Creative Process

The process remains in process.
"Creativity -- nothing more than following a systematic process,
allowing random connections to take place, and
using your intuition to develop unique solutions.

Oh, by the way,
it's much easier and much more fun
when you work with others throughout the process."

- Doug

Site Map | Quotes | Co-Teachers - Doug and Melissa | Gallery
E-Mail Doug at or Melissa at
Step One - Identify the problem and/or goal

It's hard to find a solution to a problem or establish objectives if you don't know where you're going. Consequently, the first step should involve a general idea of what you want to accomplish. By definition, a goal embodies the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end (Webster's, p 621).

Don't get too focused on what the end result will look like at this point. Keep an open mind. The process will lead you to a better solution than your pre-conceived notions might imagine.

Use these tools to identify your problem or goal.

Find facts and find out how to use them.

Interview people who have an involvement in or knowledge of the issue. We often don't take the time to actively find information from live sources. It takes time, effort, and knowledge to get good results, but when done intelligently, the results yield power and often show critical blockages or barriers as well as clear pathways.

  • Client - who's paying the bill?
  • Partners/team members - who's going to help you develop and implement the ideas?
  • Production people - who's doing the work and what's the best way to help them do it right?
  • Subject-matter experts - who knows the most about the topic? This is an area that student's seldom use. Don't fear asking questions of experts via email. Most people willingly share their passions.
  • Competitors - who's already making/doing it or making/doing something similar?
  • Target audience - who's going to use or consume the product or service.

Step Two - Concept development | Top

Once you know the problem or goal, the fun begins -- finding the solution.

My personal favorites involve brainstorming, definitely see synectics. Keeping an open mind and uncovering connections where ever they may exist. Several tools that aid this process reside below.

  • Graphic organizers - a comprehensive index of tools that help analyze, brainstorm, compare and contrast, evaluate, hypothesize, visualize, as well as show interactions and sequences. -
  • Sense web - shows a tool used to create a show, not tell description of a "sense", as in hearing, smelling, touching, seeing, tasting, etc. -
  • Synectics - (Gordon, 1961) provides an approach to creative thinking that depends on looking at, what appears on the surface as, unrelated phenomenon and drawing relevant connections. Its main tools, analogies or metaphors. I love this one. -
  • Fill-the-well - sets up a process for making serendipitous connections, or in plain English, gives you a plan to collect random bites of inspiration. -
  • Create outlines/sketches
    • Sketching - shows sketching options as a graphic organizer.
    • Patterns - shows the basic elements used to create visual patterns.
  • Fill in outlines/develop sketches

Step Three - Rough drafts, layouts, and/or drawings | Top

To quote a lettering teacher from art school, "more tissues". More tissues referred to lots of sketches, lots of drafts, lots of different ideas. His point, don't get too comfortable with your first ideas. Keep pushing in different directions until you either run out of time or you've discovered territories worth refining.

So, "more tissues".

Step Four - Revise, refine, and edit until you get it right

The most rewarding and most "painful" part of the process involves revision, refinement, and editing. Some ways to take the pain out of this process involve working with others. Find someone who you trust to give you good constructive feedback.

  • Revise - refine - edit
  • Peer review - find someone you trust and make sure they do their job. Ask for feedback that shows you where they stumble over words or images, where they get lost, where they make connections, etc. You don't want them to tell you what to do, rather you want them to show you how they "read" through your piece and where they get it and where they don't.
  • Continue as needed

Step Five - Finalize | Top

Tying everything together requires more effort and patience than you may imagine. Don't give up, you're almost home.

In the late 70s we visited the the Egyptian Museum, in Cairo, Egypt. At the time priceless relics were simply laying around collecting dust. Hundreds of ancient scarabs, jewelry, golden coffins, statues, etc., etc., abundant and neglected. Almost as if someone left them there and allowed the desert to cover them again.

Two years later I visited the King Tut exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. There were less than 50 pieces on display. Each in its own beautifully lit showcase surrounded by velvet ropes to keep the awe-struck visitors at a safe distance.

The point? The value of the gift lies certainly in the quality of the content, but to 97.3% (I made that up, but it's close) of the world, they, we, wouldn't know King Tut from Burger King. Packaging, presentation, and marketing make or break the success of any project.

