How to Practice Creativity in Your Non-creative Classes
How bringing creativity to not-so-creative classes can prep you for long-term success.
Let’s face it — not every class you take in school is an inspired, creatively-charged experience. At some point you need to put in time figuring math equations, parsing statistics, or analyzing economic trends.
The good news? Creativity doesn’t have to fall by the wayside just because you’re not in the graphic design studio or the black box theater. There’s value in applying creativity and problem-solving to everything, not just your “creative” classes.
And, bonus — doing so isn’t just good for your own class engagement. Flexing your creative muscles in text-heavy courses will also give you a leg-up in the real world when, sadly, not everything and everyone is as creatively minded as you.
Never stop the creative train
That said, it’s easy — tempting, even — to “turn off” your creativity when you find yourself in a non-creative class, dealing with an uninspired project or cramming for a more traditional course.
“I had gotten caught up in this belief that in order to be analytical,” says research analyst Stephanie Ormston. “I had to shut down the creative side of my brain.”
This limiting belief kept Stephanie from creating presentations that would actually connect with her audience, and on a day-to-day level prevented her from being as productive and interested in her work as she could have been. When she started being more creative by trying to tell a story in her presentations instead of just reciting facts, all that changed.
It was an important point, and one everyone should embrace when confronted with a non-creative project or experience. To keep yourself engaged — and, ultimately, to produce the best possible work — focus on ways to liven up ho-hum coursework by overlaying a little creative oomph.
Depending on your artistic inclinations, capabilities, and the skills you’d like to gain, there are plenty of simple strategies to weave creativity into your class work, no matter how uninspired those courses may be.
1. Storyboard your ideas.
Don’t just sit there taking notes when a new assignment comes your way. Instead, see if you can represent your ideas visually. This could mean a storyboard, mindmap, flowchart, Venn diagram, or a more free-form representation.
Sketch your ideas in your phone or iPad using the Photoshop Sketch app. Doodling can help you ideate and better understand the concept you are learning.
2. Use non-traditional formats.
Think outside the piece of paper for your next project. Make a poster, build a wireframe, or design a landing page to showcase your assignment. Photoshop is the perfect tool to help create any visual assets that can reinforce the big idea.
3. Up your presentation game.
We all know you have a ton of presentations to deliver this year — why not use this as an excuse to share your unique style? Take advantage of your tools and creative eye and put together a beautiful presentation in InDesign, one that’ll make your classmates and teacher sit up and take notice.
4. Integrate color.
The right colors and patterns make your work stand out and explain certain concepts even better. “Using the right color, and the correct selection and placement can seriously affect the feelings, attention, and behavior of people when learning,” writes Karla Gutierrez in Sh!ft. “It’s time that we leveraged that to our advantage,” she adds, noting that “color cues improve memory and that learners recall images in color more easily than images in black and white.”
To tap into these perks, commit to color — and that means going further than giving your report cover a bright pattern or finish. Instead, use color to organize and highlight your ideas and enhance your expression, and see how much more your ideas resonate,” Karla says.
5. Experiment with new tools.
Avoid reaching for your usual toolkit for assignments. A book report you’d usually type up could be much more expressive if it’s built in InDesign. Using new platforms and software helps you learn new skills while making your work shine.
6. Play with photos and video.
Pull images from Adobe Stock to tell your story, or include an animation or video. You can easily create a gif in Photoshop and use it for a demo presentation — the amounts of options are endless.
7. Employ infographics.
For analytical and empirical courses, your work may be focused on numbers and data. Don’t let this limit you — simply focus on creating beautiful and approachable representations for your data with infographics and icons. It’s easy to design your own graphics using Illustrator. Start out with simple shapes, add colors, then add your data — how simple is that?
8. Collaborate with others.
You almost always will work with a partner, or three, but believe it or not, working with others is one of the best ways to drive creativity. You can never have too many tools in the shed, and having multiple builders to use those tools is even better. When you brainstorm new approaches and develop new ideas with multiple brains, that’s a recipe for productivity.
Training yourself for tomorrow’s workplace
These creative strategies will not only help you stay engaged in class and learn more about the subjects you’re studying, but they’ll also help you wow employers after graduation. The current and emerging job market favors creative thinking and problem solving, making those who can employ creativity in diverse settings particularly sought-after in hiring.
“Those are skills that will serve you regardless of your career,” says Alex Gay, director of product marketing for Educational Institutions at Adobe. “Skills around creative problem solving, critical thinking, and effective communication are the ones that start to differentiate the student and really prepare them for the future… that’s going to be ultimately what the businesses of tomorrow want — effective problem-solvers.”