How Apple understand both ‘art’ and ‘science’

Applestore bibleIt was always said that Jazz could be described as ‘a loose kind of tightness and a tight kind of looseness’.

That’s a really good description of how creativity works.

It’s the mix of art and science, logic and chaos, restriction and freedom, opening out and closing down and of course of ‘left’ and ‘right-brain’ working together.

And yet our world is polarised into two halves. We’re told and schooled and trained to be one thing or the other. The classic example is we’re forced to choose between being a scientist or an artist way early in our education. The system assumes that they are mutually exclusive and that you cannot be both.

The problem we have is that the great scientists, in all fields of physics, chemistry and biology, those that made the big discoveries, were also artists.

By the same token, the great artists and designers had to have an understanding of science.

Here are some simple definitions:*

Science = an understanding of the natural world, how it works and being able to describe it.

Art = doing something with that understanding.

Science = knowing how to make changes

Art = making changes

Let’s have a look at how this art/science paradox works in one of our favourite companies; Apple.

Let’s think about what they are known for, loved for and hated for (no-one is ambivalent when it comes to Apple)

• Gorgeous cutting edge design (of the products, the packaging and the marketing materials)

• A focus on creative lifestyle activities: music, design and film.

• They create a ‘togetherness’, a club (or cult), of like-minded creatives, geniuses, fun, coolness.

But there’s more:

• Their products are expensive and exclusive.

• They operate in a closed system of their own making.

• Users have to surrender other freedoms to fully enter their ecosphere.

All of those points are true you can use them to add to your own beliefs, depending of what’s important to you, as to whether you hate or love the company.

But whatever we think, one thing remains, Apple is the most valuable company in the world.

Whether you refuse to buy an iPhone, one thing remains, Apple is the most valuable company in the world.

If you baulk at iTunes’ grip on the music industry, one thing remains, Apple is still the most valuable company in the world.

They were also recently voted the UK’s most ‘cool’ brand.

There’s no getting away from it.

So we need to ask ourselves, how did they do that? Is there anything we can learn?

The one thing that I’ve noticed is that they employ a loose kind of tightness and a tight kind of looseness – at the same time. We all think they’re arty and cool and yet their business acumen is more solid than anyone on Earth. We all think that amazing design is the big acumen and the ease-of-use that results from it gives us freedom to create and yet they control our thoughts.

There’s the story that Steve Jobs dropped the prototype iPod into a fish tank to see if tiny bubbles would come out from the device (they did). If there was air in the device, there was space and if there was space there was an opportunity to make the device smaller.

There’s the story of the room full of prototype iPhone boxes, all slightly different designs, so they could find exactly the right kind of user unboxing experience. If you’ve ever opened a new iPhone you’ll know they got it right. Can you think of many other companies that go to that level of control of the consumer experience?

Applestore employees are given a training handbook which has a section on ‘Getting to yes’ by controlling the language the employees use when talking to customers. Some of the most interesting, and revealing are shown in he photo below. Look at the heading ‘Do Not Use’. This is not a manual of suggestions, these are commandments.

So instead of ‘bomb’ or ‘crash’ they have to say ‘unexpectedly quits’ or ‘does not respond’. Instead of software ‘bug’ they have to say ‘condition’.

Fanatical control over your business is good. Looking at the big picture and encouraging artistic freedom is good. The real trick is to have them both at the same time.

That’s what Apple does.

That’s creativity.

That’s Jazz.

(* other definitions are available)

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

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Are we all, in fact, in a ‘Creative Industry’?

Creativity is often related almost exclusively with the so-called ‘arts’. When I say ‘creative industries’ you don’t think of a firm of solicitors do you? You’d probably think of a web design company, film company, animation studio, graphic design or music related business. Why is that?

With the concept of creativity we generally have to admit it must mean you have to actually ‘make’ something. I often use the broader term to ‘manifest’ something, i.e. the act of creation ‘brings something into existence’ something that wasn’t previously there.

