Design Dimensions

The power to paint our own canvases

FRENCH designer Philippe Starck designed these iconic ‘Louis Ghost’ chairs for furniture brand Kartell.

“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.”

—Edward de Bono


Many years back, I was at a crossroad. Aside from the many personal conflicts I was facing, I felt stifled in my creativity.  “Monkey-minded” as the Zen masters would call it: too much information and too many concerns seemed to have dried my creative wells, not only in terms of the design work I do, but even relating to everyday problem solving.

Birthday gift


My brain was completely fogged. Then came an unexpected birthday gift, a book titled “The Artist’s Way.” And little did I know, that the book would change the course of my creative life and “fix” me in ways I never imagined. It would later unblock my river of creative thinking.

Julia Cameron wrote this book after teaching literary students on the ways of “unlocking” creativity. The techniques she used were those that she developed after trying to put herself together after some disappointing, if not disastrous, experiences.

The process of “unlocking” creativity takes courage, for it requires the defiance of the more truthful and the highly reasonable, logical mind. While we seek to be aware of our intuition, break our boundaries and explore our creative capabilities, our common sensibilities and their vanguards—our parents, teachers and detractors—tell us to do otherwise. Is it safer to err on the conventional side? Being on the creative side, it seems, had you asking for failure.

Creativity is unfortunately not looked upon as a measure of general success in life. The sad fact is that while we may appreciate and sometimes even glorify the products of creative minds, society remains critical to the marginalized career paths that creative individuals decide to take.

Safe hatchery

In her book, Julia Cameron reminds us that “Art requires safe hatchery.” “Ideally, artists find this first in their family, then in their school, and finally in the community of their friends and supporters.” “We must learn to protect our artist child from shame.” For those with creative aspirants in their midst, do not be the wake-up call that ruins the dream, for big things in design start from small steps in experimental artistry.

I strongly believe that artists are born and not made, and that having one born unto you is sheer providence, for while books like Julia Cameron’s can bring you through a process of unlocking creative gifts, there are those whose talents reign supreme in their craft, with no unlocking whatsoever necessary. Some talents are simply God-given.


Fortunately design work manages to elevate artistic endeavors onto nobler ground. Since design is the act of creating specifically to address a certain need, it makes the whole exercise of creating more purposeful. But this very presence of design in our lives is grossly underestimated: we often forget that the process itself is no different from the thinking process needed for inventive decision-making.

This is one of the bigger lessons from “The Artists’ Way”:  that clarity of mind, openness to options and knowing where you stand in all this, will ultimately pave the way to the right solutions. Choices in life are made through your own design. The process works for artists just as it does for scientists, accountants, doctors, lawyers and any other minds with  problems to solve. Creativity is not limited to the so-called creatives.

As Julia Cameron stated: “As we are creative beings, our lives become our work of art.” We don’t have to be artists to have the power to paint our own canvasses—literally and figuratively.

Contact the author through [email protected] or through our Asuncion Berenguer Facebook account.

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