Dead Wings Dialogues – Is There Creativity in Design?


So Angie recently turned me on to a site where the post author brought up a highly contestable point of view, but then did not allow comments so that the idea could be discussed among the readers of his opinionated post.

That left me with the overwhelming urge to call ‘Bullshit!’ for two reasons. One was the very idea that was presented, and the other was the fact, that the author would not allow people to leave their two cents and challenge this idea.

Perhaps, because they felt the tone would be largely antagonistic and they would have to further defend their point, which would prove, in my opinion, very hard to do.

Or perhaps, it is just a common practice for the site, in which case, why not take the discussion to a social media platform and link to it there.


Either way you slice it, the pieces this pie come out uneven, and that is a shame, because there is a rich discussion that could be had, perhaps a largely one sided one (and since that one side is the opposite one posed by the original author, I can understand their hesitation at allowing comments).

In this post the author contends that design is not creative. Say, huh? They were not discussing whether or not design is art, which has a very balanced argument taking place across the cybersea, no. They were saying that creativity plays no part in design. I will say it again for dramatic effect, that creativity plays no part in design. (is the effect less dramatic if I announce that is the purpose behind the repetition? anyway…)

“Without aesthetic, design is either the humdrum repetition of familiar cliches or a wild scramble for novelty. Without the aesthetic, the computer is but a mindless speed machine, producing effects without substance. Form without relevant content, or content without meaningful form.” ~Paul Rand

To say that I took offense to this position would not be much of an understatement. I cannot believe that someone in the design field, an unarguably creative field in my mind, would have the short sightedness to make such a vacuous claim. Sure you could posit that design having rules would limit the designer’s creativity, but to say that there is no creativity at work at all is a bit insulting, once again, in my opinion to all of the creative minds crafting beautiful and brilliantly inspired designs. Despite the rules that the author claims destroys the possibility for creativity to coexist in the design forum.


But you see, I say that the rules of design only make a designer have to be more creative and draw on that imaginative mindset more to make sure they can fit their ideas in a transferable means into that ruled structure. The rules of design are just a framework, much like a painter’s canvas’ edges. All the creative work must just fit within these boundaries, but that does not remove the creative aspect altogether, just because there are edges that must contain their creative expressions. I cannot understand how one can exist in this dynamic and expansive field and not see the creativity that exists throughout it. That kind of limited view diminishes the overly creative contributions that have helped grow and shape the design field all across its vast spectrum. And I say that if you are ‘designing’ without creativity, which arguably some uninspired people may be, you are not truly designing, and you sure as hell, are no designer.

Here Endeth The Rant

So that is my overly ranty take on the topic, but I, unlike some other authors who are unprepared to further defend and discuss their take and ideas on this, am leaving the comments wide open for any and all opinions to be shared. So please feel free to offer any dissenting or like minded thoughts you may have below.

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  • Naomi Niles

    I know which author you are referring to, but didn’t get that out of the article. I took it that the point he was trying to make is that creativity and design are two separate things, not one in the same. But, he wasn’t saying that one’s work should be totally devoid of creativity.

    Mainly, what I think he was ranting about in his article is the rampant use of “creativity” that goes outside of the basic rules of design, which also very often makes for poor work.

    So, my take would be this: Creativity without following design rules and following design rules without creativity produce bad work. Creativity while following design rules produces great work.

    • Rob Bowen

      Naomi, Thanks for reading and for replying. I understand that take on what was said, and even after reading the post a second time, I can see where you are coming from. However, my main problem is the overall tone, which is set early on in the post with this statement.

      “Creativity has nothing to do with design.”

      Later as he is wrapping things up, he comes a little closer to saying what I believe now may be his true intention, given the way you presented it. But at this point in the post, given the tone that was set early on I feel like this is more a subtle backstep than another attempt at making his assertion.

      “Finally, if you are one who has always agreed with the statement that design is a “creative profession,” you might want to reevaluate your understanding of the role of creativity in design and the purpose and appropriateness of that label on your profession.”

      Even here, though he still seems to be saying that anyone who would label themselves as a creative professional while being a designer is wrong, and that again, this is not a creative field. Which again, I take issue with. Yes, design has a very technical side to it, but no coin has a single side. And in my opinion, the mere act of engaging in the creation of a design is a creative effort, therefore, calling it a creative profession is completely accurate. No one is saying that just because someone is creative they think they are a designer, but from the tone of the post, I do think that the author feels that way. Which is why they seem so adamant about separating the two.

      I like your take on it better ;p . I also like your wrap up, very true. Thanks again!

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  • Roger Chasteauneuf

    Really interesting article. I often question the idea of true originality in design, but that does not discard creativity. I think design should be a researched based discipline both in content and aesthetic, and to this degree is always influenced, which arguably limits the creativity. Anyway – thanks for a good read. I wrote my thoughts here…

    • Rob Bowen

      Thanks, Roger. I appreciate your perspective, and agree with your assertions here. I have yet to get over and read your post, but will try to get some free time this weekend to do so. ;) Thanks again.

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