Creativity: It’s not about the tools

Photo: Custom USB

Photo: Custom USB

If you want to improve the quality and quantity of your creative output, I may be able to save you a huge amount of time and money.

The most creative minds in history

When we study the most creative minds in history, we find that they have one thing in common, which is indisputable. Einstein, Socrates, Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Beethoven… none of them used the technology, which people today think of as essential to the creative process.

  • When John Lennon was writing lyrics, he used a pencil and paper. Would his songs have been better if he’d used a writing app instead? I doubt it.
  • Would Andy Warhol have been more creative, if he’d used an ultra-high resolution monitor? I don’t believe so.
  • Would the books of Hemingway or Melville have been more compelling, if they’d written them using a MacBook Pro? No. It’s not about the tools.

Written on the back of a flyer

The most successful project I ever launched was a marketing blog. I got the idea for it in 2008, after a long walk in Sherwood Forest. I bought a pencil from one of the gift shops and started scribbling my ideas down on the back of a discarded flyer. It was a series of bullet points, which were the core ideas that allowed me to produce a unique type of blog.

The blog went on to become one of the world’s most popular marketing sites, even though it was conceived on the back of a scrap of paper. It’s not about the tools.

Technology helps

I’m a huge fan of technology, both new and old. My studio contains a few Mac’s, lots of pens and pencils, stacks of recycled paper and a shelf full of notebooks I have written in over the years. The thing is, these tools are not the source of creativity. They are simply things I use, to get an idea out of my head or published. It’s not about the tools.

In short: We are never one amazing app or gadget away from becoming a creative powerhouse. The tool we need to sharpen, feed and nurture, is our mind!

Audio: Dylan Thomas in New York

Here is a superb audio presentation by the BBC, covering Dylan Thomas in New York. It was a very different setting for the Welsh genius.

Listen to the sounds of Thomas’ New York and hear the great poet himself, read from Under Milk Wood, in this 4 and a half minute piece.

Thanks to the BBC for making this available for resharing.

For more information on Dylan Thomas, his life and his work, check out the official Dylan Thomas website.

Artistic freedom

Don’t compromise your art (work).

The moment you do, it’s no longer yours.. and it’s no longer art.

Art that stands the test of time

The very best art doesn’t follow the latest trends. It isn’t diluted, by having the fashion of the day injected into it, to gain wider acceptance. It stands the test of time.

If you want your art to lose relevance quickly, follow the current fashion.

If you want your art to carry on making a difference, don’t follow anything. Lead!

What’s stopping you?

out way

It’s amazing what you are capable of, when you get out of your own way. Usually the only thing stopping you… is you.

The Magnetic Organization System

Magnetic Organization System

Magnetic Organization System

Here’s a wonderfully designed answer to a common, frustrating problem.

If you find yourself regularly having to hunt around your desk for cables, this could be just what you need: The MOS (Magnetic Organization System).

As the name suggests, this magnetic device sticks to your desk or wall and allows you to stick your magnetic cable ends to it.

You can find out more at

Paul Rand: Defining design

I was recently asked for my definition of design. I then recalled something the late, great Paul Rand said and decided to look up the full quote.

Paul Rand, design

Paul Rand

Here it is:

“Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.” — Paul Rand.

I thought I’d share this with you for 2 reasons:

  1. It’s a great definition from a legend of design.
  2. It may introduce some of you to Rand’s work.

I hope you find it useful.

NB: As well as designing the ABC, IBM and UPS logos, Paul Rand was also the man Steve Jobs turned to, for the branding at NeXT — the computer company he started when he left Apple.

Photo Copyright: Apple Computer/Chiat Day agency

Steve Jobs: How to change your life!

In less than 1 and a half minutes, Steve Jobs shares one of his most powerful messages.

He explains the importance of being willing to change your life, rather than passively follow the average path. It’s well worth a listen.

Wise words indeed.

Creativity and the tools we use

Dylan_Thomas_photoI’ve visited the room where Dylan Thomas did much of his writing and also the tiny shed where Roald Dahl wrote. Something that struck me about these amazing writers, was how extremely typical their surroundings were.

Nothing fancy. Just a space to create, where they could think and work.

The mechanics are secondary

Often, we get caught up in the mechanics of creativity. What software to work with… which type of computer to use.

I think to a lesser or greater degree, these are stalling tactics. Find the mix that feels right for you, then create.

The rest is largely unimportant.

It’s 1969: Jim Morrison talks about rap and electro music!

Never let the fear of criticism hold you back from creating your art. Today, I want to share an example with you, which makes this point beautifully.

1969: Jim Morrison predicts electro & rap

In 1969, the year The Beatles split, Jim Morrison was asked about the future of music. Here’s an amazing, direct quote from his answer:

“[…] it might rely heavily on electronics, tapes, I can kind of envision maybe one person with a lot of machines, tapes, and electronics set up, singing or speaking and using machines.”

You can watch the short video that quote is taken from, here.

From fool to visionary

At the time, Morrison’s prediction of what we now call electro music and rap, whilst his counterparts were playing Woodstock with flowers in their hair, was laughed at.

The idea of using machines, rather than musical instruments, was too much for the masses to handle. It seemed like the foolish ramblings of a man with a well known drug problem.

Of course, it wasn’t.

Years after his death, Morrison’s prediction happened. He was duly elevated to the status of musical visionary.

The price for thinking differently

The price for thinking differently, is that you set yourself apart from the masses. By proactively embracing your creativity, you will see the world differently. Your art may be hard for others to understand or ahead of its time. When that happens, the masses are likely to laugh at you or criticise you.

As Einstein said: “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds”.

A great way to deal with this, is to use fear as your compass. Every great artist has encountered ridicule. If your work is not being attacked in some way, you’re probably playing it safe… not making a difference. It’s a sign you need to embrace the edges.

To quote another visionary: “Stay young. Stay foolish” — Steve Jobs.