Friday, May 27, 2011

I'm glad I picked this topic for my thesis...

...because it is just so interesting! Am actually a little excited at the moment, so let me back track and explain why.

First up, my sister Jessica is an incredibly creative person herself. She's a talented author and musician (her debut novel is out very soon, along with accompanying soundtrack!), and I'm sure she could tell you all about the hard work being creative actually entails!

Anyway, a few hours ago she mentioned me and my research journal on her blog - mentioning in particular my question as to why design hasn't been explored as a way of looking at the creative process in the same way art has.

So far, there have been some really interesting comments left by her followers. I'd like to share one in particular left by Stephen Parrish... and thank him for taking the time to share his thoughts!

Hi. I don't really understand the distinction between art and design, or at least the need for a distinction. Both are obviously creative, neither less than the other. I don't think the typical person sees a fashion designer as anything less than very creative.

My background is cartography, and most people don't think of mapmakers as graphic designers. After all, you have no control over the shape of the continents, or the layout of a city. Yet cartographers must make a myriad choices as they work, in every aspect of graphic design: balance, contrast, figure-ground, etc. My advisor and mentor went so far as to use the word "euphoria" to describe what he felt when he designed maps.

I can well understand how a fashion designer would feel the same, when all elements come together, and the project just clicks. Funny, I also draw and paint as a hobby (i.e., traditional "art"), and although the creative process is satisfying, as is nailing down something I'm depicting realistically, I never feel anything like "euphoria" when I work---as I did when making maps. Design not only deserves equal footing with other creative endeavors, there's something about it that sets it apart, and if I had to venture a guess, I'd say it's because the designer is always restricted in some way (the clothes have to fit the model, the continent has to look like Africa). That very restriction is what releases a powerful creative drive and results in, well, euphoria.

The idea of restriction benefiting the creative process has intrigued me ever since I took on this topic. A few posts back I related the idea of inspiration to constraint, a concept that has featured in a couple of the articles I've written as well.

I would say that designers (fashion designers or cartographers) have to be creative in their approach to a design problem so that functional or innovative solutions can be generated. Without that restriction, the possibilities are endless and I doubt any designer would know where to begin.

Having said that, art can have a function too... to provoke, for example, or to make a political statement. Perhaps art is considered more 'creative' because of its seemingly emotional, intuitive nature? But... if restriction is the guiding point, maybe the restriction in art is that a work is directed by a particular emotion, or a desire to make comment on a particular issue. Then again, fashion designs can be spawned from exceptionally emotional origins, and also make the wearer experience emotion in how the clothes make them feel.

Anyway, it has been a long day and I'm probably going to start talking in circles if I don't stop here. Thanks again to my lovely sister and all of the comments left by her followers!


  1. This is just wonderful! I'm passing it on to Stephen :o)

  2. well said, allison...

    to my mind, design is part of art, and art of design... especially evident when you look at cartoons: first you have character design, then the layout of the characters on the background design, and in relation to one another in the frame, so that the eye follows the tale, in proper order, as it is told using font design [for balloon speech], which has to be both legible and part of what leads to the punchline...

    one must be multi-talented to bring it all together...

    if possible, have a look at walt kelly's 'pogo' strip, to see how he combined it all; he's dead, but his work lives on....