You can create for profit, or you can create for lasting beauty. It’s not hard to see where designer and teacher Edwards (The Lab: Creativity and Culture, 2010, etc.) comes down on the matter in this thought-provoking treatise.
“What if I don’t have an idea?” asked a young participant in a Harvard class taught by the author. It’s a good question guaranteed to prime the pump—for, Edwards goes on to say, his problem is never not having an idea but perhaps having too many, without much triage of what divides good from bad. “Having a creative idea and working to realize it,” he adds, “is about starting and carrying on a passionate conversation that kicks off with curiosity and accelerates with a team bound together by empathy.” The sentiment seems a little fuzzy, but it gets to some central points—e.g., creativity is fueled by curiosity and moved along by a community. Advocating a path that draws in equal measure on art and science, the author discusses some celebrated creators and the environments in which their ideas have flowed, from the Catalan chef Ferran Adrià to artistic director Diane Paulus, whose revivals of Hair and Pippin have proven to be great hits and who works in “a form of contemporary theater that toggles between Broadway and a planetarium, a disco club and urban streets and alleys.” In talking about creativity and furthering it, Edwards prefers suggestions to hard rules, though some working principles can be adduced. For example, agility is a desideratum, “an ability to think on one’s feet and move quickly in concert with others,” to come up with solutions to pressing problems that rely as much on intuition as on hard research. Some of the problems that the author identifies call out for fast solving, too, such as reforming a food production system that once fed the world but now seems to be running out of juice.
A stimulating book, to be read and pondered as one might a set of cards from Brian Eno.