Package, present and market:

  • Portfolio Nuts and Bolts - directs the student through the key elements of creating a portfolio for the SDJA High School Humanities program.
  • PowerPoint Tips - provides tips on creating a PowerPoint presentation as well as links to other presentation sites.
  • Gallery - a collection of writing and art work from WriteDesign students, current and past, and others associated with WriteDesign.

Creating Creative Minds | Top

R.J. Sternberg & T. I. Lubart

K. Ryan and J. M. Cooper, 1995. Kaleidoscope, readings in education, seventh edition, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. pp. 83-92

"Creativity is not simply inborn.
On the contrary,
schooling can create creative minds.

Developing creativity involves teaching them to use six resources: intelligence, knowledge, intellectual style, personality, motivation, and environmental context.


A creative person should have the ability to define and redefine problems and the ability to think insightfully.

Problem definition and redefinition involve seeing an old problem in a new way. The individual learner should define the problem, not have it given to them in a nice neat package. Allow them the opportunity to make mistakes so they may learn from the process and help them redefine the problem.

Insight (three kinds) the ability to focus on the key elements from an assortment of unrelated, ill-structured bits of data and make analogies and metaphors from historical information.

1. Focus seeing things in a stream of inputs that most people would not see. Ability to zero in on particularly relevant information for purposes of problem defining-solving.

2. Linking unrelated pieces combining disparate pieces of information whose connection is nonobvious and usually elusive.

3. Linking old information to new problems, analogies and metaphors, as well as historical data related to present situation.

Knowledge: | Top

One needs knowledge in order to avoid rediscovering what is already known and to assess the problems in the field and to judge which are important. Yet, with too much knowledge one often loses flexibility. So, there needs to be a balance of knowledge and flexibility. Often times someone who does not know any better is the one who discovers new roads to travel.

Intellectual Style:

How we use our intelligence and knowledge day-to-day that incorporates the concept of "mental self-government." Mental self-government has three components:

1. Legislative one who enjoys formulating problems and creating new systems of rules and new ways of seeing things. Creative people are likely to use this style. They also are global in their thinking, able to see more of the system, not just the immediate subsystem.

2. Executive one who likes implementing the systems, rules, and tasks of others.

3. Judicial one who enjoys evaluating people, things, and rules.


Creative people tend have the following personality traits:

1. Tolerate Ambiguity the creative process is not always clear and direct. There are times when the pieces of the puzzle do not go together. This can be very frustrating. A creative person knows that working through the process with patience that the pieces will fall into place.

2. Willing to Surmount Obstacles and Persevere creative ideas often meet is obstacles because they challenge the accepted norms. To be creative one needs to be able to work with or around these obstacles and keep focused, persevere even though it takes time and is frustrating.

3. Willing to Grow a creative person must be willing to go beyond their first attempts. They must be willing, even though the first attempt is good, to keep discovering and refining their work.

4. Willing to Take Risks a creative person is willing to try new ideas, attempt new skills, go to places they have never been before.

5. Courage of One's Convictions and Belief in Oneself a creative person must believe in themselves, even when everyone else disagrees with what they are doing. This conviction comes, not from defiance, but confidence that they have used the process and found solutions that hold up in spite of the ney-sayers.

Motivation: | Top

There are two kinds of motivation that lead to a focus on tasks that evoke creative solutions.

1. Intrinsic Motivation a creative person enjoys working on the project or task for its own sake, not because of external rewards. It is fun, challenging, and worthwhile.

2. Motivation to Excel a creative person has a strong desire to succeed in their endeavors. They are driven to work for their success.


The environmental context in which a creative person works is key to the outcome. There are three components that are relevant to the creative process.

1. Sparking Creative Ideas the creative person works best when they are in an environment where they are encouraged to invent new concepts, explore new ideas, and to synthesize elements in different ways.

2. Encouraging Follow-Up of Creative Ideas a creative person needs to have time to dig deeper into projects. An environment that allows and pushes the creative person to go beyond the surface will result in better, more comprehensive work.

3. Evaluating and Rewarding Creative Ideas a creative person needs to work in an environment where their creativity is recognized and rewarded. An environment where an idea that may be different is acknowledged as being a viable solution, even though it is not the same as everyone else's idea.

Site Map | Quotes | Co-Teachers - Doug and Melissa | Gallery

E-Mail Doug at or Melissa at