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Creativity Is Dead (Long Live Creativity)

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Web designers and adrenaline junkies have a lot in common: we all live for the next big challenge. As designers, the stickier the creative problem, the more satisfaction we get from crafting a brilliant solution for it. Like a storm chaser, it's in our DNA to embrace chaos in order find the beauty lurking within. And that's pretty freaking cool. (Well, if it doesn't kill you.)

But lately, being a creative thinker on the web is getting harder. Not brain surgery hard, but concerning enough to start talking about it. Why? Because as technology continues to raise the bar on innovation, design is expected not only to keep up but to outpace it. (thanks, Steve jobs.) And as data takes center stage, we begin to worry that the creative process could end up at the mercy of numbers instead of ideas.

Talk about throwing down the gauntlet.

I'm not suggesting that technology is trying to destroy creativity. Well, at least not on purpose. As a design professional, I am excited by the latest advances in mobile development, front-end styling, HTML 5 interactivity, web analytics, and content management systems (now capable of picking up your dry cleaning, if you tag it right). I even appreciate how it's pushed us beyond our comfort zone so we don't become complacent in our craft or stale in our product.

But when advanced technology leads to a barrage of new design challenges to solve for all at once, the compounding effect can be dizzying. And ironically, even limiting. Is it any wonder that we fear the creative process is about to take it in the teeth?

For a designer, the act of being creative is both our job and part of our emotional core. There is nothing inherently logical or easily definable about creativity. It just is. In her amazing TEDTalk on the subject, author Elizabeth Gilbert even suggests that a creative career choice is akin to insanity. Knowing how elusive the source of our inspiration can be and how devastating even its temporary loss can feel, maybe she's right. But we do it anyway. Which brings us right back where we started: full of bravado, awash in great ideas and with more questions than answers.

It's been said that creativity is an act of defiance. As the pace of technological innovation speeds up exponentially faster than Sharknado, designers have two choices in the coming storm: reinvent our creative approach or accept defeat. (and ugly websites)

I plan to suit up. What about you?