Reclaiming the word “creative”

A rant by Alex Morris

Lately articles, websites and people everywhere equate the fields of technology, marketing and digital media as creative [1] industries, and while I don’t disagree that this adjectives is applicable, I’m sick of hearing and reading the term “creative” as something that belongs in the realm of advertising and tech.

Human beings are all born with creativity. It is not something limited to those working in specific fields. But the marketing folks have done a real good job at labeling something as intrinsic as imagination and making it exclusive to their industry. (It’s like they’re in business to shift perceptions and influence culture.) Welcome creatives to the elite creative club, only for those who have something to sell.

Is this creative?

I understand the word has a history, (see footnote), but this doesn’t make the state of semantics any less sad. Marketers and advertising agencies label their actual visual and technical creations (ranging from logos to web design to applications) as creative. They also call their web developers, animators and copywriters “creatives”.  The only people in the industry not called creatives are the ones who don’t create viewable, touchable or hearable items and instead “create” relationships with clients like account coordinators.

(Full disclosure account coordinator was once my bland and boring job title and that position totally needs a rebrand.)

These so called creatives (bloggers like myself included) are at best strategists and promotional representatives and at worst propagandists, using their natural talents of creativity to get people to purchase a product or service.

Every week I work with children, encouraging them to write down ideas, draw pictures, sing songs and do creative activities (act creatively). We don’t analyse their work and think about how the target audience would react. We don’t evaluate the investment for these young “creatives” other than the fact that they are flexing their minds for the future and not fearing failure. If their story doesn’t go viral, it doesn’t matter, because creativity has nothing to do with results and everything to do with using your brain to produce, regardless as to whether or not anyone sees, hears, feels, smells or tastes it.

couch poem

Enough with the word creative as a noun. Enough with creatives making creative. I’m sure it will continue to be labeled as an industry as is the case with linguistics, but what a sad story it is when a person is labeled as a “creative” only when they are working in advertising, marketing, media or tech. I don’t care how it got started, but it needs to end. Leave the creative ideas and subsequent creativity for all to enjoy, experience and attempt.

P.S. Y’all stay tuned for my next rant on the bastardization of the word “talent”, used as a noun by directors and producers.

Just for fun and to reclaim the word creative, I have labeled a few careers that come to mind when I think of the term “creative” based on this definition: relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something.

Honestly, is there really a field of expertise which doesn’t involve creativity?

Architect
Jeweler
Painter
Sculptor
Writer
Developer
Actor
Dancer
Scientist
Videographer
Baker
Landscaper
Bartender
Fashion Designer
Stylist
Beautician
Technician
Photographer
Cinematographer
Scriptwriter
Director
Therapist
Doctor
Assistant
Public Speaker
Politician
Accountant
Rancher
Dentist
Marketer
Designer (of all kinds)
Inventor
Poet
Laborer
Singer
Musician
Cleaner
Pilot
Chef
Farmer
Carpenter
Herbalist
Teacher
Entrepreneur
Barista
Waiter
Dog walker
Police Officer
Flight Attendant
[1] The history of term creative as an individual is as follows: ‘creatives’ refers to the people who actually physically make the ads in an agency. They generally work in a team of two – art director and copywriter, and together, they’re a ‘creative team’. In an old-school mad-men agency, the majority of the roles are not actually making ads, they’re working on the strategy or the business relationships or the media spend. So when an ad is ready to be created, you call in the creative team. Or, ‘creatives’ for short. – Thanks to Emma Levine for summing this up so succinctly.

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