1st July 2019

Gold standard or fools gold?

Is crafted creativity buried in todays digital world?

Your mission, if you should choose to accept it, is to decide whether this article has been written by an A.I. opinion generator bot or a creative professional deeply invested in the craft of his career.

This article will self destruct in three minutes.

We work today in a digital age where the technologies that human hands have invented to set our creativity free and increase our productivity transmute to affect our creative behaviours. What have these liberating technologies done for us? Set us free in an enlightened new age of digitally supercharged creativity or have we somehow collectively and languidly sleep-walked into a creative torpor? In this digital gold rush we are all, as creatives, supposed to rampage forward and stake our claim on this blasted horizon and mine with our astonishing digital tools. We’re all supposed to be creatively richer, more efficient, more connected and truly living in a golden age for the creative industries. Every year the numbers employed in our noble profession swell and the creative circle of life welcomes new talents and skills to disrupt and challenge the old order. It’s merely years since the desktop revolution swept aside the craftsmen and women who designed, art-worked and printed literally millions of items of design ‘by hand’.

But where have we arrived at today? I don’t believe that we have necessarily struck gold, this isn’t a sun drenched San Francisco of 49’ers, this strikes me as a cold digital age that increasingly seems barren. Tools used to be implements to craft and create, to dig and discover. Tools were rarely ever spoken about in the past, tools were cared for, caressed and cherished, but they were never really spoken about, they were never worshipped. We used to worship what tools helped us to create. I think we’ve lost something in this age when digital tools render creation so easy. Creativity has become democratised for everyone, we’re all designers now and tech tools can cover the joins and trick the casual observer that what they’re being offered is not fools gold. I see so much lazy design that’s lacking in inspiration. It’s rare now to unearth glinting creative nuggets which overwhelm and entrance us while panning this vast mine of communications.

I see less of the inspired genius of humanity in todays design. I see a generation that possibly forgot how to craft quality, they gorge themselves on tech where once designers devoured richer ‘creative’ seams. The creative industry doesn’t help, sadly. It’s tragic that increasingly it’s all about the quick turnaround, the profit, and to hell with delivering a product or service that glistens with the crafted values of the old order. It pains me to see too many misguided graduates chase a career in the creative industries as a ‘lifestyle choice’. The passions that drove my generation – those of us who were completely compelled to create – seem to be secondary. We relied on our talent, craft and guile to realise our inspiration.

In an increasingly programmatic future will we leave the human touch of genius behind forever? Will coders and developers sell us binary fools gold and sweep aside authentic crafted creativity? Where are those eureka moments? Have we mined our creative landscape clean?

No, actually.

Democratisation of this craft is entirely wrong, creativity MUST be elitist to be great. Designers are hugely selfish egotists (in a very discreet and very positive way), focussing on the client and the bottom line and they deliver effective and creative solutions. But, great designers burn passionately inside to take centre stage in some quiet way. The longing to showcase their craft and be adored for it drives them, to be recognised for their craft, the care and attention lavished upon a project, the chance to demonstrate the pride and passion of someone who actually cares. It’s about the human attitude, the tiny details that few will ever notice. Because, for having done this, that designer will walk home feeling wonderful, dinner will taste better that night, that glow inside will hum and satisfy for weeks. Go on, program that!

The digital age seems increasingly about eradicating the human and our imperfections and inspiration. But, imperfection is key to creativity. Creatives need the ability to make mistakes – great creativity is found in those moments. The happy mistake doesn’t happen in a world where a bot doesn’t see that something going wrong is actually ‘the’ eureka moment. Creative success is not about the avoidance of failure. It’s about failing as fast as possible and going through the required iterations until the idea is as perfect as it can be.

The human mind has the creative impulse hard-wired into its operating system, but can this brave new technologically democratised world offer creativity such a place in ‘its’ operating systems? I simply don’t see it working quite so naturally. Futurologists are now preparing us for a time when most jobs and professions will be redundant. This is a programmatic world where everyone from drivers to waiting staff, from call centres to shop assistants will simply no longer be required as A.I. wholly transforms our very idea of society. Fascinatingly two professions which are anticipated to flourish are Programmers and Creatives, for the elegantly simply reasons that every aspect of A.I. will need to be programmed and that there is no event horizon that foresees the ability to invest a creative spark within any A.I. entity.

So, to bring us back to the here and now, I stake my claim that we all, as creatives, must rediscover the craft of creativity in our everyday work. Let’s be passionate in our approach to work, let’s be authentic, let’s be effective, let’s add value. The rise of the programmers is unstoppable now. Craftsmen must stake a claim now for our place in this future. Our tools are digital but our craft is entirely human.