Art [School] & the Craft of Creative Problem Solving

Social isolation kills creativity completely, contrary to the popular belief that solitude fosters it. I seem to have hit a huge, invisible wall which has prevented me from working on my portfolio and pursuing other creative endeavours. It gave me the time, however, to reflect on what I had learned during a year-long stint in art college. And this seems as good a time as any to share some of those lessons.

  1. Discipline is essential for creativity

I always thought that creativity emerged in fits-and-starts. I believed that eureka moments were the key to any kind of break through. Attending art school taught me otherwise.

Having a structured day really boosts your ability to work, because of the predictability it offers. You don’t have to think about the more minor aspects of your day and can focus on solving creative briefs. You also begin to devote a specific period of time to a given problem, which can help you avoid overthinking things or being unnecessarily self-indulgent.

2. College VS University |The Skills Gap:

A university educations builds an individual’s critical thinking skills by taking a holistic approach to learning. The common refrain from university administrators and professors is that university is intended to create “well-rounded”, “thoughtful” and “productive” citizens. This approach, however, prevents students from gaining skills they can easily apply in the workplace.

Colleges, on the other hand, bridge this gap by introducing them to real-world challenges (like designing a poster) which can be solved using tangible skills like photo and video editing, wire-framing and refining sketches. These skills are easy to explain to a prospective employer ( rather than vague “critical thinking skills”) and definitely eases a student’s transition into the professional world.

3. The “process” is key:

Process, process, process. This word is non-negotiable for creatives across the spectrum.

Developing a clear and consistent process for your creative endeavours allows you to solve problems using a method that is unique to you. It also enables you to to assess the problem clearly and conceptualize viable solutions quickly. Having a concrete process will also make it easier to articulate your thoughts to prospective clients because it allows you to develop a well-thought out strategy before hitting the drawing board.

4. Common themes across different creative fields and how we can benefit from this:

As regular readers of this blog will know, I focus on writing copy and creating content while experimenting with art and design in my spare time. I decided to review my own creative processes and discovered that there were three important similarities between the two fields.

Both writing and design require a reasonable amount of preliminary research which enables the writer/ designer to understand the problem. Neither one can create a feasible solution without this foundational step.

Secondly, both activities require a certain degree of experimentation – writers move words around and create multiple drafts while designers create a range of mock-ups and style-frames before they deliver the final product.

Finally, both types of creatives must refine their creations a few times and rely heavily on the feedback of an editor, instructor or client. As Don Norman points out in his lectures on Design Thinking, iteration is a crucial part of creative problem-solving. It should be consciously inculcated into your creative process because the first idea that pops into our minds is usually the most cliched one.

Photo by Sonali Gill