Can creativity be taught?



Design Education Strategy


  • innovation, thinking skills


This paper is based on research conducted for a PhD (completed in 2006) that aimed to develop a methodology for the systematic and strategic fostering of creativity in graphic design education at university or college level.

Tool 1: The Big Six technique
Tool 2: The Random technique
Tool 3: The Mind-map technique
Tool 4: The Visual Thinking technique
Tool 5: The Trigger technique
Tool 6: The Metaphor technique
Tool 7: The Five Senses technique
Tool 8: The Cross-connect technique

The methodology incorporated three main strategies for enhancing creativity in an educational context, namely the teaching of

(1) 'product-related’ techniques that include a range o  thinking strategies which could be used to generate creative ideas,

(2) ‘process-related’ techniques that deal with the various phases of the creative process and how to manage them effectively and

(3) 'personrelated' techniques that address the socio-psychological factors which tend to influence creative abilities.

The synergy of these three dimensions has been integrated into a course in creative thinking skills which is currently being taught at the North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. This paper addresses the question that was of fundamental importance to the purposes of the PhD research, namely whether creativity can be purposefully taught. Within the limited scope of this paper it is only possible to partially answer this question.

In order to arrive at a satisfactory answer to this question, all three dimensions mentioned above should be addressed, with cognisance of the complexity of each aspect as well as their interactivity and interdependence. For the purposes of this paper, however, the most ‘teachable’ dimension is selected for discussion, namely the ability to effectively generate original ideas. It aims to address the question of whether creativity can be taught by means of an overview of a series of idea-generation techniques that is currently taught at the North-West University to develop graphic design students’ ability to generate original ideas.

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