Why creative people sometimes make no sense

Matthew Schuler has been browsing Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention—the result of over 30 years of research into creative people by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.—and has distilled many of the creative quirks cited into a short, but uncannily accurate post.

Matthew quotes nine apparent contradictions that creative people apparently exhibit; I must say that I identify with all of them—to a greater or lesser degree.

As I have been carrying out a UI/UX review of our product—which I designed a few years ago—I find #8 particularly apt at present.

Most creative people are very passionate about their work, but remain extremely objective about it as well. They are able to admit when something they have made is not very good.

Throughout my career—from my humble beginnings in print, pottery and sculpture, through graphics and print, right up to the applications that I currently design—I find that, from many hundreds (possibly thousands) of things that I have created, there are only a few that I am still really proud of.

Indeed, I find that I am, at best, luke-warm about the vast majority of the work that I do only a few months afterwards.

This is less true now than when I first started working in print design, back in 1997. In those days, I was creating posters for the student theatre: budget constraints meant that full colour work was simply not available. As such, I learned to leverage the power duotones and tritones. And, of course, I could really go to town with metallics, fluorescent and other specialist inks.

The world has moved on since then: printers are now set up to produce full colour work incredibly cheaply—and now it is all of those interesting spot inks that I can now longer afford to dabble with. And, of course, real metallics simply don’t exist on the web.

Some of my pieces, however, transcend the limitations of their production methods: and some of these I have loved for many years.

The best tribute that anyone ever paid me was that they had come to see an adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s Mr Punch1 purely because he “loved the poster”.

Which leads me to draw your attention to #6 on Matthew Schuler’s list:

Most creative people are genuinely humble and display a strong sense of pride at the same time.


1It was through Mr Punch that I discovered the art of Dave McKean: the poster style was influenced heavily by McKean’s work, and he remains my favourite artist of all time.