For a lot of us “designers” there is a dilemma as to how to communicate to potential clients and partners precisley what it is that we do. How do we wrap up all our talents, abilities, interests and skills into a single descriptive word that truly means something not just for ourselves but for others wanting to employ us. Then at some ambiguous point in recent history designers began adopting  the word “creative” as a noun as in “I’m a creative”.

Immediately, this peeved many who immediately found it ridiculous and I have to admit I was one of them. Everyone knows you shouldn’t use an adjective as a noun and if you do it better be a deliberate attempt at satire otherwise you risk sounding…well… ignorant.

But that is exactly what Shakespeare did. Out of necessity, whim or perhaps frustration he  invented over 1700 words that we use today by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and creating words altogether original. I’ve never heard anyone refer to Shakespeare as ignorant, so whats the problem?

The real issue seems to be not so much about violating English grammar but of timing and acceptance. English is a living language and as such is ever evolving.  Add our internet culture in the mix and you have a recipe for a kind of hyper accelerated evolution of English with new words being used as anyone sees fit.

For some, this is very worrisome but the fact remains you can’t stop it and once it enters into the dictionary the fight is truly over such is the case with creative as a noun:

CREATIVE: One who is creative; especially : one involved in the creation of advertisements. – Merriam Webster Dictionary

So it looks like all of us: graphic designers/web designers/art directors/motion graphiteers (I just made that up. What do you think?) have an official license now to label ourselves as “Creatives”. But I see a caveat.

All humans posses creativity in some form or fashion. At first it may not be too obvious but it’s there. Some people have ideas so unique and awesome floating in their heads that it can change life as we know it but at the same time they have trouble drawing even the most rudimentary stick figures on paper. Would anyone say Einstein was not creative just because he lacked good design sense?

So to say “I’m a creative” can be interpreted by some as “I’m creative and you are not”. It’s easy to see how this might detract from a designers true intention and purpose in helping others to beautify their brand and businesses.

This is a tough one. Hard to say when or if I’ll come around.

15 thoughts on ““Creative” as a Noun

  1. You are definitely not alone. Someone tried to tell me today it was a noun because it referred to the ‘creative’ department’ or a ‘creative work’. They said one would say they were going down to ‘Creative’ or to pick up a ‘Creative’. I understand that but it is still used as an adjective when ever you put another noun behind it…..i.e. “creative process”. In a business I get someone saying “I’m going to Creative” only because they are too lazy to say department behind it. As for advertising, no surprise there, they are looking for some way short of calling themselves a “Creator” that sounds very ‘special’…It should work about the same as “Artistic work” thus making the doer or noun a …..wait for it… Artist! They should have made up Creativist….and what is produced is still a “Creation”.

  2. I’m a designer, and today someone asked me to provide a “text creative” – in our company people seem to call “graphics” (banners, emails, webpages) “creatives” for some reason. So imagine my confusion when they wanted a “text creative” and when they couldn’t explain what it was they wanted either. In the end, turned out they wanted some text on a notepad/textedit file. I told them this was a plain text document. *Facepalm*

    1. Hilarious. So copywriting has become “text creative”. Good to know. Must be a trend, even my browser’s spell check has joined the conspiracy. As I write this, it (Google Chrome) suggest that “copywriting” is not a word. It has underlined it in red and suggests I hyphenate it. Come on Google, really! Double *Facepalm*

  3. Personally I just think calling yourself a creative is just a pretentious, noncy way of saying youre an artist, which is already a noncy idea in the first place. I’m a photographer and I sketch. Dont ever call me an artist or a “creative” or ill tear your jaw off with my “creative” fists. And dont even get me started on all this social branding, net presence garbage. have we as a society become so pretentious and stupid that EVERYTHING has to have some sort of special title?

    1. Has it ever occurred to you that it could also be considered pretentious for someone to profess a work title and/or marketing effort that they personally do not like to be pretentious & noncy? Also someone who creates art being offended because someone calls them an artist = pretentious. Also using the word noncy = super pretentious.

    2. I agree, using creative as a noun really annoys me! Let’s divide people even further with labels. Thanks. I am a creative person, not a creative.

  4. Just curious if you’ve “come around” yet. I still can’t relate or accept the term “creative” as a noun.

  5. No! No! No! No! No! I just saw someone today using “creative” in a headline as a noun in place of the phase marketing materials. Example: “We’ll handle the budget and you take care of the creative.” No! Just no! My ears are far more offended by this than they should be.

    1. That’s just awful. I recently found the following: “We love to get involved with the creative at any stage.”

  6. Oh thank crap there are still people out that think using “creative” as a noun is just wrong. Valkyrie’s example really makes me want to punch someone (I’m a copywriter). Images are images or graphics, words are copy, content, or text…and they can be creative but they are not “creatives,” nor are the people who produce them.

  7. Haha I’m loving this comment thread. Perhaps it’s that English isn’t my native language, but I love the use of Creative as a noun. I’m actually currently writing a blog post about “Being a Creative” , and was going to pop a random definition I was about to think of, but thought to first search the web and see what other people came up with. I honestly had no idea I’d be facing an actual debate over whether ‘Creative’ should be a noun or not, but then again I forgot it’s 21st Century. Why of course we’re gonna talk about this! 😀 Anywho, I think it’s a really clever thing, and i’m one of the few percent of people who like it! lol

  8. In the same way that calling some group of people “professionals” belittles the careers and accomplishments of those that don’t have jobs that involve traditional offices (“white collar” jobs); calling another group of people “creatives” belittles the creative abilities (artistic or otherwise) of people who fall outside the definition you’re going for.

    One can argue that people complaining about this are snowflaking like whoa, but it feels like there has to be a way to categorize one’s field of work without that categorization blatantly saying “I’m more ‘x’ than you.” FWIW, I work in consulting and many people would probably call me a “professional”. But as soon as I identify with that, I feel like I’ve unintentionally taken on an attitude that my “profession” is more of a “profession” than my friends who have careers in music, painting, etc.

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