The Musician, Author and Designer shares his thoughts on the origins of Creativity
By Adam Zoltowski
David Byrne, the former lead singer of the Talking Heads, recently gave a lecture at the Bellhouse in Brooklyn concerning the origins of creativity and how context affects artistic creation. Using examples from throughout music history, Byrne made the argument that creativity is not shaped from something inside of us but is dictated by the space it will occupy once realized. He calls this method ‘creativity in reverse’. His lecture included audio and video from many periods of music history including Ancient African Tribal music, CBGB’s (Country, Blue Grass and Blues) a historic nightclub in Manhattan, as well as modern rock arenas. In each instance he claimed that the music of the artists who performed in these spaces was written with the space in mind as opposed to it simply coming from a place deep within them.
For example, Bands like U2 write albums with venues like Madison Square Garden in mind while the Chamber Choirs of ancient Europe performed music best suited for old medieval structures. Place an African drum circle in an old Abbey, argues Byrne, and it would not sound the same. This ultimately prompts the question: does U2’s music exist to be played in arenas or do arenas exist to accommodate their music? Similarly, as designers, why do we create the things we do? Is it to fill a deep inner desire to create or is it to actually fill an external need?
Byrne used examples in music but much of what he discussed is applicable to the use of design as a strategic tool. As designers we need to consider the holistic impact of our creations and how they will be used. Additionally, we should focus our abilities to see problems from every angle to address larger issues. Rather than create something and force it upon the public, we should consider the space (or need) and then design accordingly, always keeping in mind the impact of its delivery. The only way climate change, a failing economy and ineffective health care systems are ever going to be fixed is if creative, strategic and sustainable solutions are applied to them. In my opinion, these problems require ‘creativity in reverse’ and the talents only designers can bring to the table.