top result when searching for structural engineering blogs. They tackle difficult concepts but use lots of pictures to make this an accessible way to learn about structural engineering.

If you liked this blog post, you might also enjoy my post about good books about structural engineering or go back to the homepage to see other options.

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