Words and Images by DLS Pineda
Creativity is one of those things that are usually left unchecked. It can’t be gauged by some scale or device, and no job interview, no matter how lengthy or rigorous it may be, can adequately test it. Likewise, teaching it through some academic program presents its own problems (e.g. How exactly do you teach creativity? Moreover, how do you learn creativity? Best of all, isn’t it paradoxical to have an academic stencil for creativity?).
The measure of creativity is an age-old question that’s bred no conclusive answer. Oftentimes, it’s led to only one end: it’s either you’re creative or not—there’s no such thing as semi-creative. To try to be creative is always a risk, it can’t merely be an attempt. To be creative is to create; you can’t eat a half-baked cake.
Creativity is a highly nuanced human facility or capacity that can barely be measured quantitatively. But once exhibited, its quality can hardly be placed in words.
That’s probably why in Aristotle’s era, it was categorized as “magic.” It was some sort of divine intervention, a mystic spirit, or an elusive muse that may come often or may never come at all.
It is precisely this grey area that Joe Adam Fry tried to tread through in his short talk entitled “Understanding Digital Creative Work” at the Top Shelf in Fully Booked, Bonifacio High Street last June 12, 2013. Joe Adam Fry is a PhD graduate in creative process management with specializations in Creative Process, Digital Creative Strategy, Qualitative Research Methodology and Insight. Although his talk was a little condensed, Dr. Fry was able to get his message across (which was practically his PhD dissertation in a nutshell).
His postulates on creativity were in no way black and white, but they offered new ways-in in approaching the dilemma. Dr. Fry’s approach to creativity involves paradoxes and exercises on stretching the drawing board. His idea of creating involves certain introspection, such that advertising becomes an art of self-discovery—a very humanizing deed.
Dr. Fry’s first postulate is that creativity is limitless. But it only grows when you set limits.
Oftentimes, advertising is seen as a purely corporate, even mechanical, task. Dr. Fry jokes about this aspect of advertising and describes the business as something that involves “selling one’s soul” to the corporate machine. The blame is usually pinned on the accounts aspect of advertising. Or, to be more specific, public enemy no. 1 has only one name—the creative brief.
But what the creative team, or whoever’s in charge of executing the ads, often overlooks is that the creative brief is actually there to help. Better yet, the creative brief is the team’s opportunity to be creative. Without the creative brief, the team runs around like headless chickens.
Imagine a blank sheet of paper where you are tasked to simply sell something. It would be tough to come up with one that really encapsulates the essence of what you’re selling. That’s where the creative brief comes in. It sets the margins to your blank sheet; gives you the crayons you’re only supposed to draw with; and gives you the set of words you’re only supposed to write with. The creative brief, Dr. Fry reiterates, challenges to your creativity. The creative brief is not there to hamper creativity, but it gives you the box wherein you need to think outside of.
Besides, how can you think outside the box when there’s no box to begin with?
This is where he comes to his second point: You can always take inspiration from something. Creativity comes once you add “you” to the equation because creativity is a human and a humanizing function. Only humans can be creative, not your pen, paper, your cat or your dog.
Therefore, when you think about it, Dr. Fry says, creativity actually starts not when you sit down to write or draw, but it’s the whole history of you. In Dr. Fry’s own model, he showed how little of our creative selves we use up whenever a typical member of the creatives team encounters a creative brief. Dr. Fry taught his audience how and why creativity is a lifelong process.
This process carries on to the idea of creativity and technology coming hand in hand. Technology, he says, has always been a product of creativity and innovative thinking. Conversely, creativity is also a product of the technology of the time. Ads made in certain eras cannot be re-made with the exact same medium or meaning as they did during their time.
If we follow Dr. Fry’s logic, it turns into a hopeful note: creativity can’t really be isolated or insulated from the signs of the times. It is a social function and at the same time, a personal one. There can’t be creativity just for creativity’s sake.
While all these still can’t adequately measure or define creativity, the only thing that’s been proven time and time again is that creativity, by its nature, is always a matter of asking more and more questions. That in trying to answer what creativity is, you can only be creative.
Words and Images by DLS Pineda