A Metaphor for Creativity: 5 Shapes, 3520 Artworks
Why ideas are like pieces of leather and what sneakers have to do with your capacity for creativity.
By Maria Popova
We believe creativity is all about innovative ways of combining the existing ideas, skills and pieces of inspiration that live in your mental pool of resources. (And we make it our mission to continuously fill that mental pool of yours with fascinating bits of diverse and eclectic brilliance.)
Which is why we love the concept behind Hayworth Mid II, the latest line of limited-edition sneakers by Y-3, in collaboration with graffiti artist Momo.
The idea is brilliantly simple — Momo cut five double-sided shapes, combinable into 3520 artworks by changing up their layered order on a nail. (Well, technically, there are 3840 possible combinations, but 320 of them become redundant when the ring, the smallest shape, becomes obscured by one of the larger shapes.)
Y-3 only produced 350 pairs of sneakers, so each was technically unique, but this sort of semi-customization raises an interesting question: Can we really automatize customization while still maintaining its psychological and conceptual appeal?
In a way, ideas are like these shape combinations — except only a fraction of the combinations are truly great ideas. Which is why it’s so important to build a vast pool of mental “shapes” — thoughts and memories and pieces of inspiration — combinable in near-infinite ways into new ideas, thus maximizing the drops of brilliance within that sea of possibility. And there’s no better way to do that than by growing indiscriminate curiosity about the eclectic interestingness of culture.
Published November 13, 2009