Man Vs Machine: value of the creative mind

Where does it fit in serious economics and national development?

Sometimes the daring messenger takes advantage of his trusting master’s letters and runs away with the girl. But, it is a doomed romance without the master’s hand. 

The commercial and academic worlds have for a long time trivialised art and the creative mind and glorified the scientific and business minds instead, which in fact are but support services to the creative mind.

The creative mind is the alchemist of the ideas world and of the world of making things; having the ability to bring into existence concepts and things that hitherto did not exist.

But, of what use are artistic creativity and the creative mind in a world of commerce, finance and science? One might ask. This, to many artists and designers may seem like a really dumb question; and perhaps one which is easily answered by common sense; but, somebody once said that common sense is really not as common as one might at first suspect. Therefore, as beings who are very much concerned with gaining a clear and unambiguous understanding of all that we do, at times we must take a moment or two to reflect on even the seemingly obvious. 

The creative mind is what makes all the commercial, financial and scientific activity practical, if not simply, possible. It in fact gives them economic relevance. Everything that is and everything that ever was, started (and still starts so to this day) as a small seed which subsequently developed into a great concept in a creative mind. 

This creative mind may flow through an artist/designer or an accomplished scientist as in the case of Leonardo Das Vinci and Albert Einstein who were both accomplished artists and incredible scientists all rolled up in one. One of the world’s greats, Albert Einstein, is said to have remarked that “The greatest scientists are artists as well,”.

All commercial activity which can’t be described as a strictly creative endeavor or service, is simply a supporting service which would otherwise not exist in the absence of the creative mind: Banking, accounting, sales, marketing, retailing, wholesaling, warehousing, shipping, even advertising and so forth all exist ultimately to support the creative mind – the dreaming mind the making mind. 

Without the creative mind, nothing is. It is the birth place of all things that are. We all have equal access to this creative mind. Our natural predisposition as humans is to create, be it sexually, imaginatively or otherwise. A cursory glance around your community will reveal endless evidence of people’s efforts at expressing their creative nature; from little boys in low-income communities making very impressively accurate and ‘functional’ wire models of their favourite cars and little girls plaiting their dolls’ synthetic hair to complex and technologically advanced monstrosities upsetting the delicate balance of nature and threatening our very exhistence. The creative mind is all around us and runs through all of us. Ironically though, not many people have the full presence of mind to take advantage of it or even understand the power of its dreams that often seem like nothing more than just unrealistic, impossible fantasies. Often the more creative or original a concept is, the more outlandish it may seem at first – an impractical idea which can only exist and be tolerated in the imagination of a fertile creative mind – until a scientist brave enough comes along and explores the concept further with the creative or until the creative if he is scientifically competent, explores it further himself.  In any case, it is always the creative idea / concept preceding the science of making the idea a “reality”. Without the creative mind there would simply be very limited new concepts to explore or very few questions for science to answer and human development would trudge along at a very sluggish and uninspiring pace. The commercial world would be a very dull place with very few – if any – tradable uninspiring goods. Economic activity – if any – would be very limited and as a result there would be really no need for Bankers, Accountants, Manufacturers, stockbrokers, marketers, advertisers, printers and so forth – as we know them today. 

Graphic design is an activity of this creative consciousness, although at times it occupies a middle ground, being both intimately creative and a supporting service at the same time. 

The creative mind is the great enabler of positive human development; and yes, negative development as well; but, let us stay positive, lest we become discouraged from extending ourselves. 

The creative mind is often myopically associated only with the non-commercial aspects of fine arts and crafts as well as the playful, fun seeking, leisure and entertainment or recreational aspects of activities such as music, dance, drama, doodling and so forth (all of which have an often misunderstood deeper functionality). Consequently it is often viewed as not being as serious as, for example, the accounting and financial or other business minds which are more easily associated with economic activity, national growth and prosperity. Not surprisingly, it is often the non creatives who hold and are the leading proponents of this rather unfair if not misguided view of the creative and creativity in general. Because of the nature of their education and work, non creatives have, to a large degree, lost touch with their creative nature and therefore seem to have some difficulty grasping its value beyond leisure and entertainment etc. 

It is however true that the creative mind is inherently playful and perhaps a little childlike too – although not in a derogatory sense or any intellectually deficient sense. Most people do not understand the need for the creative mind to retain its original childlike inquisitiveness and playfulness. Albeit at a much more advanced level, in the adult world, playfulness and childlike inquisitiveness are traits which are ideal for general exploration and experimentation with new ideas and discoveries which lead to general progressive human and social development. The creative mind is a tirelessly exploring and inventive mind. It should not be surprising that creativity is synonymous with inventiveness; the history of our world records early “key” inventors, the great minds that helped develop the world into what it is today, as having been highly accomplished artists…The Leonardo Da Vincis of this world were phenomenal beings, counted amongst the greatest artists and greatest scientists of all time. 

