Creativity is Not About Ease of Use

Technology can trap us into a false sense of inspiration and belief that we are being creative. Does Twitter inspire people or create a legion of lemmings all following the “rockstar” (a label I detest as it imposes a belief that some ideas – and subsequently people – are of greater importance than others) simply because they’ve published a book or spoke at a conference.

Do we listen to the quality of the ideas being shared any more? Ask yourself how often you’ve blindly followed the ideas of anyone within any industry – design or otherwise – because of their success online.

I recently watched “It Might Get Loud” a documentary with three of the most creative and influential guitar players in rock history, including: Jack White (White Stripes), Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), and The Edge (U2). At the start of the movie Jack White stated:

Technology is a big destroyer of emotion and truth. it doesn’t do anything for creativity. Sure it can get you home sooner but it doesn’t make you a more creative person…that’s the disease that you have to fight in any creative field…ease of use.

And that is the distinction that I believe needs to be made clear – getting from complex to simple is rooted in creativity. We design to make things easy for others to use and interact with. Getting to ease of use should not be about focusing on specific processes or technology – nor should it be easy.

When was the last time you found inspiration following step-by-step instructions? The inspiration to create is not derived from replication. Creativity is born when we intentionally engage in new experiences and ideas that contradict our own long held beliefs.

It’s emotionally draining. It’s frustrating. But to see order in chaos we need to acknowledge the beauty and potential in being creative. The Edge qualifies this ideal, succinctly:

When you go past a managed forest you see a mass of tree trunks. Then at a certain point when you look again you see they’re all in perfect rows. Clarity. Clarity of vision. What you’ve been looking at from the wrong angle and not seeing at all. You labor. You sweat to see what you couldn’t have seen from that other perspective.