Technique, Technology and Creativity
For designers there are a variety of processes by which creative concepts are realized, one might attribute impulse, some intellect, others craft and experience. Even constraints are conducive to creativity, for where constraints present obstacles creativity is required to navigate them.
The typographer, when setting about creating his glyphs acknowledges the rules set before him by the paradigmatic system that is the alphabet. However, he knows that it is the careful obscuring of those rules that results a unique and creative typeface or composition. The rules must be challenged and manipulated until no element of the typographic form is arbitrary to its purpose of communication or application.
Graphic designers are notorious for their love of pedantically applied rules; grids, geometry, re-occurring patterns and equally spaced increments. It is within their professional nature to approach graphic problems in an almost scientific manor. It is in this nature that the relationship between creativity, technique and technology becomes increasingly apparent. Often graphic designers look to the rules of their discipline to provide rationale in the absence of a creative concept. Many graphic designers seek to establish an internal logic in their work, one that is coherent with certain accepted ways within the industry. However, it is problematic when a set of rules generic to the graphic arts overrides the principle purpose of communication.
For example see the ill-received new GAP logo. The process resulting in this design appears to have been purely cathartic. It has a creative value equal to that of knitting. It employs a pleasing technique that satisfies certain design rules but ceases to be engaging because it relies too heavily on a pre-defined internal logic. It strikes me that this mode of thinking is incredibly outdated.
I’m reminded of antiquated art forms such as ancient Greek sculpture and its dedication to rules. Ancient Greek concepts of art were rooted entirely in technique and technology, involving little freedom of action or impulse. Like the Okinawan Karate kata, the more tightly the martial artist executes the choreographed pattern, charging the movements with intent, the greater the artist. But the emphasis on technique for the designer is shifting due to technology. Today’s creative cannot validate his ability based on craft as he once did. If one’s creativity is rooted in the craft of a specific medium then his creativity is subject to the validity of that medium. With digital technology steadily ironing out any hierarchy embedded by years of a technique driven graphic design industry, I believe designers must invest more than ever in conceptual and strategic thinking to bring value to their work. It’s important that designers cease to chase the medium of the moment and attempt to generate inspirational ideas, ideas that are greater than any one medium or technique and are no longer dictated by the tools at hand.