Creativity takes many forms. Any human endeavour to produce something that didn’t previously exist, is a form of creativity. You may think that creativity in two dimensions is limited to original arts like drawing or painting, however, design that serves a commercial purpose is also creative.
Many designers are labelled ‘creative’ their whole lives by family and friends. As a branch of the creative arts, graphic design and by extension, graphic designers are creative people. Creating within parameters – of varying stringency – can be extremely rewarding. Like a visual artist who creates a series of monotone works, limitations can in fact enhance and focus elements of design.
Designing with parameters: form follows function
When working with limitations, design is no longer simply creative or decorative, but rather, forms a solution. A well-engineered bridge is a creative masterpiece. Something we find both useful and aesthetically pleasing. The interplay of creativity and functionality is more evident in industrial and civic design works than in graphic design, which for the most part deal with surface design. That is not to say it is lacking in graphic design. A shape that is not ‘read’ as part of a main communication may not simply be decorative, but rather a device to direct your eye to the order a piece should be read. Or to create visual balance to that your eye is not distracted from what is to be read.
The shorthand for this is ‘form follows function’, which is a mantra that influenced generations of modernist architects and designers. The statement was instigated by the Bauhaus founder, Walter Gropius. The object shape is intrinsically linked to the object function. This is a truth at a basic level, a knife looks like a knife, as it is used to cut. Once you expand this thought to more complex objects, it is less clear cut. If people responded to this theory alone, houses would be almost completely utilitarian. A blanket would just be a plain piece of cloth. Instead, minimalism is a design aesthetic choice, as is any number of stylistic choices – Victorian, Art Deco, Mid-Century Modern, Scandi, the list is extensive, if not endless.
Evolution of craft industry to commercialism
Historically crafts have informed design. Before the industrial revolution a blanket would be either knitted, woven, or sewn from old clothing. Each item created would be unique to its maker, and sometimes, like in case of tartan – unique to a family group. Various regional communities developed their own popular techniques and designs, which over time become traditional.
Craft and commercialism were linked even before the industrial revolution, when craft guilds provided professional services like embroidery or weaving, guaranteed to a high standard.
Craft from a hobby to an influencer
The act of crafting by traditional methods can be an enjoyable activity for creativity and self-expression. Craft combines the act of design and manufacture, resulting in a unique product. The aesthetic of a finished craft project can also be used in large scale manufacturing, for example – a mass produced quilt which mimics the design of a traditional quilt. This brings the finished craft aesthetic into the commercial realm.
The influence of craft on commercialism is not always so immediate. Craft may also influence design indirectly, or with more subtlety. A styled photograph featuring hand-crafted quilts might be used in product photography to associate a furniture brand with a crafted, bespoke, hand-made aesthetic. This same craft aesthetic may have influenced the design of the upholstery. Or perhaps a brand of tea wants customers to associate their tea with warm, cosy living rooms, so their advertising photography features this same hand-crafted style.
Crafts, creativity and commercialism become quite circular once a particular design aesthetic becomes established as a recognised style. To paraphrase The Devil Wears Prada, fashion starts from the top, designers and craftspeople, and disseminates through life to become a style.