Re: Creativity and Limitations in Art
Tue, 7 Sep 1999 08:27:45 -0700

Dan Fabulich, <>, writes:
> The NY Times printed an article today on computers in advertising, but
> sold it with a distinctly more philosophical bent, suggesting that
> artistic creativity has more to do with constraints and limitations than
> freedom and imagination.

It is an interesting article, but I don't think their conclusion follows from their premises. They basically copied ideas from clever commercials and compared them with new ideas from average developers. The copied ideas won. So the moral is not necessarily that constraints help creativity, but rather that an old good idea is better than a new mediocre one.

Having said that, I have seen situations where constraining a great artist seemed to make them even greater. The constraints force them to work at their very highest level. Architecture is a good example of this, expecially when the architect must work in a severely constrained situation due to the local environment. An example would be what is perhaps Frank Lloyd Wright's greatest masterpiece, "Falling Water", the home built onto a waterfall.

Years ago I worked in the video game business. At a time when the hardware was crude, the pixels blocky and the sound chips little better than penny whistles, we had artists who could really bring the system to life. The graphics flowed smoothly, the sounds were cleverly done to complement the game. One project I worked on (unfortunately cancelled before release) used a film-score musician who was fascinated by the abilities and limitations of the built-in sound chip. He made that thing jump through hoops, experimenting with alternative musical scales, integrating sound effects into the music, and really doing imaginative stuff with it. The constraints of the system got his creative juices flowing.