Creative: Noun or Adjective?

by Lisa Carnochan

Go out on the 'nets right now. Explore the word, "creative." What do you find?

A young woman Snapchatting about being a "Creative?" Fast Company interviews about how to get a job ("I'd figure out who was the most talented, most accomplished "creative" in my discipline at the agency, and send them my work." *quotation marks added*)?

And, inevitably, a Buzzfeed list. Are You A Creative?


"Creative" the noun appears to be trouncing "creative" the adjective. I understand that advertising has used the term, "the creative" to describe artwork and copy for forever. But recently, and I'm not quite sure when, we began to use it as a noun for people. Out there right now a “creative” is someone who writes, creates images or makes things for a living. And, in this era when we have come to expect high degrees of visual design from everything (thanks Mr. Jobs), it's what the cool kids do.

I'm not particularly fond of nouns as verbs in general. But while we can give grammar a pass — the world changes, language follows — we've still got a problem. If people who cut paper are "creatives," then what are those of us who stand up at white boards? How about those who build spreadsheets?

The most creative moments I've ever experienced took place in a corporate conference room. One without windows, probably. I held a Dri-Erase, we wore khakis, nobody photographed anything but diagrams.  You can design a business strategy in as visual a manner as you design anything else.

Let's reclaim "creative" as an adjective. It's a good one. And we all know the value in creative graphic artists, photographers, architects and copywriters. We can't do business without pictures and surely not without words. We need to communicate with each other, our communications need the emotional weight of images.

But, and probably you knew this, there's creativity in management too. Developing a strategy, envisioning a product roadmap, mapping your competition — creative processes all. No fair one team hogging all the good words.