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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Stuck for Creative Ideas? Five Ways Structure Can Help

Creativity isn’t always wild, crazy, and free form.

When you hit a creative block or venture off into a new creative area, structure can actually enhance your creative skills, whether it’s an artsy pursuit or part of an everyday role. How can structure help get your creativity going? Structure:

  • Provides models and patterns to serve as inspiration sources. An example is Jan Harness’ frequent use of Haiku – a strict poetry structure with 17 syllables spread across 3 lines. If you can count, you can write Haiku, and its structure makes almost any words sound impressive.

  • Reduces the number of creative variables you have to consider. Fewer options allow you to concentrate greater creative energy on those that remain.

  • Makes it easier to find instruction and input about using the structure itself. Think about the number of Dummies books available for a variety of creative pursuits.

  • Adds depth, since structure itself can help communicate messages. Icons represent this, since certain images and figures suggest far more depth than their visual meaning alone.

  • Can make your work more shareable, since others will already understand the form and be able to build on and adapt it. A 12-bar blues structure is an example since it easily allows other musicians to improvise within it.

Remember this Equation: No Ideas + Structure = Creativity


Julie Gomoll said...

Constraints can also provide a kind of structure that facilitates creativity. In the design world, for example, it's fairly common knowledge that constraints can be very motivating.

Having a client who says "I need this thing designed - just do whatever you want. I know it'll be great" is actually quite intimidating. Too many options can really stifle your creative mojo.

However, hearing "it has to convey this message, using these materials, and must be done for less than $x within this timeframe" really focuses you. You get to discard the ideas that don't meet those goals.

I know as I've been getting LaunchPad Coworking + Cafe built, we've run into 4 big design problems. The easiest one was in regards to the kitchen. Architectural drawings were done, and the city and fire marshall and landlord had approved them. Then demolition started, and we discovered a concrete beam in the ceiling that prevented us for putting plumbing where we had planned. Short story - we had to redesign the entire kitchen and find some really different ways to accommodate our needs. Ultimately, we ended up with a *better* design.

Being forced to re-evaluate, more often than not, results in something better. It forces you to re-examine the very basic assumptions you make. And that's always a good thing.

Mike Brown said...

Julie - Thanks for this great, very literal example, of how structure can lead to different and better ideas!

Re-evaluation definitely gives you the opportunity to look at something in a new way and reconsider the possibilities.