This is clearly true of all the so-called ‘creative industries’. They use their creativity to manifest websites, films, animations, designs, pieces of music and so on.

But a baked bean factory ‘manifests’ something too, tins of baked beans. A car plant manifests something too, so too does a construction company. So why aren’t these firms labelled ‘creative industries’ as well?

Part of the reason is that in general, what they create, make or manifest is perceived as a commodity. So we may think the graphic designer or photographer is the artist, the ‘creative’, if you like, but the printer who actually makes their design into a printed artifact is not.

So it seems we have two stages here: creative conception (design, writing, making music etc) and the creative construction (printing, recording etc).

I would say it’s wrong to say that one was artistry and the other not. It would be wrong to say one was technical and the other not. Both types have specific skills and particular tools. You could even say both have particular talents. Compare a musician to the recording engineer for example. Are not both creative, one conceptually, one corporally.

We’ll think of the designer of the car as being creative of course but we don’t rate the construction and manufacture on a production line as being creative at all. We might give a little creative credit to the artisan who stitches the fabrics and leather by hand for the seats, but even that’ll be given a little grudgingly.

We often view craftspeople and artisans differently from artists as if the craftsperson makes repeated works, or makes money from what they make they’re somehow not ‘an artist’. They are of course both creative. The artist may be more of a creative conceptualist and the artisan more of a creative constructualist.

Let’s go back to business models and look at the next part of the chain within all industries; the service part. These are the vital parts of a business that make everything happen: sales, people and resources management, marketing, accounts and law. (Some of these are labelled as ‘professionals’ which is a bit outdated, and perhaps even patronising to both those who do it and those who don’t. There’s nothing un-professional about good sales or good design that’s better than a good accountant or good solicitor.)

These service based roles may not actively manifest an end creation by their own hands but they enable more end manifestations to happen. They enable the factory to mass produce goods. They enable the creation of increased wealth. They are necessary for scale. So why aren’t these service roles also labelled as creative? T

They should be. They are the Creative Continuators. They make the creativity of the artists and artisans go further and achieve more.

Here’s a summary of the component roles with our newly defined creative industries:

• The creative conceptualists

• The creative constructionists

• The creative continuationists

A modern example of a company within a previously designated non-creative industry yet is intrinsically linked with creativity is Apple Inc. They manufacture stuff. We can be gushingly romantic and point out that their products are often works or art (the original iMac from 1997 was actually exhibited as such).

But let’s face it, in reality they make mass manufactured stuff, no different to an attractive poster print, no different to a nice car, not really any different to a nice beaked bean tin.

But we do see that company in a different light. We do see them as a creative company, even if the computer, hi-fi or mobile communications industries that they work within are not ones we’d traditionally label as ‘creative industries’.

It’s because Apple have realised that they are indeed a creative industries business and that every part of that business contains highly creative people, whether they’re working in software development, manufacture, design, retail, marketing or whatever.

The big question is – does you business need to do the same?

What creative roles do you actually employ and do you treat them as such (or do you stick to the 19th Century industrialist model of management and worker drones?)

What role do YOU fulfill and where do you sit in the 21st Century’s ‘creative industries’?

Ayd works with people and businesses to explore and unlock their creative ideas in ways they may never have thought possible, to inspire innovation.

Book Ayd to speak about the Power of ‘What If?’ and Inspiration for Innovation at your conference, or in your business. A great way to open your event or as an after lunch energiser.

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Criticism? Feedback? Don’t ask people what they think

Being a graphic artist, author and speaker has meant that I’ve been enjoying more freedom than most when it comes to my daily routines and variety of work. But there is a great downside, one that most people don’t often have to deal with day to day and that is direct criticism of one’s creative work.

