4 Myths About Creativity (from a designer’s point of view)

Shannel Wheeler
5 min readJan 16, 2018

As a graphic designer, I sometimes wonder if others view the subject of creativity in the same way I do. What does it mean to be creative? How do we express our creativity, individually? What assumptions do people make about “creative people”? While thinking on these things, I thought of a few myths that I believe need to be debunked:

Myth #1: You can call upon creativity at any time

As the resident “creative person”, you’re held to high expectations. If you’ve come up with stellar ideas in the past and have been known to execute unique solutions, then people will continue to look to you for creative inspiration. Being creative should be easy, fast and effortless, right? Wrong.

Contrary to popular belief, being creative is not always effortless. Sometimes ideas can flow at the speed of a raging river and at other times, they’re as idle as a puddle of muddy water. It’s not always possible to brainstorm “on demand” in a meeting, come up with same-day results for a new concept or even execute something profound on the first try. It just doesn’t work that way. Creativity requires brain power, time, planning, energy, silence, noise, seeing, hearing, smelling, doing and random or intentional inspiration to activate. It’s ability to show up (or not), varies within each individual and scenario.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.”
Dr. Seuss

Myth #2: Creative people are creative at everything

There are, in fact, many people who are a creative “jack of all trades”. However, let’s not assume that this is always the case. You’re a great designer, so surely you must be an illustrator and photographer as well (and an excellent one, at that). If you can play an instrument, then surely you can sing too. You wrote some excellent product marketing copy last week, so you must also be qualified to write movie scripts, song lyrics and radio spots.

Sounds a little silly, right? These scenarios are definitely possible, but let’s not assume that excelling in one skill area equates to reigning supreme in another. All creatives aren’t created equal—at least not when it comes to the skills that they may possess (or desire to pursue).

Myth #3: Creativity isn’t strategic

Creativity can be a very fluid and organic process that brings life to an idea. But it’s not just about making things look or sound “pretty” and “nice”—it can also be strategic.

It’s easy to minimize or oversimplify the creative process down to just thinking and doing, but in reality, there’s much more to it.

When it comes to design, it’s not just the aesthetics, but the organization, messaging, flow, interpretation, and timing that go into creative thinking. Planning and process create a structure for creativity to flow efficiently and, ultimately, lead to a path that creates a visual solution.

For a graphic designer, the creative process could include:

Discovery: uncovering the problem at hand, understanding requirements and clarifying the target audience and message

Research/brainstorming: finding the information and inspiration needed to activate ideas, organizing high-level thoughts through words, sketches/wireframes, discussions, etc.

Concepting: producing design concepts in the intended format that the design should be displayed

Review and refine: an iterative cycle of getting feedback from stakeholders, correcting errors and applying the necessary changes that will get the design closer to the desired end

Finalize and produce: make the files print and/or web-ready — then send, print or upload files for final use or production

This example of the design process illustrates how creativity paired with process can lead to effective business strategy.

Myth #4: Only artistic people are creative

The dictionary defines Creativity as:

“the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination”

I say that creativity is simply problem-solving.

A lot of people think that they aren’t creative for many reasons: they don’t know how to draw, they don’t have formal training, their brain doesn’t function that way, they just weren’t born with it—the list goes on and on.

If you’ve ever solved a problem, then you’ve exercised a form of creativity. Like the time you made a decent dinner for five with only four ingredients from the pantry. Or the time you cleverly stitched a patch on your jeans, or how you found a way to spruce up your resume to make it stand out in the crowd.

We all have the means to create; therefore we all have the ability to be creative. The way that we express our creativity shows up in many different forms, some more colorful and refined than others.

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Truthfully, creativity cannot be confined to one singular definition, nor is its inception always lucid. Sometimes you know exactly where an idea came from and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the evolution of our creativity is very succinct or precise, while at other times, we barely recognize how we got there.

“I believe the creative process has three components: intuition, intellect and technique. You don’t know why you love doing this, why he loves doing that. It’s our instinct — that’s our intuition. Then later on, you begin to understand intellectually why you’re drawn to it. And at the end, technique is time served. You’re good at what you do because you put the time in.”

— James Mtume, Grammy Award-winning R&B musician, songwriter and radio personality

Check out more of my random creative thoughts and designs musings! If you don’t want to just take my word for it—discover funny, thoughtful, and critical design insights from a diverse group of awesome designers here >>> http://bit.ly/2DL91VQ

Shannel Wheeler

Creative professional, designer, author, instructor. Creating with purpose. Teaching and inspiring by design. Start learning design: https://bit.ly/3jy2E2X