As graphic designers we have been trained to question things, we excel at problem solving and thrive under pressure. Yet more and more we are finding less and less people are equipped with the simple skills we pride ourselves with. From school art classes, to university lectures we have been encouraged to be creative, to not let academia or conformity determine our paths. More regularly we are seeing and hearing tales that education is pushing creativity out of the curriculum; turning it’s back on the very thing that once was considered so vital to our own economy.
Looking back to the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace and beyond Britain can be accredited as a creative nation, we flourished under the influence of our creative industries, from car manufacture through to aerospace. Yet over the last century we have allowed manufacturing industries to diminish and with them the respect and and value creative subjects once commanded has been lost. Our manufacture industries have been dwarfed by the financial and business services and granted these too are important to our economy, yet we shouldn’t forget what once made us such a strong empire.
Too much at the moment, education is about ticking boxes, in order to maintain a level of consistency across the board, teachers and lecturers have been consumed by ensuring pupils meet pre-set criteria. Yet it seems those selecting the criteria have little to no experience of what constitutes a creative subject. You cannot put a mark on creativity because it knows no bounds.
Unfortunately, it seem this is exactly what has happened in our education systems, those uneducated in the creative arts are engineering the system to un-teach creativity. How are the generations of tomorrow meant to know who they are and where they fit in this world if they are being trained to conform? We learn as much, if not more, from colouring outside the lines and reinventing the wheel as we do from gaining 100% on a history test. In removing creativity from the education system we are not only restricting the future of our economy but also the diversity of our population.
As the artist Bob and Roberta Smith rightly asks, where do we expect the future designers and craftspeople of our country to come from if we are not equipping and educating them with the integral skills they need to develop? Even if a person chooses to not follow a creative career, the lessons we learn in the creative subjects offered in our schools equip us with far more realistic life skills than many of the academic subjects on today’s education pedestal. From public speaking in drama classes to handling failure in pottery, recent governments have massively underestimated the skill sets our creative subjects offer young people. In a country where success has become all important, we need to remember, we learn as much and more from failure as we do from success. It is in failure that some of the greatest discoveries have been made; from Penicillin and Pace Makers to InkJet Printers and Post-It notes.
It hardly seems necessary to highlight the fact that the creative industries are now worth a record £84.1 billion to the UK economy, with figures showing that the sector growing at almost twice the rate of the wider UK economy — generating £9.6million per hour. These are numbers that can’t be argued with, yet still, creative subjects are held in disregard.
This eloquent break down of creativity by Camberwell College of Art, Design Programme Director, Darryl Clifton hits the nail on the head, government and education systems are trying to iron creativity out of education because historically it has fuelled rebellion, from the punk rock to Ziggy Stardust. Yet, as arts institutions are swallowed up by the university system, it is equally as common to find the students rebelling against their course leaders and chosen places of study as it is the constitution. An incomplete creative education provided at school level, coupled with higher fees means more and more students are setting their own course structures. From personal experience we can say we strove to draw as much as we could from our arts education. From petitioning to keep the school open longer into the evenings and weekends, to holding pop up events offering free beer as a solution to the lack of a students union on campus. Future generations are equipped with all the information they could possibly need, if we add creativity into the mix it will no doubt lead to formidable results.
Let’s work together to stay creative, next time you see a child colouring in encourage them to see further than the lines society wishes them to stay between. Let’s equip future generations with the vision and the confidence to do whatever they please and at the same time re-open our minds to creativity.