After six amazing years, the founders of Hexanine have moved on to other independent design work and creative endeavors. Read more
Concrete brand talk in an ephemeral world

Unpacking the 5 Types of Creativity

Unpacking The 5 Types of Creativity

Innovation. Inspiration. Creativity. We toss those words around daily. Are they just fancy ways to say “I’ve had an idea?” Those of us who are marketers, designers, and artists are often labeled as creative. But what do people mean by that? There’s a widely-held (and poorly-articulated) image of the stereotypical creative person floating about in our culture. Is it Steve Jobs? Albert Einstein? Thomas Kinkade? Are creative people different than that? Can we better quantify and understand creativity?

Generally, creativity is widely discussed but poorly understood, and the “creative person” even more so. The prevailing stereotype of creative action doesn’t help matters, either. If we can better define what it means to be creative (and the disparate flavors of creativity), maybe we can better harness that creative output — whether it means assembling a team, hiring a firm, or merely understanding how to best exploit our own skills and natural tendencies.

After meeting and interacting with many creatives over the years, I’ve had to continually expand my definition of what creativity looks like. Sure, sometimes it manifests itself in the traditional way: creating something out of nothing. That lightning bolt of inspiration, or ideas from out of the blue. But other times, being creative is a slogging, noodling process that develops at a snail’s pace. This isn’t to denigrate the classical creative mold, or to lower the bar in defining what we see as creative. It just means that there are different types of creative people and methods out there. We don’t all fit into the same mold. In the same way that we now think about smarts as a set of multiple intelligences, this might be a useful lens in considering definitions of creativity.

To sow the seeds of discussion, I’ve identified five unique types of creativity, knowing full well that some people exhibit multiple facets, or bleed into different categories. Here are the each of these five initial categories. Where do you see yourself among these?

The Inventor
The Inventor

This is the traditional idea of creativity, pulling an idea or concept out of the ether, imagining something where there was previously nothing. Poof! This classic Edison or Da Vinci style of creativity (or its trendy cousin, “innovation,”) is what most people think of when they consider being creative. The trick to harnessing these types of people is understanding how to best deploy them. Generally, they are good at solving problems from the gut, intuiting needs that people don’t realize they have yet. But it often takes time, and the journey of imaging worlds that don’t yet exist is rarely a straight line. Set these people free on specific problems, and allow them to loosen the boundaries of what is possible.

Weaknesses: They are typically not as skilled in iterating or creating dozens of slight variations. If you’re managing or partnering with an Inventor, it’s best to focus them on the broad strokes of an issue, a problem, or an idea. Instead of burdening Inventors with working out the finest details of an idea, you might allow them to pass the finishing touches onto other team members, and move on to new problems.

Examples: Leonardo Da Vinci, Archimedes, Thomas Edison

The Craftsman
The Craftsman

Women and men who belong in this category are more traditional artisan creators, often seen with their heads down and noses to the grindstone (sometimes literally). They whittle, paint, carve, weld, design — their output has a focus on detail, high quality, possibly bordering on perfectionism. Technology and the accessibility of creative tools has thinned this herd somewhat, but in earlier times, these were the exemplary paste-up artists, sign painters, and carpenters. It might seem like our culture has moved away from this type of creativity, but it’s alive and well in the minds of rock star programmers, silkscreen artists, and DIY moonlighters.

Weaknesses: Look at these people, and you might see them getting lost in the details, because they’ve narrowed like a laser beam on to a particular facet, issue, or detail. Sometimes that focused state can be counterproductive when no one else is providing the bigger picture. To balance out a Craftsman, make sure you have great project managers or others committed to keeping the overall project goals, deadlines, and 10,000-foot view in mind.

Examples: Ed Fella, Chris Ware


The Connector
The Connector
When you look at one of these people, you might not see a traditional, inspirational creative type. There’s no genre-inventing or trendsetting happening in front of them. Instead, the Connector is someone who draws on the knowledge, styles, and thoughts of others — remixing, reworking, and building them into new things. This might be the sampling artist, the collage creator, or someone who more generally gets great results while standing on the shoulders of others. But make no mistake about it — there is a deep creativity at work here, because these people broaden our world when they provide new contexts, weld disparate ideas together, and basically make something new out of the old.

Weaknesses: Because Connectors tend to work above the typical level of idea generation, they’re often focused on creative process. This is valuable when it’s usefully repeatable, but can also become a crutch that replaces fresh thinking. To get the most from Connectors, it’s important to allow them to partner with Craftsman types or others who will keep feeding them ideas that can be combined, remixed, and revisited. Connectors are often excellent team members, and tend to thrive in those environments, helping draw more out of all other players.

Examples: Andy Warhol, Shepard Fairey

The Curator
The Curator

For this type of person, the sum is often greater than the whole. With Curators, the bird’s eye view is the thing. They bring value by making creative decisions that categorize, sort, and organize by deciding what stays in the picture, or what belongs in a series. Curation is defined by assembling things and observing how the act of categorization changes their individual parts. Steve Jobs did this exceptionally well, by gathering existing technologies, concepts, and ideas– then choosing what to leave out, narrowing down to only the best designs and features he believed were necessary. Curation also provides a unique value in sizing up and contextualizing work.

