AE1d : Creativity…

Creativity is something I think a lot of people think of as a bit of a holy grail in Art and Design (A&D) terms.

‘Originals’, innovators, the artist who did it first… these are the milestones on the road of art history, the individuals who open up genres and sub genres by creating something ‘new’. The type of artists that other burgeoning artists aspire to become.

So if it is so desirable surely we as A&D teachers should be rewarding (or at least able to reward) creativity in our students where it is demonstrated.

The problem seems to be that the product of a creative process is not always a ‘good’ product. I might take a ‘fresh’ approach to making an egg sandwich, I might crack the egg on the grill. Creative? Perhaps. Good egg sandwich. No.

So if I submit my sandwich I’m pretty much guaranteed a fail if the submission (the product) is the only element of the exersise that receives a mark. Lets say that another way… if the assessment is all summative then the process is omitted from the criteria. If I am to get credit for my ‘crazy’ egg cooking approach then there needs to be some formative assessment or at least the process I have undertaken needs to be reviewed and graded / factored into the grade / feedback too. (There’s a good explanation of this here : )

This is what Lars Lindstrom is talking about in his Creativity paper. Looking at PRODUCT without taking into account PROCESS is insufficient to assess creativity.

So if we have the means built into courses to assess the process (over time)(as well as the product) then what are we looking for? Lars suggests  :

  1. Investigation
  2. Inventiveness
  3. Emulation of models
  4. Capacity for self assessment

I guess if I were to boil it off in my mind I’d say this…

Creativity is an approach where the artist does not just follow an established path / series of steps but instead / additionally steps out off the beaten track, adopts a fresh perspective or approach and experiments with the technical and theoretical concerns of their (and / or other) disciplines. Although this cannot be ‘taught’ per say in a traditional sense it can be stimulated through discourse and encouraged self assessment and reflection.

I’ll be awarding marks for the most creative comment on the this blog so y’all better get busy…




6 thoughts on “AE1d : Creativity…

  1. Im enjoying this concise summary – although the wry tone suggests that perhaps you’re not 100% behind this – or perhaps that’s just your wry tone ; )

    One point i think you draw attention to which is key to assessing creativty is the idea of assessment over time – this requires a consistency of teachers in order for there to be a drawn out exchange and dialogue – this requires budgets to pay for increased contact time and more permanent members of staff perhaps. The other point you mention is that creativity “cannot be ‘taught’ per say in a traditional sense it can be stimulated through discourse and encouraged self assessment and reflection” – I agree that in can’t in the traditional sense, however what if there was a module or cluster of modules – a week or 2 weeks at the start of term, each year simply called ” Creativity..(or something more catchy) where students might be asked to cast aside their preconceptions about certain eras or genres or mediums and try playing with something new, working in a new way – why should this be left at foundation – it should be consistent throughout their time learning…
    Im kind of making this up as I go along, but it is also something I have been thinking and reading about abstractly for a while and will continue to do so…

    thanks for writing your piece – to make me think more about this …


    1. U R right that I found Lars a bit dense for my personal taste, but as I got to grips with it I began to appreciate his methodical approach as being necessary to present his findings in the forums of academia.. so I guess I warmed to him, it was a bit laboured / dry at points though.

      Still I was working hard to condense it to something easier to engage with.

      I like the idea of ‘creative’ workshops as an aside / adjunct / stand alone to standard curriculuum for courses. Attendance / assessement/ administration / curriculuum integration / budgets would all be issues if the courses were non voluntary but I whole heartedly agree with the sentiment that sponsoring creative thinking outside of courses is a laudable goal.


  2. I agree its a combination of process and product, if we assess both parts of their development and have learning outcomes that reflect our desire to assess both parts then no student should feel unhappy about being extremely experimental ( which we like to encourage ) but not always coming to a successful conclusion with the final product. I explain to all my second years that its important for them to push beyond their limits with every project and to learn acustomise themselves to risk failing in the pursuit of inspirational and original work
    we also need to have some scope for how we interpret the learning outcomes, allowing for some left of centre answers where appropriate.
    Surely getting creative with the brief in the first place, can help the students step out from their comfort zone, and react differently to a problem.


    1. I’m definitely pro creativity / encouraging creativity in Art and Design, and having assessment means to do this is important.


      One thing that this months task has brought into focus for me is that in a lot of cases / on most courses actually we should be providing students with some ‘professional’ level skills that are not creative as much as they are technical. These may form the building blocks of creative thinking / practice further down the line but ultiamtely they are vocational and of ‘use’ in industry because they are accepted / established to be of value in a studio / production environment. If I am employing a seamstress I want them to be able to sew to an excellent level, I’m not so plused if they can sew creatively.

      Obviously it would be best to turn out students with a balance of these skills but we shouldn’t overly focus on the creative.


  3. Your blog has got me thinking… how do we identify true creativity? By creating something that has never been done before does that mean you’re being truly creative? Or does creativity always have to have a focus or intention, especially when you’re being taught a certain subject?

    With the egg sandwich, the main purpose of a sandwich is to taste good and to give you energy. If you create an end product that is new and inventive but it results in a bad egg sandwich, is this the purpose? By choosing to change something that is fundamental in the result of it tasting good is surely it’s down fall.

    However if your focus is on set achievements, learning outcomes if you like, in this case tasty and filling, then surely the end result could fulfill it’s purpose but still be creative. The creativity could come from adding more ingredients, experimenting with flavour, colour, presentation etc. instead.

    The intention of creativity is not for the end result to be negative, you wouldn’t set out with the intention of making a bad egg sandwich.
    However without the experimentation, the process, we would continue to eat the same egg sandwiches forever! So the experimentation is vital in the creative process.

    All this talk of egg sandwiches and I’m a bad cook!
    That leads onto another point though if I was given the tools to be a better cook then surely I would have more skills to develop my understanding and in return my creativity.


  4. Developing skills is an interesting part of this discussion. Being taught the correct way to do something may give the mindset that ‘that’s the way it’s done, I’ll continue to do it that way’. Whereas using intuition when picking up an unfamiliar tool actually gives you the starting point of experimentation (whether you like it or not).I think this concept is a bit of a two sided coin and there would be equally convincing arguments on both sides though.

    Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity as ‘the process of having original ideas that have value’. This is a tricky one because a lot of the work that we see by the students may be (as with the egg example) demonstrating a creative approach but with maybe a dissapointing result and not necessarily furthering the world of egg sandwiches. There is however value in failure and reflecting on this can inform the next step to an original idea with value (though this is getting a little towards a definition of experimentation). So often when marking I see great value in failed attempts and a student may achieve a good mark with regards to creativity even if the end product by it’s own nature hasn’t bettered what is already out there.


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