If you’re doing a process job and you get criticised, certainly it can hurt, but it’s easier to see that you got the process wrong. Perhaps you rushed it, did something in the wrong order or missed something out. Perhaps it was the weather’s fault or the customer’s. It’s easy to point the blame partially at something else. You didn’t get the sale? It wasn’t quite right anyway, there are loads of factors involved and you’ll no doubt do better next time when luck and better conditions are on your side.

This isn’t the same with a task that uses your creativity more directly. If you’ve designed something, drawn something, written something or made something, you’ve put part of your soul into it. And then for someone to come along and say “it’s not really working for me” or “I don’t like it” or the killer, “can you just…”. It’s horrible. It’s an affront upon your very being. Your reason for existence has been attacked. Your humanity and personality, your very soul has been deemed worthless, or worse, average.

No wonder it’s a powerful reason not to do anything. It’s just too risky being creative. We’re just not naturally built to take that sort of criticism. No wonder people devolve such responsibilities and avoid putting their naked soul on display where it can be jeered at and tormented.

The award winning writer Issac Asimov said that when he handed his manuscript to the editor it was, as far as he was concerned, totally finished and sacred. He refused to change one word, not one comma. That didn’t mean that it was perfect by any means but he just couldn’t face someone else getting into his artistry and messing with it. He couldn’t bare it. J. R. R . Tolkien was similar. He was the author, the artist. What could these other people know about it? How dare they suggest this wonderful world that he had summoned into existence be made better by some external reader, some punter, someone who hadn’t created one line of text in their lives.

If these giants of literature can’t take it, it’s no surprise we can’t. There are of course ways of giving feedback that doesn’t hurt or offend (and it’s not ‘constructive criticism’ by the way), but we’ll save that for another time. Here I want to deal with the receiving end.

First of all we need to get used to telling people to, well, clear off. Poking their noses in, who do they think they are? We need to get control back of our creativity and re-establish that it has value in itself no matter what anyone else thinks. If the value of your art is dependent on other people’s opinion you’ll either stop creating altogether or begin a downward spiral of depression and low self worth that can, like in the case of so many artists; painters, musicians, singers and writers, end in death.

The genius scientist, artist, musician and safe-cracker Richard Feynman was told so many times, “what do you care what other people think?” that he used it as the title of his book. He didn’t care what people thought of him so he felt free to indulge in his crazy ideas and experiments that earned him the Nobel Prize. Please note this is not saying we shouldn’t care about people. I’m saying we shouldn’t care too much what they think about us, or at least shouldn’t worry about it to a point that disables us from operating. We shouldn’t second guess our moves to accommodate what other people might think of what we’re doing.

Then must first re-establish the joy of the act of creation, no matter what the discipline we work in, as an end in itself, separate from whether people will like it or whether we can sell it. Monetising our creativity is important but that has to come second. If you don’t enjoy and feel free to create what you create without thinking someone is breathing over your shoulder, you will stop doing it.

With my design clients over the years and especially with my author clients, some have a tendency to doubt their work and feel the need for peer review (and often stranger review) to the work before it is competed. Some authors post the draft cover or the title of the book on their Friendface sites. Why do they do this?

If it’s to say, ‘hey, my new book is coming out soon, get ready, it’s going to be great’ that’s a good thing. If it’s ‘what do you think, please give me some reassurance because I’m not confident’ it’s a bad thing.

If it’s an impasse of ‘I can’t decide between A and B, please help me decide’ for example than that can be useful. But asking people ‘what do you think?’ allows a load of pig ignorant, out of context irrelevant people to offer their destructive comments, which they think, erroneously, are actually helpful.

How dare you! I hear you say. These are my friends! Well, I love my mum but I’m not going to ask her what she thinks of my book cover. What does she know about it book cover design? She’s not even in the target market. She’s certainly not going to buy a copy. I bet your friends won’t be buying a copy either. They’ll probably expect one for free. After all, they contributed to the book didn’t they, by telling you you’d done it wrong and needed their help to get it right. That deserves a copy doesn’t it. They probably won’t read it though.

