MacGyver and the theory that Limitations breed Creativity

The inspiration of the Flash on the Beach conference is still coursing through my veins. Re-reading that sentence, it is apparent it’s touched me. And you over there, keep those comments to yourself! Talking about inspiration, the phrase with respect to creativity that popped up several times, and made me consider this could be the ‘design’ Zeitgeist of the moment, was Limitations breed Creativity.

This is not as obvious a statement as I thought after I had tested it on a friend and got a totally different interpretation from him than had been discussed during the conference. In fact, friend being a kind of the engineering type, of course shot the phrase down in flames. Different strokes for different blokes, it seems.

But back to creativity then. The first talk at FotB that I went to was by Chris Orwig, an American and a photographer amongst other professions. He spoke about this concept and it was discussed by several speakers again in various formats during the course of the conference. He said that in order to make your point, or identify your brand, or make a statement, pare the message down to a minimum. Think poetry here rather than a novel.

Once one is left with a few images, words, strokes or whatever other symbols one can think of here, then the imagination has a better chance of coming up with great creativity. It’s something along the lines that the old creative masters will teach young design students, which is, that if it holds up in black and white you have a great design. If it can only live because the designer is throwing lots of colour at it, then there is a problem.

A MacGyver of the design world! Remember those fabulous MacGyver adventures on TV where the hero was always in really difficult situations. In fact mere mortals would have given up. Not MacGyver. He would take a bit of string, some stones, a few drops of some chemical or other, some liquid, a match and voila he would blow up the door and escape. Of course each episode had another collection of ordinary bits and pieces that he could perform miracles with.

This is what Chris Orwig and several other speakers were discussing when they meant that Limitations breed Creativity. They felt that if too many options were available, or the client brief too vague for instance, the creative juices would get stuck milling around. However, if the brief was tight, the instructions limited by whatever factor such as no production budget, then creativity could be a lot more focused.

This theory was certainly borne out by the fact that the presenters who showed amazing work, usually prefixed their best work with, I did this for free, there was no budget for that, I had to make do with… Actually if one thinks even further back and looks at how many world class artists, musicians, writers, philosophers and scientists amongst many other creative disciplines starved and made do with limited resources while they produced amazing work, the principle makes even more sense.

Often when I stroll through the incredible museums, galleries and historic buildings in England, mostly those in London and Southern England where I’m based, I marvel that people produced these amazing pieces during times when the resources were limited, to say the least.

Then I see the entries and winners of the big current art prize in the UK, The Turner Prize. And quite frankly it’s the biggest load of rubbish. It always reminds me of the Emperor and His Clothes. Everybody is blinded by whatever this thing called modern art is. Nobody wants to admit, for instance, that a man-made crack in the concrete floor as an installation in the Tate Modern is actually not worth looking at, never mind making a big noise about.

So is there too much available for the modern creative person? Too many resources, too much money, too much hype, too many drugs, too much – you fill in the blank spaces. As an aside, J K Rowling dreamt up and started her incredible Harry Potter books on government benefits. Come to think of it – what a wise investment! How much tax is she paying back now….

How much truth is in that saying then, Limitations breed Creativity. It certainly is a statement that could do with some further discussion, especially by creative people. Any takers?

6 thoughts on “MacGyver and the theory that Limitations breed Creativity

  1. You’ve hit the button for me here, Anja. This is what I have always thought but could not have expressed i as well as you. So, well done! As an aspiring artist I often look at sketches done by the great masters – how much detail they put into their work – how many sketches they made before they even attempted a large painting. All these sketches made with just one type of graphite (they didn’t have many different grades like we have today) are masterpieces in themselves. It seems the old saying “Necessity is the Mother of Invention” really does apply in this case.

  2. Hello! I’ve popped over from Kilroy’s Carnival at Blog Village.

    You’ve put into words what I feel when I must make something from nothing. Creativity is then bumped to an all time high…and the satisfaction I get is unbelievable.

    Really thoughtful post!

  3. Hej,this is so cool.
    It’s my idea, I’m a musicians and usually I work in the same manner, try to limit myself to stimulate my creativity.
    Just a question do u have some text that spoke about this?
    Please write me back

  4. Limitations breed Creativity. Thats great. it makes perfect sense to me. I see the limitations as an out side force(budget,boss,customer)that you must contend with. Thats where you get good, being creative within the limits. Case in point- director Roger Corman and the tiny budgets he was forced to work with. You dont have to like his stuff (i’m a fan), but respect goes to what he accomplished with what he had to work with.
    Ciao!

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