Against Creativity

On the destructive aspect of the modern day obsession with originality

In our age of consumption, creativity itself becomes an item of consumption. What I mean by this is that for the consumer market the originality of a design becomes just as important as its other attributes, such as its functionality and the quality of its construction. In a sense, the design of a good is itself consumed with the consumption of the good—styles and forms are continually “used up” through their implementation, forcing the designer to keep re-inventing a product for its next model or iteration. This is more than “planned obsolescence”—the consumption of a design is intentional not only from the standpoint of getting people to buy the next model, but from the standpoint of creating a new category of consumption good to be offered to the market. Just like a physical good is consumed through wear and tear, the ideal good—the form and style of a thing that exists in the realm of ideas, i.e. the design of a thing—is consumed through the cycle of perpetual re-invention. Thus, not only does the consumer market eat up the material world, it devours the world of ideas as well.

In this way, the modern obsession with creativity and originality becomes a force of destruction. Unlike the previous ages, when we had schools of art that lasted for generations, each building on top of what was already there, the modern designer attaches their work to the perpetually spinning wheel of consumption that rips apart and destroys their work with its every turn, forcing them to continually build anew. Historical styles connected makers and their society through collaboration and gradual augmentation. All work was connected by a common thread. This thread did not remain static, the designer could augment it with their own ideas, but all work shared a common core, connecting it with everything that came before. The modern obsession with originality severs the thread and breaks us up into individuals, with each designer and company competing with each other, trying their hardest to stand out by producing ever more original work1. Style no longer unites and defines a people or a movement, it is used merely as a tool to feed the consumer market, which, not content with eating up the material world proceeds to gobble up the world of ideas also. Those who promote creativity for the sake of mindless originality are promoting their own destruction by demolishing the foundation upon which their work—and by extension: their spirit—is able to last.

  1. With the exception of copycats that attach themselves to the leader. But they do little to augment their product, and because it is attached to a moving target it is more akin to a shadow than an independent work.
Published January 2016