We All Have a Creative Type
What creativity is and where it comes from is one of life’s great unsolved mysteries.
The scientific study of the creative process (and the creative personality) has arguably given rise to more questions than answers. But here's what we do know about creativity: It involves a multitude of different personality traits, behaviors, and thinking styles coming together in a single person.
While creative people are master shape-shifters, we do tend to have one particular shape that best expresses who we are at our core, with a unique set of perspectives, motivations, gifts, challenges, and ways of engaging with the world and other people.
A new test called "Creative Types" aims to identify the core personality in each of us. The test's goal is to shine a light on the inner workings of different creative personalities types in a way that might help us better understand ourselves, our creative process, and our potential.
Creative Types is the brainchild of Adobe Create; creative agency Anyways; a group of UK designers and developers; and me; a writer, creative consultant, and co-author of Wired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how we created the test and brought it to life.
FINDING THE FORMULA
The first step was developing the methodology—that was my job. I conducted research and devised a simple but reliable test formula that could accurately measure key characteristics of the creative personality.
I made myself a guinea pig, taking as many personality tests as I could get my hands on. Some were eye-opening, and others were, let’s just say, less than illuminating. My two main inspirations were the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the most popular and commonly used personality test (I’m an INFJ, if you were wondering), and the Big 5 (or Five-Factor) personality test, which is the gold standard in psychological research. I also looked to less scientifically rigorous but enduring popular personality assessments, including the Enneagram and Jungian archetypes.
Discover your creative type. Click to take the test.
I then distilled some common elements of these tests and mashed them up with my own knowledge of the creative personality, which is largely based on research I conducted during the two years I wrote the book Wired to Create: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (co-authored with Penn psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman).
At a certain point, a clear picture began to emerge in my mind from this tangled web of research and information. There were countless different traits and characteristics to measure, but it all seemed to boil down into three core questions:
- Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
- Are you more intellect-dominant or emotion-dominant?
- Are you a dreamer or a doer?
These three questions mixed to create a surprisingly clear and vivid combination of personality types. That became the Creative Types test formula.
The types aren’t black and white; I think of them as more of a spectrum. You might be one type at a certain point of your life—or even at a certain point in your creative process—and another type at a different time. Ultimately, every creative has a little bit of each of these types inside of them. As the poet Walt Whitman said, “We contain multitudes.” As creatives, constantly taking on different forms and reinventing ourselves is a part of our DNA. You might be the Innovator most of the time, but you might also bring the spirit of the Artist into your daily life. Or maybe you tend to go back and forth between the Dreamer and the Producer depending on which stage of the creative process you’re in—or maybe just depending on your mood!
SURPRISING THE TEST TAKER
After I’d nailed down the methodology and finalized the eight types, the London-based creative agency Anyways got to work turning the test into an immersive digital experience.
Their goal was to create something different from a typical online personality test, with their serious tones and career-development focus. They wanted Creative Types to be fun and exploratory (kind of like the creative process) and to incorporate unexpected visuals that heightened the test-taker's sense of curiosity.
Anyways approached installation and spatial design duo Isabel + Helen with a proposal: Build sets and props that represent the test's 15 questions and 30 possible responses. Using materials like wood blocks, glass cubes, rope, and packaging tape, Isabel + Helen constructed environments that, once in motion, materially express the feeling or experience underlying each question and response. Then, Brendan Baker and Daniel Evans, the photographic pair also known as BBDE, came in to direct and film Isabel + Helen’s sets, creating the short videos you see throughout the test.
“We kept the set-ups and design as simple as possible to communicate the different ideas, creating representational narratives using a mixture of textures and graphic shapes,” Isabel Gibson says. “We wanted each set-up to have an element of surprise and an unexpected movement so that each answer brings its own reward.”
The sets and resulting videos captured the internal experience of the personality trait in question. What does it feel like to be a ruler (Intellect) versus a spring (Emotion)? What’s the experience of being inside a cocoon (Introvert) compared to a beehive (Extrovert)? Isabel and Helen stripped each question down to its core, discussed how the answers made them feel, and translated those feelings into material and movement.
Take this question as an example: Updates are ready to install: 1) Restart now; or 2) Remind me tomorrow. The concept is that an action-oriented person prefers to focus and get things done right away, while someone who is more ideas-oriented is more likely to procrastinate and put things off. To represent the feeling of those two different ways of being, Isabel + Helen created an abstract red theme with a glass cube in the center. If you select “restart now,” a series of glass cubes slot down perfectly one by one into the floor, turning on a light from below that signals the completion of the task. Watching the video, you can feel the methodical mindset and sense of satisfaction that comes with checking things off your to-do list—a feeling that’s very familiar to doer types!
But if you click “remind me later,” you see a series of glass cubes falling from off-screen and piling on top of one another, capturing the feeling of tasks piling up and a busy mind that’s jugging lots of different input—an experience that’s well-known to the more dreamy and scatter-brained among us.
Designing the characters was the next step. We enlisted the help of 3D artist Anton Hjertstedt to create playful, light-hearted CGI representations that captured the quality and energy of each of the eight Types. To design the characters, Anton (himself a Maker) began by considering which shapes, textures, and movements best symbolized each Type's personality traits. Would an extrovert have a square or circular head? Would cylinders be perceived as masculine or feminine? (We tried to avoid gender prescriptions.) Would the Dreamer be hard or soft-edged?
If you haven’t already taken the test, go check it out! We hope it gives you insight into your own inner workings and inspiration as you continue on your creative journey. And we’d love to hear your feedback—you can leave a comment below or email us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.