Feature image: Rodin, The Thinker

Well, a lifetime of working in creative agencies has also meant a lifetime explaining what a creative department does.

So, I was intrigued to learn about Graham Wallas (1858 – 1932). He was a social psychologist, educationalist, a leader of the Fabian Society and a co-founder of the London School of Economics.

In the Art of Thought (1926) he proposed one of the first complete models of creativity as consisting of the four-stage process which remains highly cited in scholarly works on creativity.

So here are the four stages:

1. The preparation stage

During the preparation stage, the problem is “investigated in all directions” as the thinker readies the mental soil for the sowing of the seeds. It’s the accumulation of intellectual resources out of which to construct the new ideas. It is fully conscious and entails part research, part planning, part entering the right frame of mind and attention. Sort of like planning.

 2. Incubation

Next comes a period of unconscious processing of problems. When they are set aside for some time, that may lead to insights. It’s related to intuition and insight in that it is the unconscious part of a process whereby an intuition may become validated as an insight. The experience of leaving a problem for a period of time and then finding that the difficulty evaporates on returning to the problem, or, even more striking, that the solution "comes out of the blue" when thinking about something else, is widespread.

Sort of like sleeping on it, or for those with older memories, going to Marrakesh on expenses to a 5-star hotel to sort it out (Terry Lovelock/Heineken campaign creator)

3. Illumination

Aha. Light bulb. That flash of insight that the conscious self can’t will and the subliminal self can only welcome once all elements gathered during the Preparation stage have floated freely around during Incubation and are now ready to click into an illuminating new formation. An idea has emerged.

Sort of like waking up in the middle of the night thinking you got it. Out on a walk. In the bath. At The-Brill-Building, 1650 Broadway, in the 60’s, they did it professionally. Ideas for songs had to come on time in a working 9-5 day. Brill Building-era songwriting teams were our pop giants: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Neil Sedaka...

4. Verification

Testing the validity of the idea and reducing the idea itself to an exact form.

This is the final stage of the creative process. It’s when the hard work happens.

Your creative product might be a website design, a new product feature, an ad, a tech innovation, a novel, a new brand name, some copy, a poster….any item or object that you set out to create, propelled by that initial idea that arose up your head.

It's the doing, making part. That 90% of the perspiration after the 10% inspiration.

Mr Wallas wrote his book in 1926, well before qual testing and research.

Image credit: Wikimedia 

I guess you’d now include a validation stage: as we all know, a (sometimes stressful) time of reflection and testing to see if the creative solution aligns with the brief.

So, be a creative

It’s not for everyone.

Sure, an academic can break it down, but did he ever have to stare at a blank screen, again, to write something on some Silicon Valley mad new pivot. And everything you’ve done so far has been rejected. And your boss is in a bad mood. And it was needed yesterday. And the proposition’s dodgy with no evidence to back it up.

Luckily, we know some of the best, most creative, people in communications.

Here are some of our favourites, with the oft used phrase... in no particular order:

SO Creative

  Studio Parr

Paul Quarry

Made by Parent  

Nick Clark

Mallard & Claret

Joseph Berry

Beaumont Reedy

Studio Nem

The Narrative 

And they all work with us.

Anew are brand development and marketing specialists for ambitious businesses of excellence. Whether it’s insight from research, strategic brand thinking, a new brand name and logo design, messaging, online and offline content or website development, we help companies increase brand profitability through sharper insights, distinctive propositions, creative ideas and faultless execution. We are particularly adept at working directly with luxury brands, business owners, start-ups and entrepreneurs who are committed to sustainability, outstanding quality and craft.

Based in the heart of London, we'd be delighted to meet for a coffee, either face-to-face or virtually, to discuss any new projects you might be considering.

Get in touch here if you fancy a chat.


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