designing for one

Jero & Kumar (6)

The quest for creativity is a common focus for graphic designers; what elements in the design process create space for creative possiblity? What are ways to initiate creativity?

Creativity is often defined as possessing: originality and effectiveness (1); with originality suggesting that, when talking about a design made, it possess a sort of newness or unexpected nature. In one of the first descriptions of creativity it is described as deviating from the “traditional or status quo” and is often discussed in relationship to a problem being addressed (2). This idea of relating to the problem reinforces this idea of originality coupled with a necessary effectiveness. The sparkly original things often mistaken for creative fall short if they lack the support of effectiveness and/or usefulness: ‘Originality is vital, but must be balanced with fit and appropriateness’’ (3).

The design squiggle: What the design squiggle alludes to, is the inherent ‘possibility’ that exists within the design process; the possibility for different influences to lead to alternative directions and therefore other designs. It is precisely these alternatives and new influences (illustrated in the Design Squiggle(4) with lines intersecting and looping back in upon themselves) that are central to the surprise and unexpectedness that creativity requires (5). However, squiggles and possibility don’t always lead to a creative design. It may lead to suitable and beautiful solutions, but not necessarily unexpected or creative ones.

For students and designers alike, the challenge is nearly always how to maintain creativity, staving off falling victim to normality, where design becomes so routine that all of the variables in the decision making process “are known a priori” or already known (6). Illustrating this concept, Gero and Kumar suggest that by extending a design space, the action of designing moves beyond that which is familiar. This is what Bodon also refers to as exploratory creativity. Extending the design space moves the design beyond simple unfamiliar combinations of familiar ideas (5). Following on from this logic, these unfamiliar variables can call into question the limitations of disciplines and may even generate new areas of practice; they enable “someone to see possibilities they hadn't glimpsed before. They may even start to ask just what limits, and just what potential, this style of thinking has” (5).

from: Designing for one; How adjusting variables influenced design student creativity, ICDC submission, 2017


1. Runco, M. A., & Jaeger, G. J. (2012). The Standard Definition of Creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 24(1), 92–96.
2. Stein, 1953 as cited by Runco, M. A., & Jaeger, G. J. (2012). The Standard Definition of Creativity. Creativity Research Journal24(1), 92–96.
3. Runco, M. A. (1988). Creativity research: Originality, utility, and integration. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved from
4. Newman, D. (2007). The Design Squiggle - central. Retrieved February 25, 2016, from
5. Boden, M. A. (2007). Creativity in a nutshell. Think, 5(15), 83–96.
6. Gero, J. S., & Kumar, B. (1993). Expanding design spaces through new design variables. Design Studies, 14(2), 210–221.

Newman (4)

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