Why Do We Lose Our Creativity As We Grow Up (And How We Can Prevent It)?

During a presentation held by a highly enthusiastic Dan Spain at my nearest meet-up, he talked about a 2006 survey held by Sir Ken Robinson. In the survey, 1,600 children were tested to see how many of them were ‘highly creative’ (or more specifically, how many could think in “divergent or non-linear ways”) at various stages of their life.

Frighteningly, he discovered that despite 98% of them being highly creative aged 5, that dropped to just 2% by the time those same children were 25.

(AUTHORS NOTE: I’ve since been corrected that it was in fact George land who did the survey, not Ken Robinson. Thanks a lot, Google!)

As I left that night, I asked myself why we drastically lose our creativity as we get older. What I came up with were a variety of factors and a variety of ways we, as grown ups, can get around it.

We’re Not Looking After Our Bodies As Well As We Should.

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We privileged westerners often end up living unhealthy lifestyles, which can include too few vegetables in our stomachs, and too many un-earnt pints at the local pub. And, there’s plenty of evidence to prove that having an unhealthy body can lead to having an unhealthy mind.

Furthermore, graphic designers can spend long, long hours sat in front of the computer, staring at bright screens with square eyes, and eating way more carbohydrates than one can burn.

This is why looking after your body is important. You don’t have to be a health-fanatic by any means, but little things like keeping an eye on what you eat, exercising, quitting bad habits, and only treating oneself in moderation, can make a big difference. Keeping your body and mind healthy will allow you to hold onto its creative juices the longer you live.

We Have a Dumb Idea of What Makes Someone ‘Smart’.

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Whilst I’m probably more respectful for our education system than most of my friends are, mainly because I’m just glad it’s compulsory, I do think it can do with some patching up.

Partially to blame on society, it tends to be overly dependant on revision and memory, when rationality and innovation are greatly underrated aspects to ones intelligence. One of my ongoing clients explains this astonishingly in one of his articles (and if having a grizzly-bear alter-ego isn’t a creative outlet, I don’t know what is).

Slowly but surely, our society needs to change the way we classify ‘intelligence’, and see that there’s more than one way someone can be smart. It’s not all about remembering the facts, it’s also about experimentation, discovery, defensive skills, and determination.

Computers Have Made It Too Easy to Find Answers.

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One of the biggest faults of the Digital Age is that, quite literally, we can Google any question for almost any answer. Problem-solving is a vital part of divergent thinking, so the fact that we live in an a time where programs solve the problems for us means we’re not exercising our brains for finding the answers ourselves. Some professions require problem-solving skills as standard, but that’s a rarity.

It might sound like a no-brainer, but if your job doesn’t require those skills as much as others do, brain-teasers and puzzles are a good way of entertainingly training your head (Sudoku is a favourite of mine). Or, rock-climbing and orienteering can challenge your brain whilst giving you a breath of fresh air.

Whatever it is you’re doing, make sure you exercise your mind to avoid taking everything at point blanc.

We’ve Put Our Lust for Money Before Our True Passions.

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If you ask me, society has wildly over-glamorised money. From what I see, most high-paying jobs are extraordinarily stressful, and people in these positions barely have the time or energy to enjoy the things they buy. Furthermore, it’s not helped when those in higher positions disregard creative roles as ‘proper careers’.

So for one thing, let’s realise that the creative industry is perhaps more valuable than one may have first thought. To put it bluntly, it’s worth £71billion in the U.K., and $698billion (approx. £453billion) in the U.S.A.

Secondly, perhaps we should start measuring wealth by how much life one has lived. You really don’t need to buy 1,000 things you’ll never use! If you have a creative job you genuinely enjoy, so long as you can earn enough to survive, you’re better off using the rest of your energy living the short life you have with your friends and family.

After all, if I can survive with just Nokia 130 and without the latest iPhone, I think you can too.

We’re Scared of Trying (and Understanding) Anything New.

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I have come to discover that even the most open-minded people, despite good intentions, can struggle to look at creations which aren’t ‘standard’, and realise that it might have been beneficial to break an unwritten rule to two.

A fantastic example of this is ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. Extraordinary and unconventional, it originally received mixed reviews, and a comment from Elton John saying “you’ll never get that on the radio”. 40 years on, it’s one of the greatest pop-songs of all time, as well as one of the most played ones on British radio.

This might be challenging, but if you see/hear a piece you don’t like, don’t just give it a thumbs down. Take a moment to question why other people enjoy things you don’t like, and not only will it allow you to see understand from a different point of view, but it might even turn that thumbs down upside-down.

My Work Experience at ‘Elvet Woollen Mill’

Last week, I gave you a round-up of what it was like to complete my work experience at ‘Bay Studios’ in Swansea. Well, now that that’s ended, I’ve moved straight onto another round of work experience, this time travelling in the opposite direction.

What It’s Like

About half-an-hours bus ride from my home town, hidden behind some fields and forest in the middle of nowhere (otherwise known as Cynwyl Elfed) is ‘Elvet Woollen Mill’. It’s actually quite surprising to find this mill secluded amongst the trees and hedges. The owners, Alison Thomas and Mike Tolputt, told me that most of the villagers don’t even realise the mill is there, especially since it’s an old building at the end of a narrow lane which most probably wouldn’t realise is still manufacturing. Once, they even had some strangers turn up mistaking the place for a village museum!

Despite this, my time working there has been a pleasant time. Much like with my previous experience, I got to get a closer look at the manufacturing side of the business.

How It Works

There are a dozen or so machines which I need to remember how to use, of which rely on a system of transforming individual threads of wool to elaborate fabrics. After that, some of the giant rolls of fabric are taken to the finishers to make the fabrics soft and comfortable to use, whilst others are ready to use immediately.

Once they’ve returned, it’s a case of cutting the fabrics up and, if need be, sewing them into a variety of different woollen products. From coats to cushions, and from tapestries to teacosies, just about anything woollen can be made at this Mill. Oh, and we have to attach labels and package all of these products by hand too.

How’s This Related to Design?

I suppose what’s fascinated me most with this work experience is seeing how similar some of the criteria are in both creative industries. Many of the things which need to be considered when manufacturing woollen products also need to be considered when creating graphic products.

For example, I was shown how by adding a single colour to one of their patterns, the whole look of the fabric seems to completely change appeal. The same can be said in graphic design, as to how a single colour can make an entire brand feel different and give it a new appeal.

Furthermore, when looking at both fabrics from a distance, the colours merged together into a new, seemingly solid colour. This reminded me a lot of spot colour printing, a process commonly used in magazines where the four key colours, cyan, magneta, yellow and black, are printed with thousends of tiny dots. Once looked at from a distance, those dots blur together to create the illusion of a solid colour and shading.

There was even the fact that when these fabrics were sent to the finishers to be softened, the colours of the fabrics changed slightly upon return. The same can be said for graphic design, as colours generally darken when being transferred from digital to print (which is why a good designer will always test their designs in print as well as digitally), and change colour yet again when the printed material is finished in some way (e.g. glossing )

Summary

Once again, I suppose what you can learn from this is that just because your skills lie in one career, that doesn’t mean those skills can’t be adapted for something else. So long as you’re able to recognise the simularities of both industries, you can, with training, convert those skills to change from one industry to the next.

And I get to expand my skills further,this time around, because my work experience here is far from over!