Where does your individual creativity come from? Often it is associated with magical traits, which can not or should not be explained. This is a treacherous path to go down and creativity can and should be sought to be explained in more clear terms. The most important reason for this may be to know one's ability, and when to extend the body and mind through other tools.
I believe, and I have support in believing that as a designer, you tend to use your instincts and intuition while doing the creative part of the job. But where do these instincts and this intuition come from ? My take on the matter led me to start honing my technical skills in certain areas where I tended to be weaker, like computer programming and mathematics, to get a framework for artistic intuition when intuitively working with geometry and 3d graphics. This may seem like simple logic but the truth is most people using 3d- and cad-tools do not know anything about what goes on under the hood of their program.
You may say that implementation knowledge and technical skills do not in themselves lead to creativity, and you may be partially right. That is why I consider the generation of principles from, and parallels to, nature . Where does creativity come from ? Is it right to say that it originates in nature ? And if so, can parallels be drawn between types in nature and types in Design? Keep reading only if you follow my thinking!
In my opinion this is the most exiting prospect one has as a designer, being able to draw these parallels. But how do you go about drawing them ? Biologists and botanists have made systems for describing or rather representing growth of plants, by mapping the different parts of the plant/organism, and deriving constructive rules from these. This way they can grow that type in virtual space(s) . If you establish these growth systems you could be able to grow constructions from small parts of that type. Here is were we encounter L-Systems and Formal grammars. They are tools to bring parallels of nature into the fundamental creative processes of design.
The creative processes CAN be systematically described is what I believe. As an example I have often heard people saying how bad they are at drawing. They say that they cannot put onto paper the shapes that they form in their head, or that they just do not know what to draw, or where to start drawing it. This is something I find hard to believe. The physical part of this is straightforward. If you hold your physical pen with the right technique, anyone can draw sufficiently for representing basic ideas. For me drawing is about making constant calculations of 3d real space, and projecting it on to a 2d surface, all this while associating these notions to the different parts of the drawing or drawing composition. I think the more calculations I could do intuitively before drawing any lines, the more creative I could be. The more freely I could let my pen search for different meaning within the "parametrics" of the intuitive structure. At the same time you wouldn't want the associative features to disappear by using to much time calculating because these "flashes" of association seem to be deeply rooted to creative expression. The reason why intuition is essential I believe, is because it works so fast that our "ideas" don't have time to escape while "molding" our design. So, basically I believe IT ALL COMES DOWN TO TRAINING YOUR INTUITION. That is why I also belive you could actually become better at drawing without ever lifting your pen.
But going back to the biologists and the botanists, what exactly is the difference between "artificial" probabilistic creativity and pure instinct or intuition ? Well, for one the universe of solutions to a particular design problem gets A LOT bigger using artificial aids for searching these universes. Our brains may be the most sophisticated intelligence but that doesn't mean they are equally well equipped for every task handed to them. As an example try to imagine memorizing something. For a human being, memorizing a telephone number takes 2-10 repetitions for the information to stick. A computer with the right software gets it right the first time, every time. Now depending on the number of repetitions and the associations for the particular data, a human is not expected to remember the telephone number indefinitely. Again, the computer is and indeed does remember. What humans excel at is applying calculating hardware to the correct problems. Again you could ask how this is achieved, and again I would argue that you have to "think like a computer" or put a little differently, train your intuition for more easily linking the calculating operations. Write it down and we have introduced the algorithm. At the same time human beings can be seen to have a clear advantage in the field of creative design because of something that can be described as a goal oriented shift of focus in a search process. The ability to narrow and widen the spaces in which we search for solutions, makes us able to make incremental decisions that move a process forward.
Here I feel I have to start connecting the dots if only for my own sake. Reverse engineering can be thought of as a way understanding the parts that make up a process ,and also a way of honing your intuition by understanding these parts. So when people are telling you to not "reinvent the wheel" it is not an absolutely logical truth. Reverse engineering for the sake of understanding is in fact a path to a developed intuition, and that is something that I "absolutely" would keep in mind. If only for your own benefit it can at certain times be fruitful.
Since beginning this document I have found I am almost unable to work directly with visually expressing Architectural concept sketches anymore. I have tried hard to keep them simple, but I am unable to make the simple decisions that go with the shaping of the idea using tactile methods like pen and paper. I used to be able to express myself rather simplistically while I attended art school, but I always had difficulty with justifying my arbitrary ideas. This has gotten worse. I now refuse to do anything that is purely intuitive. I plot it down, then start analyzing the problem. Now I am afraid it has become an obsession. All arbitrary design that I try to do has to be updated on a regular basis because I know how arbitrary it is. That is why I am continuing my project of developing a self-evolving system. Achieving that would at least provide me with a certain legacy. Everything else would seem worthless to me. Indeed developing self- evolving systems through lower- level programming languages is where I believe the future lies for the single creative designer, as the gaps between disciplines widen and become ever more unobtainable.
I conclude this small article by making it known how I appreciate the incredible difficulties that exist in connecting visual design to the underlying fundamental mathematics of nature. Our ability to focus and refocus conceptually is not easily conciled with intricate mathematical calculation and computation. It is very seldom possible, and is therefore something we always strive for.