One of my wife’s favorite photographs from our four months in Huanchaco, Perú is of a little girl flying a kite on the beach. The thing is, the girl’s “kite” isn’t of the conventional sort. It’s a black plastic grocery bag she found in the sand. Here’s the photo:
For everything we loved about Huanchaco – beautiful weather, consistent surfing waves, scrumptious ceviche – the unrelenting beach litter was regrettable if not occasionally repulsive. Old shoes, broken toys, chicken bones, and dirty diapers made frequent appearances. In the midst of such filthy company, the humble grocery bag was, remarkably, among the less vexatious articles of sandcovered flotsam.
Regardless, it never would have occurred to me to turn a grocery bag into a kite. It did occur to this little girl, though. After attaching a line of string (also likely found on the beach), her prop was ready to flutter in the breeze, which it did.
I’m not sure when I’ve ever been as creative as that little girl. Probably never.
A few months ago, I dropped the public moniker I used to associate with my practice: Green Ink Creative. The initial concept was simple. My name is “Green;” I’m a writer (hence, “ink”); I work in the “creative services” field. Clever. But after a year or so of being Green Ink Creative, I began questioning the relevance of the business name.
What makes me so creative, anyway? I’ve got friends who are schoolteachers. If they’re good at their jobs, which I believe most of them are, they’re creative, too. So is my friend who mixes drinks. And my retired grandfather, who still gardens like crazy. And my neighbor’s dog when it buries things beneath the big poplar tree. That’s creative.
Brad Frost is a web designer, writer, and speaker whose name you may have encountered if UX design matters to you. While his feelings about the “creative” title mostly concur with my own, he also thinks the title is, by its very nature, condescending.
I don’t quite agree. Self-proclaimed “creatives” mean not to condescend. They’re just trying to be descriptive. Like it or not, a lot of organizations do refer to designing and copywriting staffers or partners as their “creative” arm or similar. Using familiar nomenclature can be an effective way to grow a freelance practice (this was my idea, after all) or attract a certain kind of client to your agency.
The biggest problem with the “creative” label isn’t condescension – it’s irrelevance.
From Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to little girls on the beach in Perú, everyone has some capacity for creativity. We, the people who create marketing, advertising, and PR collateral, digital or otherwise, are no more creative than the rest of the world. We’re not special.