There’s room for market research. It can be very important. But is has to be done scientifically with controls in place, with a sizable target market or all you’ll get is random, worthless opinions.

The opinions that you get from so-called friends are never offered in a caring way either. (They think they are, but they’re not). This is because most people are not trained in offering feedback. They simply fluff up their feathers, proud and empowered that they’ve been asked to give their opinion on something and then look hard to see what it is about your work that they can hate. They don’t realise that their opinion is always subjective. “I don’t like blue. Blue is the wrong colour to use” and phrases like that are worded in a global way, as if their subjectivity is objectively true under all conditions. This is wrong. All phrases that are offered that take a global form should be ignored.

Anyone who offers the phrase “I’m being devil’s advocate here” can get right out of town. The one thing that’s worse than an irrelevant opinion is someone irrelevant offering their guess on what someone else, who doesn’t event exist, may think.

It’s lovely when people say, “I love it!”. But that too is irrelevant and should be ignored. We should not need our friends, associates or strangers opinions to validate our creative work. No-one contacts the film company to say “love the new Harry Potter film poster”. No-one even contacts the author of a book and says “saw your book in the bookshop. Love the cover. Haven’t bought it or read it. But love the cover”. How offensive is that? It’s out of context, that’s why. The cover or the poster isn’t there to be validated on it’s own. It’s integral to the wider work and can only be judged in that context.

What happens when you get all these conflicting irrelevant, out of context opinions is that you freeze. You can’t move forwards or backwards. You lose all power. Do you you change it, scrap it, give up? Doing nothing is the only option. Perhaps time will make decisions easier to make. Perhaps the pain of criticism will go away. It will not, and it does not.

This all adds delay and perhaps a greater failure of the work not being finished at all. What a disservice to the real target market (who so far haven’t even seen the work) and now will never get it, or get it late in a watered down state.

Thank you ‘friends’. Thanks for wasting my time and letting us all down.

But it’s not their fault. It’s our fault for not having faith in our convictions. It’s our fault for not believing in our ideas.

If you have specific doubts about the creation, ask the relevant trusted expert a specific question. But never ever ask anyone “what do you think?” because until that moment they didn’t think anything. Now you’ve given them a knife and said, “see how deep you can cut”.

Instead, present your works to your network as a done deal. Say, “Here it is, my new book, available in September. I’m taking advance orders now”. See how many of them buy it. There’s YOUR feedback on whether you’ve got the right target market.

If there is something wrong, like a spelling mistake and someone points it out, that’s fine. That’s useful to know. It’s not an opinion, it’s an objective fact. But imagine someone saying, “I see you new book is coming out. I’d love to buy it but I can’t because it’s got blue on it”. Now it’s clearer that the person who says that is a moron. But of course no-one will say that because no-one in your network is a moron.

Unless of course you allow them to be.

More on criticism here: “Using the C-word in business”

Book Ayd to speak about Creativity and Innovation Mind-flow at your event.
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Why John Lennon’s message is better than you think

John Lennon beatles

Drawings by Ayd Instone

John Lennon’s and the Beatles’ music comes from a time when music seemed to actually matter. Their influence on music, art and youth culture is well documented. But what of the other angle, Lennon’s so-called ‘message’ about peace and love?

Some bores have criticised Lennon’s simplicity in his message. What did they want? A doctoral thesis? Essays on psychology? Those things exist, but who reads them, who remembers them and who acts on them? No-one.

Overplayed and overused, 1971’s Imagine is not quite what people think it is. The message isn’t a banal hollow hippy one. It doesn’t make empty promises. It doesn’t dictate a solution. It just asks the listener to imagine a different world. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing to criticise there. It’s just a simple a mind game that we should all be able to play unless we have become dangerous creatures that lack the imagination to wonder ‘what if?’. Imagine is a creativity workout song.

