Being creative is not the same thing as being an artist--and vice versa.
In fact, the two titles share more differences than they do similarities. A 2010 IBM survey of 1,500+ CEOs from various fields ranked creativity as being a crucial pillar of every successful company. Of all the CEOs surveyed, 60% said that creativity ranked higher than even integrity and global thinking. But when asked to define that elusive word, "creativity," no two responses were the same.
The truth is, the definition of what it means to be "creative" seems to be painfully subjective. Add in the comparison to art, and what it means to be "artistic" and you've just set yourself up for a longwinded conversation that appears to have no end.
This is precisely what happened to me a few weeks ago.
I was sitting down with design thought leader, Yazin Akkawi, Founder of MSTQ, sharing a bottle of red wine talking about the differences between creativity and art. Are they same? How are they different? Can you be creative, and an artist? Can an artist also be creative? Where does one draw the line?
In all honesty, the conversation seemed to be nothing more than a bantering over semantics. Creatives have their moments of artistry, and artists could be equally talented problem-solvers. But something about the discussion left me thinking, reading, researching, and reflecting hard on the topic. Much more than I had anticipated.
By definition, artistry and artistic ability is the cultivation of skills and talents honed toward creating fine works of art: painting, drawing, sculpting, musical composition, etc. In short: art is an original creation with the intention of sparking an emotion or response in the viewer, listener, etc.
Conversely, creativity and creative ability is defined as the skill of pooling together different elements to find a solution to a problem. A perfect example would be advertising: creative thinking and originality geared toward delivering a business result.
Knowing this, imagine how difficult it is then for a company looking to be "more creative." What does that even mean? And more importantly, how are they measuring success?
The overlap is that both artistry and creativity require some level of emotional intelligence. In both cases, you are working to capture a message or meaning and communicate it purposefully. The difference, it seems, is in that message's destination. If it is aimed outwardly at an intended audience, one might classify it as "creative." If the message is aimed inwardly, and acts first as a mirror for the creator, sparking self-reflection, it leans more toward the realm of art.
I recently chatted with MarkBeeching as well, the former Global Chief Creative Officer of Digitas and currently a Managing Partner of BGO, and he brought up an equally interesting point about today's written word. Blogging (and all of social media) has changed the way we as creators, create. When we know that an audience is there, regardless of how self deprecating or painfully honest we appear, we cannot help but censor ourselves for the intention of pleasing our audience. Even our vulnerabilities are shaped in a way to elicit a specific response. This, to me, is creativity--the ability to problem-solve. In an analogy: you are still painting a picture, but it is done with an outcome in mind.
A journal, however, is entirely a different experience. Beeching explained that when someone writes in a journal, it is intended for self-reflection. It is a space to excavate your own soul--not to shape your soul's song with the intention of pleasing the listener. This, right here, is the grey area between being an artist and being creative. There are artists who create for a specific type of listener, and there are creatives who write, design, and build from their heart (not their head). The extreme ends of the spectrum, then, would be the artists who clean up that journal and publish it as a novel, or the creatives who design and build for no other reason than to solve a problem in the market--personal self expression is the last thing on their mind.
Which then leads us to the spectrum as a whole, and where we draw the line determining what is worth being called "art" and/or "creative thinking" at all. Some people argue that paint spilled on a sidewalk is art, or that making a quote graphic on your phone makes you creative. How do we decide who deserves those titles? What is the benchmark for "success" and what warrants calling yourself an artist or a creative in the first place? Is effort alone enough?
Ron Gibori, a close mentor of mine and Head of Creative for Idea Booth, comes to mind here. Nominated for an Emmy, and nationally recognized creative thinker, here he shares the same title with first-time entrepreneurs working on their first app (which operates exactly the same as every other competitor in the market) and call themselves "creative."
To be honest, this same debate could be said for entrepreneurship as a whole. How is it that someone who runs a multi-million dollar company can share the same title as someone with an app idea they're building on the side? Are both entrepreneurs? And even though we're essentially debating semantics here, what I'm more interested in are the details that separate the two. If the word itself does not accurately separate, then what does? What are the defining characteristics?
What I have concluded so far is that the two are not the same: art and creativity. They certainly share similarities and plenty of overlap, but the pursuits and deeper skill sets are actually quite opposite.
My question to you is: which are you? And if you resonate with one or the other (or both), what are the reasons why? What deeper qualities explain that chosen association?
I'd love to hear your responses. This topic fascinates me.