“…Many composers, artists and scientists, famous for their creativity, were also remarkably playful.” 
Patrick Bateson – Playfulness and Creativity
Current Biology Volume 25, Issue 1, 5 January 2015, Pages R12-R16

Access to infinitely inventive minds is critical in a highly competitive commercial environment, such as that characterising the twenty first century, where modern production and supply of goods and services is largely if not wholly based on science and formulae. The formulae cause the production processes to which they are applied to be predictable as well as causing them to produce uniform results. Because of this predictable uniformity, any manufacturer with sufficient knowledge of a particular science or formulaic method of producing a certain product can do so in identical fashion to his competitor of equal capacity. This makes competing very difficult (or perhaps very easy depending on how you are looking at it). Furthermore, the employment in industry, of millions of university graduates whose well-polished minds contain more or less uniform data and the use of machines which run on similar software and similar parts reduces any chances of real uniqueness amongst truly competing products. The fact that the body of technical and formulaic data which university graduates possess, is largely derived from widely available cheap text books, makes the individual less and less important and as such the individual is rendered quite dispensable. Google, the wizards of the information age have further evened the playing field by breaking the seals off several of the unguarded information bottles, thereby making a substantial amount of previously specialist knowledge, readily and even “freely” available to any enquiring mind. In such an environment, to find a uniqueness that will give one a significant advantage over their competition would require a highly inventive creative mind.

Since formulae produce objective and predictable results stemming from predetermined, regulated and precise logic and action, they can be computerised and “taught” to (programmed into) robotic machines and computers, which can then proceed to perform the required tasks; thus excluding the human factor altogether. Globally, we are already fast travelling down a road where computers and not men run the processes in production and indeed in some cases we are already witnessing processes that involve minimal human intervention. We have autonomous trucks moving containers effortlessly around shipyards; robots that lay down three thousand bricks per day and surveyor drones that can do in just fifteen minutes what humans would need weeks to do.

Graphic design on the other hand, might be one of the few processes that will actually survive this onslaught of the computerised, automated machine and perhaps even the coming age of artificial intelligence (A.I.) – yes, A.I. is coming. In fact, it is just around the corner.

Graphic design is an almost purely intuitive creative and artistic process which involves the highly unstable, human emotion and subjective situational calculation or interpretation of, physical, emotional, psychological, societal relationships and so forth. Because of the randomness of life, these variables in the graphic design process can never exist repeatedly in the same measure and state -not even if a creative process is repeated by the same designer to solve similar or identical problems. 

Graphic design is therefore only as predictable as the problem being solved and the designer attempting to solve it at a particular point in time. 

Due to this myriad of human, environmental and many other varied factors under consideration in graphic design, as mentioned above, no two graphic design problems or designers can be exactly the same at any given point in time and for this very simple reason, no single formula can be predetermined for the numerous design situations encountered across time, industries, markets and products. This in fact is the reason a graphic design student can never be “taught”- not in the strictest sense of the word teach. A graphic designer can only be guided and then left to wonder the world and mature over time, developing his own unique ways of problem solving and a personal style as distinct as his inimitable character and fingerprint or DNA. 


The practicing graphic designer has a truly enviable freedom to explore and to experiment; at the same time, quite ironically also has the very difficult challenge of not having any strict rules or formulas to follow. No set blue prints. He is required to work with a blank canvas at every turn, constantly having to generate his own unique formulas for each new and individual project (As some sportsmen would say, always playing the situation, not the game). 

Since there are no pre-existing formulas for the designer to follow, the designer has to rely on his individual powers of deduction and extrapolation, thought, imagination and analysis, perception and art to arrive at a successful solution. This is an ability which is based on a combination of raw talent, years of practical training and practice as well as scholarly theory, intellectual dexterity and intuition. Since no two people can address design problems in exactly the same way, each designer is thus a unique idea generation centre, one that cannot be substituted without varying the end product. It is therefore, because of these highly subjective and emotional calculations required in the artistic creative design process and the other human factors at both the encoding and decoding stages of the design process, that machines cannot be adequately (if at all) delegated the creative task of graphic design. At the time of writing this book the above assertion is true and can be expected to remain so for at least the reasonably foreseeable future; however, science has been known to flip the world on its head almost overnight. Therefore, readers would do well not to take the time estimate as hard fact, but rather as an indication of the value of the creative mind and the complexity of eliminating the human factor from graphic and many other forms of design and creative processes.

While the above factors may not necessarily make an individual designer generally indispensable, except perhaps to the extent of her uniqueness, they do make it so for creatives in general; The creative industry.

The term Graphic design has a very nice professional ring to it, but, I have always thought that, Graphic Designer is too fancy a title for a professional who is so poorly regarded as such. In the next chapter we look at what this title and this design thing that designers do really mean, as well as looking at other related terms and definitions. This will aid in gaining full comprehension as we stitch together various aspects of this creative tapestry…
Extract from the book Riding The Consumer. Click here to order a copy.

Machines doing it for themselves; machines building machines; not a single human in sight..