Two years earlier Lennon recorded the improvised Give Peace a Chance. Again it’s criticised for its simplicity. The message is in just one line, “All we are saying, is give peace a chance”‘. That’s all he was saying. Again, he wasn’t offering solutions to the world’s complex problems. He knew there were people better equipped to work those solutions out (“we’d all love to see the plan”). All he was saying was to give peace a chance, not to overlook it or rush in and miss the opportunity for it. “You may say I’m a dreamer” he sings in Imagine. But in fact he was an imaginative realist too who knew the limitations of our society and of himself, even when, for a brief time he was one of the most powerful cultural figures on Earth.

Lennon’s approach to revolution was different from many rebels. He wasn’t wanting to usurp the current leaders and take over. He wasn’t insular, speaking only to a select few. He was instead sending out messages to everyone, all the people and the leaders, to instil a sense of doing a better job of getting along with each other.

The Beatles All You Need is Love is another so-called ‘peace and love’ song that is criticised for its simplicity. It was performed and recorded live in the first global satellite broadcast in 1967 to 500 million viewers. Why not use the opportunity to send a simple message that almost everyone could understand? Again the critics have missed the point. Lennon wasn’t necessarily saying that all you need is love, that you don’t need anything else (like food and water for example). He was saying that you have everything you need and now, the one thing you are lacking, is love.

The fact that people are still talking abut Lennon’s ‘peace and love bed-in’ 41 years after the event (even if it’s to moan about how simple and rubbish the idea was) shows what a great publicity stunt it was. In fact, in terms of peace protest (or guerilla marketing awareness campaign as they are now called) you’d be hard pushed to top it. Lennon’s simple idea of staying in bed for the week and inviting the world’s press to come and chat is second only to Ghandi in memorability and cultural resonance (whether you agree with the methods or results or not).

We’re still talking about him 30 years after his death. We notice and mark his 70th birthday.  Lennon isn’t going away anytime soon and possibly never will. In many ways the myth gets stronger as time passes. Lennon is the most recent god elected to the pantheon alongside Shakespeare and Mozart. It doesn’t even matter what you and I think.

It doesn’t matter whether you love the Beatles or not (although if you don’t you may be in the minority). As a cultural phenomenon they are here forever and as long as our civilisation endures, they will be listened to, referred to and talked about.

Making the complex appear simple is not easy, it is an art in itself. Taking complex psychology or a meaningful message to motivate, inspire or engage and packaging it up in a medium such as a song that can transcend barriers of time and space is the work of a creative genius. We should all aspire to being that simple.

Creativity and the Beatles

This is an extract from my forthcoming book, Creativity and the Beatles.

Read more here.

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Tony Hart 1925-2009

Tony Hart, the double BAFTA winning artist, broadcaster and one of my heroes has died.

He wrote and presented the childrens’ weekly television programmes such as Vision On, Take Hart and Hartbeat from 1952-2002 on which he demonstated how to draw, paint and create different forms of craft. He also designed the Blue Peter logo, still in use today.

As a child I was inspired by his easy going style style and straightforward step-by-step methods that made artistic creativity fun and imediately do-able.

I never did send any of my pictures to the Gallery (to be shown on the programme), one of the few things I always regreted (not writing to ‘Jim’ll Fix it’ was another), so finally meeting the man and seeing the studio where he thought up all his techniques last year was a great honour.

Tony was also kind enough to write the forward for my new book which details how everyone can begin and progress on their creative journey. Visit Tony’s website here.

Here’s a clip from the first episode of Take Hart from 1977. Thanks Tony.

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Can you draw? Of course you can!

In my workshops I teach people to draw. Actually I don’t teach them at all, I just prove to them that they can draw, it’s just them telling themselves they can’t that stops them. I received this from one of the delegates:

“After your talk I was thinking about what you’d said, about how the conscious mind can’t draw but the unconscious can, and I picked up a notepad and pencil and just sketched what was in front of me (a dressing gown on the door). To my surprise it actually looks like my dressing gown!

