Creativity and Aesthetics

Design artefacts that are creative are often characterized as novel and useful, but there is less discussion of the aesthetic qualities of creative designs.

The topic arose because I presented Deiter Rams’ 10 principles of good design to students on the MICL. Rams was chief of design at Braun, the German consumer products company, from the 1960s to 1995. Rams designed a startlingly diverse range of products, from razors to hi-fi and shelving systems. His work was based on 10 principles of good design available at URL.

The third principle is that good design is aesthetic.

Student discussion about this principle was heated. Most had a view. Of course good design is aesthetic. But how, and why? Rams argued that the aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products used every day have an effect on people and their well-being. Effects such as how users feel or behave. Think about the pleasure you get from using your favourite designed products.

So design artefacts that are creative also need good aesthetic.

The question is when to design for aesthetic? Is it possible to design for it and novelty at the same time? I suspect not – the answer is to explore how to move from design for novelty to aesthetic. More on this to follow.

The Citroen DS



Questions, not answers?

After our first full day lecture of the Psychology of Creativity and Innovation (part of the Masters in Innovation, Creativity and Leadership) I went home frustrated. I had arrived that morning thinking that it would be a day filled with answers about how to make people more creative. But at the end of the day I had more questions than I started with.

Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot over the 3 days of lectures. I gained a whole new understanding and appreciation for the people side of innovation, something which I fear often gets overlooked when organisations set out to innovate.

On the other hand, every new bit of understanding, every a-ha moment, raised more questions. Bit by bit it dawned on me that this was exactly what it should be doing. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone recently got quoted saying: “The day we decide we’ve figured it all out and that we know everything is the day we’ve closed the door to a lot of wonderful opportunities.” (Business Insider Blog) To open doors it’s good to have more questions than answers. Isn’t it?


Author: Kristine Pitts

Creativity and innovation and the physical environment

We are almost half way through our Leading Creative Design module and are working in groups to explore a very real problem for the university, namely student usage (or non-usage) of non-teaching space for study and socialising.  It’s an interesting task.  Using  the principles of Design Thinking, we have started to generate some novel and useful ideas.

For me, the whole task has led me to think much more deeply about the impact of the physical environment on the creativity of individuals and groups.  We all have our favourite spaces for thinking and doing.  Sometimes we find it useful to be alone with our thoughts and technology for quiet contemplation.  At other times, we need spaces where we can vocalise our thoughts and explore ideas through social interaction.  To coin an old phrase from a BT advert (which will show my age!) ‘it’s good to talk’.  However, it seems that so much of our communication is done purely through technology these days.  I imagine that there are people out there that go for days without talking to anyone!

This leads me to think about the way society seems to be going in relation to social media.  Friends and colleagues will know that for some time, I have been questioning whether the propensity of our young people to ‘live’ on their mobile devices and social networking sites, is creating a timebomb in terms of social skills.  In recent months, I have become increasingly aware of a general lack of eye-contact as I have been walking around in public.  As part of our Creative Writing module, we looked at creating alternative worlds and creating spoof websites for them.  It struck me that a site offering courses in eye contact and how to start conversations, walking tours of major cities looking upwards at the buildings, plus links to physiotherapists for help with neck pain from constantly looking down, might strike a chord.  The site could be advertised on pavements rather than on traditional billboards because customers would never see them!

Where am I leading with this?  I suppose I question the effectiveness of subsituting face-to-face interaction with technology for  creativity and innovation.  I believe in group interaction, in person, at least for part of the process.  I recall a doctor saying once that he couldn’t imagine carrying out online consultations as body language and tone of voice were so important in diagnosing a problem.  I agree with this.  During our recent Psychology of Creativity module, we explored emotional intelligence and observed verbal and physical behaviour in human interaction.  Sometimes, people don’t need to say anything to convey a message.  A smirk or frown can say so much.  You just don’t get this with email, texting and tweeting.  How many times have you typed an email and the recipient has read it in a different tone of voice from the one in which you wrote it, with tricky consequences?

A recent commentary in Innovation Management magazine seems to sum up my point of view

With so many people working from home and setting up home-based businesses, we are in danger of isolating ourselves from the rest of society.  What are we missing out on? 

Coming back to our Leading Creative Design task, I would like to facilitate an environment that fosters human interaction, creativity and innovation.  Let’s make Facebook physical!

We’ve come a long way in 5 months!

It’s my birthday and I’m celebrating by starting to blog on the Centre for Creativity website, as one of the first students to study the MICL.

Our induction day on 17th September last year seems a very long time ago.  As strangers, we were thrown together in teams to explore the locality.  Our brief was to capture (as photos or in physical format) anything that was relevant to us in terms of innovation, creativity and leadership.

Nearly five months later, we are back in those teams working on a case study exercise as part of our Leading Creative Design module.  We’ve learnt a lot about ourselves and each other through our Creative Writing exercises, sharing our innermost secrets, our desires and our largely undiscovered talents.  We’ve explored our personalities and leadership styles, facilitated workshops and explored real-life problems during our Creative Problem Solving and Leadership module.  We’ve examined behaviours and personality traits in the workplace with the Psychology of Creativity module.

We’ve covered a lot of ground in a short space of time and for me, the course material is all starting to knit together.  As a group, we are also starting to gel.  Certainly in the group I’m working in at present, we’ve managed to create an open and supportive climate.  It’s starting to prove really helpful in  getting things done.  Climate is so important…