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MUDD 21 - City Visions II

Innovative Cities and Creative Urban Design John Zerby

Innovation and creativity are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a difference that matters with cause-and-effect analyses. Creativity consists of new ideas, or new perspectives on existing ideas. In comparison with previous research, more focus is now being placed on the creative process, with correspondingly less emphasis on creative people. The creative product is the innovation, which has value within a social context. That is, creative thinking initiates the creative process and assessments of its newness or novelty may be made by those who are engaged in that process. The innovation is of value if it meets the ‘test of time’ or if it becomes an integral part of the medium-term momentum of innovation. Previous emphasis on a creative leap, or the ‘Aha! moment’ to signal a sudden insight of discovery, is now viewed as an overly dramatic representation. Case studies and laboratory experiments indicate that creative thinkers consider their respective contributions to be small steps forward rather than great leaps. More importantly, skill and knowledge, as well as the reasoning process, play important roles in creativity (Weisberg 2006, p. 7). According to this view, creative thinkers do not necessarily have a superior mindset, compared to non-creative thinkers; but a distinction nevertheless exists. The non-creative thinker who produces habitual and ultimately non-creative responses has developed an expertise that is based upon a rigid hierarchy of a few key responses to be applied to a variety of problems or questions. A creative thinker, in contrast, possesses an expertise that has a flexible hierarchy of many potential responses, none of which is regarded, at first appearance, as more important than the others (Weisberg 2006, p. 14). This has immediate pedagogical implications for all domains that deal with creative inputs. The learning curve for urban designers, for example, requires a significant amount of time in ‘getting good’ at what urban designers do, which of course is designing urban spaces. This ‘getting good’ may be seen in the form of increased productivity, or in improved quality, arising from accumulated practice and experience. In addition, there should be evidence of an ability to escape from a rigid hierarchy in the design procedure so that content-based connections between design innovations and the pre-innovation designs can be recognised and applied when they are considered desirable. These connections are elaborations or extensions of what the designer knows from accrued knowledge and skill, and are applied when they satisfy a goal-directed activity (the ‘cause’) that is associated with the design objective (the ‘effect’).

John Zerby

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Mudd folio final 02 mar 2016  

City Visions: Method & Design Chicago | Berlin | Sydney International Studio workshops from the Masters of Urban Development & Design degree...