“I am writing a book on the unconscious mind, and its role in happiness. I am planning to use music as an example. When you mentioned that drawing was an unconscious activity I immediately realised that the techniques I have developed for allowing the unconscious mind access to the body (e.g. the hands) without conscious “correction” – techniques that have allowed me to play the piano in a few months without tuition – should work just as well for drawing, since both activities are best done by the unconscious. Hence, it was not difficult for me to ask my unconscious mind to draw something, rather than play the piano.

“None-the-less, it was your talk that inspired me to try drawing when I had long-since given up!
Thanks again, and best wishes, Paul Rudman”

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Be a creator

There is an interesting dimension to being a creator that sets apart creators from non-creators. It is that highly creative people value what they have created while less creative people don’t.

A friend of mine, Abbie Cooke, runs a session for business that gets the executives to paint a picture by the end of the session. Everyone enjoyed the session and seemed to learn something from it and the messages that she taught them. But then she noticed an interesting thing. Some of the delegates left their drawings behind. They obviously didn’t feel they had any value and effectively had thrown them away at the end of the session. I wonder, does this mean they metaphorically had also ‘thrown away’ the learning from the session, and perhaps every other training session they’d ever been to? So she changed the focus of the session from then on. Now the delegates had to make a frame for their paintings. She began to teach them the value of what they had created.

To a true creator it doesn’t matter if you took just a few minutes to create the work (Paul McCartney wrote ‘Yesterday’, the most recorded and most played song ever, in just a few minutes.) or whether it took you years to complete the project. Whatever you bring into being in the universe that wasn’t there before always has value. We need to understand this and trust it. All creation has value and worth. Overlooking this will stop your creativity dead as who would want to create something worthless? If you don’t value what you do you haven’t done anything more worthy that what you flushed down the toilet this morning.

To a creator, the worth of their work is tied into their self worth. If you don’t like yourself or trust yourself you’re going to have real problems being more creative.

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Are Art and Money the Same Thing?

I used to think that we could abolish money in the future as part of some Star Trek style Utopia. Now I’m not so sure. I think if we didn’t have money, we’d invent it as it’s so useful in comparing and transferring value to one another. As far as we can tell, we’re the only animal to have a system of currency. We’re also the only animal to have art. The two, money and art, may have not evolved together but may be more closely related than we think.

If you have created a piece of art, you have created something of value greater than the raw materials the art is constructed from. So the painting you have created is worth something and has a value in the same way that a note of currency has value and is worth something. Both can be exchanged for something else of equivalent value.

This is interesting as during the Renaissance, when magnificent works of art were created and revered then and now as masterpieces, those works were created because of an entrepreneurial spirit and the beginning of the system of capital which drove cultural and intellectual changes. A painter or sculpturer’s reputation was based on his ability to arouse commercial interest in his work, through direct payment, commission or sponsorship and not through any abstract criteria of artistic merit. The same principles apply today, but are not understood or taught correctly to many of todays potentially great artists. That is why so many artists, be they painters, actors, dancers or musicians remain poor.

Think about it. If a piece of ‘art’ has no value, it is not deemed proper art. Perhaps a problem is that so many of today’s up-and-coming artists find money ‘offensive’. That is why they are poor. They wait around to be ‘spotted’ or ‘discovered’. But in an age of abundance that is filled with so many works, there is very little chance of that happening. Van Gough was ‘discovered’ 11 years after he had died penniless.

A great artist realises that he or she has the potential to literally print money by creating value almost out of thin air from their talents and raw materials. The same criteria must apply that applies to all business: potential customers must be convinced that your creations have value. Money and art are part of the same thing after all.

Have a look at this poem called ‘But is it Art?

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But is it Art?

So many people use the concept of creativity interchangeably with art. But creativity is not art. Art is one of the uses of creativity. When asked to make a list of highly creative works, people might list the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s 5th Symphony or Milton’s Paradise Lost. These are all recognised works of art but only a small subset of human creativity. Inventions, solving social problems to form civilisation, engaging in business and finance and the exploration of the natural world all require and utilise creativity.