Weaknesses: Because their value comes from the thoughts that tie together elements and ideas, Curators can fall into the trap of lowering their standards to fit something into a larger body of work. If they are not vigilant, it can be easy to miss the trees for the forest, and Inventors and Craftsmen need to be on hand to keep standards high.

Examples: Ken Burns, Tina Roth Eisenberg, Steven Heller

The Critic
The Critic

These are the people who attempt to bring order to creations, to assess, challenge, and understand the things we’ve made as a culture. Judgment, understanding, and evaluation are arts in themselves, worthy of respect. The contributions of the Critic are completely dependant on other kinds of creators, but that doesn’t diminish the need for someone to take the time and do the difficult (and underappreciated) work of criticism. The role of critic is simultaneously growing and disappearing in our creative culture. Ease of publishing online (blogs, videos, etc.) can make anyone an instant Critic, and there is no shortage of opinions on the Internet. But opinions alone don’t birth a Critic. The true and valued Critic has extensive knowledge in a subject matter, wide view, and the ability to articulate thoughts that add wisdom and foster discourse. These creatives don’t just tell us what is good or bad, but instead, help us understand how, why, and when to make such distinctions.

Weaknesses: In an increasingly cynical world, many forms of criticism are seen as negative — just know-it-alls spouting their snooty (and often negative) opinions. Critics must work hard to avoid falling into the stereotypical destructive behavior we sometimes associate with the Critic. The true critical work is more about adding, building, and creating than it is about tearing down or ripping apart creative work. Even the word criticism has negative connotations, but Critics should be wary of turning into a fount of negativism that is the caricature of constructive, helpful criticism.

Examples: Marcia Lausen, Alice Twemlow

Again, these creative categorizations are not hard and fast definitions. Many of us exhibit multiple qualities in lesser or greater amounts, but these creations might be the most helpful for the individual person. With some self-reflection and evaluation, these roles are useful in trying to understand our own creative strengths, and how we can best work in isolation or as part of a larger team. And for those building their own creative teams — as part of a staff, internally, or in partnering with firms and individuals — it seems prudent to have a broad representation of the types on this list for a well-balanced and effective team. We’re very interested in your thoughts with these constructions, and welcome dialogue about these types of creativity.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

37 Responses to “Unpacking the 5 Types of Creativity”

  1. [...] Lapetino posits five unique types of creativity: the inventor, the craftsman, the connector, the curator, and the critic. I enjoyed his description [...]

  2. [...] Lapetino posits five unique types of creativity: the inventor, the craftsman, the connector, the curator, and the critic. I enjoyed his description [...]

  3. [...] These are great articles explaining several different kinds of creativity, including the five types I mentioned here. http://lateralaction.com/articles/multiple-intelligences/ http://www.hexanine.com/zeroside/unpacking-the-5-types-of-creativity/ [...]

  4. [...] Lapetino posits five unique types of creativity: the inventor, the craftsman, the connector, the curator, and the critic. I enjoyed his description [...]

  5. There is one underlying reason why this may just be the case.
    When men started shaving a number of years ago a single blade was used.
    The reason we’re not considering comprehensive immigration reform is because it’s difficult
    to do, but comprehensive immigration reform would pay for
    all of the tax cuts that are being proposed in these six extenders and indeed in the extenders proposed by the
    Senate Finance Committee.

  6. Everyone loves what you guys are up too. This kind of clever work and reporting! Keep up the fantastic works guys I’ve included you guys to blogroll.

  7. Some genuinely nice stuff on this web site, I like it.

  8. Kyra says:

    Guys and gals if you have tried to lose weight and you are frustrated about the results, read this article http://untold-secrets-of-weight-loss.com/, this isthe first time that I’ve seen something that really works at my age. You came to hexanine.com for a reason right, take action now.

  9. Thanks on your marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you might be a great author.I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and will eventually come back later in life. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great job, have a nice holiday weekend!

  10. Appreciating the dedication you put into your website and detailed information you offer. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material. Excellent read! I’ve saved your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  11. Most of whatever you mention is astonishingly accurate and it makes me ponder why I hadn’t looked at this with this light previously. Your piece truly did turn the light on for me personally as far as this specific subject goes. Nonetheless there is 1 position I am not necessarily too comfortable with and whilst I try to reconcile that with the main idea of the position, let me see exactly what the rest of the visitors have to point out.Very well done.

  12. PikA says:

    When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn`t a sign that they “don`t understand” one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to.

  13. Have you ever considered publishing an ebook or guest authoring
    on other websites? I have a blog centered on the same subjects you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would enjoy your
    work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to
    send me an email.

