SavageThis past March at South by Southwest I had the opportunity to hear Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) deliver a keynote entitled “The Maker Age: Enlightened Views on Science and Art”. In this talk he presented art and science not as the opposites we often consider them to be, but as the twin engines that are pushing mankind forward as a species. We often like to think of those in traditionally “artistic” careers as being more creative than the bookish scientists or engineers, but that’s simply not true. There’s no such thing as a creative person. Every one of us, regardless of profession, utilizes creativity to solve problems on a day to day basis.

There’s no such thing as a creative person.

Of particular interest to me was the parallels Savage drew between the scientific method and the creative process. Turns out when you think about it they’re really quite similar approaches to problem solving and answering questions. Let’s take a look at the scientific method and see what we can take and apply to our creative process as graphic designers.

The scientific method

  1. Ask a Question
  2. Gather Information Through Observation
  3. Form a Hypothesis
  4. Test The Hypothesis
  5. Analyze The Data
  6. Publish The Results

THE CREATIVE PROCESS

  1. You’re Presented with a Problem
  2. Gather Information (Research)
  3. Form a Strategy
  4. Creative Ideation
  5. Testing (Internal/External Critique)
  6. The Final Solution and Application

As you can see above these two processes are far more similar than one would have thought. Like the scientific method, the creative process starts with a question that’s in need of an answer. From there information is gathered through research and observation. Next a hypothesis or strategy is formed and an experiment is designed and tested. In the creative process this is repeated until the desired result is nailed down, honed to the most precise solution to the problem presented.  In the scientific method the experiment is repeated utilizing appropriate scientific controls to ensure the results are reproducible and therefore a scientific fact.

DRAWING Conclusions

A few take aways that I feel designers and other “creative professionals” can gain from thinking more like scientists.

  • Question everything. We learn by asking questions, so don’t be afraid to question everything, especially your own work.
  • Eliminate personal opinions and biases. Science is all about facts, irrefutable proof. By focusing solely on the question at hand (and the target audience) you’re going to produce better, more appropriate work.
  • Test test test. Show your work. Before it’s presented to the client show it to your colleagues, friends, and spouses. Testing your solution in this way will help you refine your design solutions in ways you may not have thought of yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board. When the feedback does come back negative don’t hesitate to start over again, or at least revise your work incorporating the feedback into a new improved solution.
  • Process FTW. Creativity isn’t the result of divine inspiration or psychedelic mushrooms or banging your head against the wall. It’s a product of a repeatable process. Done right, that’s your product: the method in which you do things every day that generates successful results.

If you’d you’re interested in hearing a little more on this topic Adam Savage’s entire SXSW Keynote video is available to view on YouTube.