My wife and I are big fans of Project Runway. Not only do we like design and fashion, but it’s also a fascinating inspection of culture. And we like to predict the winners and losers.
Each season, there’s a designer who the judges almost kick off but keep around because they have “a very specific point of view.” And because of ratings, I’m sure. Viewers love a good tragedy.
One of my favorites was a Japanese guy named Kooan. He specialized in what I vainly attempt to describe as a caricature of California surf culture, Pokemon, and the worst of the 80s. He called it Japanese street wear. The judges didn’t know what to call it.
Back to the point. He makes novel clothes. They have a specific point of view, but the judges almost kick him off on the first day of competition. Why?
“I’m concerned he makes crazy clothes for the sake of being crazy.”
“He may just want to be the center of attention.”
They were concerned that his creativity is limited to the novelty of his clothes—their newness, and they want to know if his creations are also effective. At what? Evoking positive emotion, and making a woman feel beautiful, confident, strong, and noticed.
This reminded me of an important rule: Creativity requires but does not equal novelty. Creativity also requires purpose—purpose that is selfless…other-oriented. Creativity is at least the combination of newness + purpose.
The judges’ common descriptions (paraphrased) for the top designers each week:
“Any girl would want to wear this dress.”
“I clearly see a point of view you embody and that others want to be.”
If you watch the show, you’re probably thinking Patricia and Sandhya of more recent seasons also fall into this category—designing more for themselves and not caring as much about who will actually have to wear their clothes. They were also labeled as crazy by their fellow designers and the judges on more than one occasion.
Observing these designers prompted a key question about the nature of creativity—and about my own inclinations:
Are there times when I care more that my ideas are new than I care if they actually meet the real needs of others? Guilty as charged. I’m adding a new filtering question to my list of “good” ideas.
In coming posts, I’ll continue to explore the nature of creativity. Stay tuned, and jump over to your favorite social channel to share your perspective.