  14. I went over this internet site and I conceive you
    have a lot of fantastic information, saved to favorites (:.

  15. The very heart of your writing while appearing reasonable originally, did not really sit very well with me personally after some time. Somewhere within the paragraphs you actually managed to make me a believer but just for a very short while. I still have a problem with your jumps in assumptions and you might do well to help fill in those gaps. In the event that you can accomplish that, I will definitely end up being fascinated.

  16. Have you ever considered about including a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is fundamental and all. Nevertheless think about if you added some great images or videos to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and clips, this blog could definitely be one of the greatest in its niche. Good blog!

  17. FAQ Script says:

    Normally I do not read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to check out and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice article. rent a car kosovo

  18. I have been surfing online more than thrfee hours lately, yet
    I by no means found any attention-grabbing article
    like yours. It’s beautiful worth sufficient for me.
    In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made excellent content
    material as you probably did, the web will likely be much more useful than ever before.

    Feel frede to surf to my blog niuvellaa.com

  19. click here says:

    As preventing muscle loss will lead to a high consumption of carbs (excessive fee of insulin -> low charge of fat
    burning) throughout physical work.

  20. Right herre is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to find oout about this topic.
    You know so muchh its almost hard to arggue with you (not that I actually will
    need to…HaHa). You definitely pput a brand new soin onn a topic which has been discussed for ages.
    Excellent stuff,just wonderful!

    Feel free to sujrf tto my website :: vidente sentimental

  21. I like reading a post that will make people
    think. Also, thanks for allowing ffor me to comment!

  22. Awesome! Its actually amazig post, I have got much
    clear idea on the topic of from this piece of writing.

  23. You can observe your pc being an electronic version of a file cabinet:
    it stores information you would like to retrieve within the future.
    The mouse’s motion is translated by having a cursor that’s displayed on laptop t computer terms (https://tryknow.com)
    screen. Good practice is also never to leave your mini notebook already there, specifically if you
    have children, as to them it will look like a very interesting toy to experience with.

  24. Upcoming New Releases: Going with the same concept above, if you have a friend in radio or are merely really ahead of the curve
    musically, you might develop a site that lists and describes the upcoming new album releases.
    If one is careful to not offend, he then or she could generate 1000s of new readers.
    The informal kind of your blog t-mobile gives Internet consumers to be able to familiarize yourself with individuals who’re behind the business
    enterprise better, which makes it easier to enable them to trust you
    and also put money into your site.

  25. pc choking says:

    If your tech support vendor iis directing you to definitely download Linux OS as ISO file, be sure you have a very fast connection to the internet in your system.

    The mouse’s motion is translated through a cursor that’s displayed on the pc choking screen. Proper setup is important for the safety and productivity in the
    hardware and also the user.

  26. Hi there Dear, are you in fact visiting this website on a regular basis, if so afterward you
    will without doubt get nice experience.

  27. Angle Kodish says:

    Don’t Copy Paste. The internet is so open, it’s easy to think we can copy paste and publish anything online without consequence. Well, sad to say, the best way to harm your search ratings and page rank is by copy pasting others content. How would you feel if you bought Nike shoes from a friend only to find out later at home that it’s a cheap replica? You’d never buy from that person again, right? Same idea goes for duplicated content. To provide the high-quality user experience, search engines rank webpages with original and unique content higher than webpages with duplicated content.

  28. CierraBiggie says:

    Hi webmaster, i’ve been reading your posts for some time and I really like
    coming back here. I can see that you probably don’t make money on your
    website. I know one simple method of earning money, I think you will like it.
    Search google for: dracko’s tricks

  29. Also, the very low index of refraction of calcite allows light to
    penetrate several millimeters into the rock before being scattered out, leading to the characteristic waxy look which gives “life” to marble sculptures of
    any sort, which is why many sculptors preferred and still prefer marble for
    sculpting.

  30. BestBrenton says:

    I see you don’t monetize your site, don’t waste your traffic, you can earn additional cash every month.
    You can use the best adsense alternative for any type of website (they
    approve all websites), for more info simply search in gooogle:
    boorfe’s tips monetize your website

  31. Excellent blog you have here.. It’s hard to find
    excellent writing like yours nowadays. I really appreciate individuals
    like you! Take care!!

  32. I do not know whether it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else experiencing proboems with your website.
    It looks like some of the text on your coontent are running off the screen. Can somebody
    else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them too?
    This may be a problem with my browser because I’ve had this happen before.

    Appreciate it

  33. see pron says:

    Hm1WkT Very good information. Lucky me I discovered your site by chance (stumbleupon). I ave book-marked it for later!

  34. Nice posting this awesome article

  35. Karly Tolin says:

    I really like your website, it has unique information, Thank you!

  36. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who had been conducting a little research
    on this. And he actually ordered me dinner simply because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!

    But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this issue here on your web site.

  37. Duane Mate says:

    It’s going to be end of mine day, except before end I am reading this impressive piece of writing to increase my knowledge.

Leave a Reply