Brain Pickings

Michael Wolff on the Three Muscles of Creativity

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Earlier this year, we featured a beautifully filmed, intimately narrated short documentary about Scott Schuman, better known as The Sartorialist, part of Intel’s Visual Life series. This month, the series is back with a fantastic episode about iconic designer Michael Wolff of Wolff Olins fame, whose insights on curiosity and appreciation as a central gateway to creativity resonate deeply with our own mission.

I have three muscles, without which I couldn’t do my work. The first is curiosity. (You can call it inquisitiveness, you can call it questioning.) The second muscle [is] the muscle of appreciation. It’s not questioning so much as it is noticing… how joyful things can be, how colorful things can be, what already exists as an inspiration. The muscle of curiosity and the muscle of appreciation enable the muscle of imagination.

Everybody knows that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. What few people realize it is only through the parts that the whole gets delivered. I see seeing as a muscular exercise, like I see curiosity. It’s a kind of being open, really: If you walk around with a head full of preoccupation, you’re not going to notice anything in your visual life.” ~ Michael Wolff

A brand is really a way of remembering what something is like for future reference — something you value, something you feel attracted to. The job of a brand identity, how you package all of that — the purpose, the vision, what it does, what it brings — how you make that so that people can take it and receive it and value it and treasure it and choose it, that’s the whole process of branding. That’s what it is.” ~ Michael Wolff

The film comes from the fine folks at m ss ng p eces, the same team who took us behind the scenes of a TED talk in January.

There’s a certain packaging of human beings that takes place in order to reveal ourselves authentically, or in order to pretend to be something other than what we are.” ~ Michael Wolff

Wolff’s wisdom on branding and identity is encapsulated in the 1995 classic, The New Guide to Identity: How to Create and Sustain Change Through Managing Identity — a thoughtful blueprint for design-driven adaptation in a world of impermanence and inevitable change.

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