What is creativity? Decoding the DNA of pure creativity with Onedotzero’s Shane Walter

The Drum, in association with Millennial Media, has launched a campaign to decode the DNA of pure creativity.

Over the coming months we will be talking to creative geniuses in every sector, from music and the arts to advertising and even the restaurant industry, as we build an understanding of how creativity is conceived, nurtured and grown. We’re less interested in what they do day to day (although all are creative leaders in their own field) and more in their innate creativity and its genesis.

'What is creativity?' kicks off with Shane Walter, the creative director and co-founder of the global creative design agency and festival Onedotzero.

Multi award-winning Walter has been running the festival for the last 17 years, working with everyone from U2 to Nike, and curated and commissioned exhibitions for the likes of ICA, Tate Modern and the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

How do you define creativity?

It comes in all shapes and sizes but at its core it’s about ideas and invention and to do that well you need to do stuff that is new. As humans, it’s in our DNA to try and make the world a better place and to do that we need to progress. It’s great to pay homage to things that inspire you but to progress we need to make something that is new.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Simply from very closely examining the detail of everything around me. I love cities and find a city an inspiration engine. Inspiration can come from anything from a burger van on the street to the most exciting new club. I’d urge everyone in a new city to throw away their map. Get out and get lost! If you know where you’re going you’re not going find your next adventure.

Everything definitely isn’t on Google. It’s so important to keep your references as broad as possible, which can simply mean picking up an old book. Even a new type of kerning in typography can be incredibly inspiring.

Can creativity be taught or is it entirely instinctive?

Every single one of us is instinctively creative! You can train your creative muscles what to do when inspiration hits, to make sure you don’t dismiss it. But we need to accept that everyone is creative. Everyone should make sure they have at least one creative act per day. It’s terrible to pigeonhole people into creative and non-creative camps.

How closely do the two sides of creativity (thinking and producing) need to be aligned?

You can’t have one without the other. Ideas are cheap to have, making it happen is the hard thing to pull off. This is where collaboration is important. But true collaboration – not simply ideas by committee, that’s just sitting on the fence. True collaboration gives you different angles and perspectives and increases your own skill set exponentially.

What impact has the digital revolution had on creativity in its widest sense?

The rate of communication and the geographical reach it’s enabled means you can get your idea out at an incredible speed to so many people. There is a negative side to this though as amazing ideas can be jumped on too quickly and commercialised before they have a chance to be seen as an artistic medium. Projection mapping is a good example of this, or Oculus Rift virtual reality.

Another slight worry I have with the globalisation digital has contributed to is that everything is becoming too similar. I travelled to over 60 cities with Onedotzero last year and ‘hipsterism’ is often the same whether you’re in New York or Brooklyn or Melbourne. As the underground and mainstream become the same, there starts to be a worrying lack of unique experiences and that’s not good for creativity.

How can creativity best be nurtured?

Creative collaboration needs to be taught much more at a younger age. If you have a poet working with an architect and a technologist, in a team with people talking different languages, you’re going to get some incredible results. The soft skills of creative collaboration are as essential to encourage and nurture as the tools we need to learn how to use. I love the act of convergence and of not knowing what comes next.

This feature was first published in the 15 April issue of The Drum.

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