In a recent interview on Fresh Air, Jon Stewart said that he thinks creativity comes from limits not freedom. His argument is that with too much freedom:
“…You don’t know what to do with yourself but when you have a structure you can then you can improvise off of it and feel confident enough to come back to that.”
While at first it seems counterintuitive that limits will foster creativity, I agree with the principle that without a solid direction, too much time and energy will be wasted.
I think it might be better stated that “efficient creativity” (if there is such a thing) is achieved through a clear understanding of the goal of the creative pursuit. Without this understanding the creativity is diffused leading to a lot of effort but with a slim chance for the desired result.
How to create this structure for creativity? For creatives, it’s your job to ask questions (a lot of them) that focus the client on the goal. When dealing with clients who don’t think visually try asking open-ended questions about their organization’s past, present and future while listening for helpful adjectives.
For clients using creative people, give as much constructive feedback as possible. In the case of logo design, for example, give your reaction to every aspect of the design—font, layout, color—so that the next round of designs will be created within even tighter boundaries.
It’s as if you are trying to capture an elusive unicorn and you keep closing in the fences until it has nowhere to go (except perhaps take flight but that’s pretty rare anyway).