What is creativity?

Creative leads at the three chart-topping Creative Survey consultancies tell us what creativity means to them.

Almost Extinct Calendar, by The Chase
Almost Extinct Calendar, by The Chase
Richard Scholey

‘How do you define creativity?
Literally: It’s not original, but for me there is still no better literal definition for what we do than ‘Communication Art’.
Emotionally: Getting noticed beautifully.

How do you manage creativity?
Make the brief as tight as possible and the solution as wide as you can stretch it.

How do you measure creativity?
Literally: Did it deliver beyond what the client asked for, have they come back since? Is it original and, of course, does it win awards.
Emotionally: Does it make me wish I had done it, does it make me smile, does it make me childishly excited to present it.’

Richard Scholey, creative director, The Chase

Nike Training Club app, by AKQA
Nike Training Club app, by AKQA
James Hilton

‘Creativity is looking at stars with a sideways glance. Creativity is irksome. It’s always there but not there at all when you look for it. You have to not be looking for it to find it. But this is how it is. What it is entirely depends upon your personal limits of acceptability, understanding, context, upbringing, culture and purpose; some people think an unmade bed is creative, others an opera singer selling insurance, and a few believe the pinnacle of creative achievement is to paint with their own shit. Whatever flicks your switch. I haven’t done the latter since they changed my meds, so I generally concentrate on creativity, ideas if you will, that have value. Ideas that don’t have value can’t be of benefit to people, can’t make a positive contribution to their lives, and can’t be measured. And if you can’t measure an idea, you can’t improve it. There are only three metrics that actually matter, as far as our definition of creative value goes; sales growth, brand equity and shareholder value. Sounds properly dull. But trust me, within those bland terms are the keys to inspiring, beneficial and beautiful ideas. Right, I’m off to do some painting. With paints. Obviously.’

James Hilton, chief creative officer, AKQA

Secret Tea Room identity, by The Partners
Secret Tea Room identity, by The Partners
Greg Quinton

‘We are surrounded by visual dross. We learn to ignore bad work, but it’s everywhere. Some new creative work manages to cut through and gets people asking, “Have you seen…?”. But what we’re all searching for is the truly innovative work that transcends traditional ideas – the work that gets preceded by, “Wow, have you seen…?”. That’s one little word that makes a big, big difference. I’d like to believe that we all strive to do ‘wow’ work, but the failure rate is inevitably high. There are a million reasons why this might be the case; the fact is, ‘wow’ is damn hard to achieve. There’s no secret recipe or formula hiding in a safe somewhere for how to get the success rate higher, but there are some things that will help. If you want people to be more creative, you have to create the right environment for it to happen. Be clear in your ambitions, find passionate people who share the belief, then support them with as much time as possible. Hold formal reviews of all work in progress. It allows time to pause, learn from the successes, the averages, and the failures, and hopefully avoids you from adding to that dross.’

Greg Quinton, executive creative director, The Partners


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  • Charles Sinclair November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I would thoroughly recommend Anton Erhenzwieg’s book The Hidden Order of Art for anyine interested in the power and nature of creativity. Utterly brilliant content though very heavy going. Anyone else have any recommendations re books on creativity? As a secondary school Head of Art I am constantly haveing to defend art in the curriculum, and now Gove has joined in the attack things are hotting up. How about a national day of protest against the exclusion of the visual arts (and teaching creativity) from his English Baccalaureate? Imagine all the art colleges, design studios, photographers etc, etc closing for the day …. the campaign could work.

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