Here’s my definition of creativity:

perception + decision + action = creativity.

It’s about taking action on an idea that has been formed from observation and decision. So invention, problem solving, scientific discovery and art all fit in the subset of creativity. But what is this thing called art, especially in a modern world where the likes of Damien Hirst present half a cow in formaldehyde.

One dictionary definition of art states it is the product of human creative skill appreciated primarily for its beauty or emotive power. Well that takes care of paintings, music and books. But what about dead cows? Is Hirst being extra creative by bending the boundaries of what’s acceptable? If the dead cow is lying in a field or hanging up in an abattoir it certainly isn’t a work of art. But if a human makes a choice, a decision to do something particular with it and then actually follows through and acts on it, then it can claim to be art. So art has to have human intervention.

The action required to make something art is the act of putting it in a ‘frame’ of some description. In effect by pointing it out as art it becomes art. A buttercup can’t be art when it’s in a field, or even when it’s picked. But if it’s pressed and displayed, it’s had the injection of human interaction then perhaps it can become art. A sunset cannot be art, no mater how beautiful or awe inspiring. A photograph or painting of it can.

My Apple Mac computer is an aesthetically pleasing thing. Is it a work of art? I would say no, it is not. Neither is a Range Rover. However they are both wonderful pieces of design. But place either one of them in an art gallery (as they both have been) and they become works of art in that moment.

Design is applied art. Both the Mac and the Range Rover have function as well as aesthetic properties. They have both form and function. Good design is described as something where the form follows the function. That’s why people regard the iPod as good design. It is small, it has a screen and a click-wheel interface; it is simple. There are no features on its form that are extraneous to its designed function; it has no ‘go faster stripes’. Its casing is not aerodynamically streamlined like some of its competitors because its function is not to fly through the air but to be held in the hand and put in the pocket. Its form follows that function.

Art, on the other hand, has no function, or if it has, the function is removed once it becomes the art; the Range Rover is a luxury 4×4 off road vehicle which becomes an exhibit, a sculpture, when placed behind the guide ropes in the gallery.

So by our definition here, art requires human intervention. This means that computers cannot create art and neither can chimps or elephants. If they do produce a painting or piece of music it is not art until the point that a human puts it on a pedestal or in a frame and defines it as such. A dog might think that it has forged a wonderful helical sculpture from its own scented abdominal putty on the pavement but it is actually a pile of poo.

Can a computer or an animal really be creative? I would argue that, for now, a computer cannot. The current processors in all our modern computers work by carrying out a single process one at a time and processing them in a sequential, logical order. This is how the left hemisphere of the human brain works. A computer can only run a program that it has been given. A program can even have a random factor entered into it, but it is still a program, written by a human. It is still the human being creative. It’s a bit like loading a paintbrush with paint and shaking it at a canvas which gives an interesting stipple effect. No-one would think it was the brush that created the painting. It was the combination of the laws of the behaviour of liquids and gravity set in motion by the hand of the artist.

There are a few documented examples of apes fashioning simple tools, or learning to wash their food where one individual finds a better way of doing something and the rest adopt it. There is no proof however that any animal has ever created a work of art, that is a creation that has no function, only form. There are many beautiful animal creations but they all have a clear functional purpose.

There is an argument that mankind’s ‘art’, that is pure form, is actually a recent phenomenon. Ancient art from cave paintings, inscriptions in Egypt though to Renaissance paintings all had a function, to either capture history or to inspire religious or spiritual feelings. Perhaps human art began as a communion with the gods, with the ancestors or with the future. Perhaps only in the modern, materialistic age has art become cut off from the sacred.

But there will always be the sacred in all art and in all creative endeavor. By creating we mimic the work of the great Creator, adding something new to the universe, lifting ourselves up from instinct and survival to become, potentially god-like and eternal.

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