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The Designer’s Cut

Spontaneity and Process: Who’s the Daddy?

by Karl Elliott

This short essay investigates the role that process plays in design, simultaneously arguing that the ‘spontaneity’ of creativity is, to some large degree, an illusion; and also that making the process more explicit is a growing trend and one that offers real benefit to designers. To bolster this claim, Elliott draws upon a number of examples. Between the composition of a tune called ‘Scrambled Eggs’ and the song ‘Yesterday’ there was a process, he says.

An exhibition by architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron at the Tate Modern in London included all the sketches, drawings and doodles, blue foam models, found objects, in-car video footage and recordings of conversations that are essential to the final artwork, but are often thought of as the ‘throwaway’ aspects of creativity.

In another example, he says that even watching a DVD has become a lesson in the appetite for the process behind creativity. “At will, you can now go behind the scenes, watch documentaries on ‘the making of’, review storyboards, witness the secrets of special effects and watch it all over again with the back-seat commentary of the producer, director, actor, cinematographer et al,” writes Elliott. Only literature is lagging behind this new thirst for the background knowledge. Even then, it’s only a matter of time, he suggests, before you'll be able to read the Publisher's Cut of the Da Vinci Code.

The relevance of all this is that, for designers, process is not a word to be scared of. As Elliott concludes: “I think there is a huge appetite to devour the content of process, I just don't think we like to admit it. But if you were buying a piece of live brand communications, wouldn't you like to see some process?”

This article originally appeared in volume 12 of WPP's Atticus Journal.

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