This week, we look into whether or not having the flashiest tools and technology can really improve your creative ideas.

Do the tools maketh the creative?

Why having more resources might not necessarily improve your creative output.

Erin O'Rourke


Craft & creativity

5 minute read

Earlier this year, I visited the ACMI (Australian Centre of Moving Images) in Melbourne to see the ‘Magic of Disney’ animation exhibition, which showcased the creativity and innovation of almost 100 years of Disney animation1. From multiplane cameras for early films such as Bambi and Fantasia to the animation software that’s used today, it explores how Disney has used new technologies over generations to tell their stories.

The evolution of technological tools and the significant role they play in the animation of Disney’s latest films made me wonder: does the use of tools determine the quality of creative output, or is the creative mind actually the most important tool in the creative process?
In short
  • As humans, we are hardwired to be creative, and have been for as long as we’ve been around.
  • As technology evolves, we continue to see changes in creative output across industries.
  • The greatest creative ideas will find a way to come to life, no matter the resources.
Creativity is in our genes

Creative work has been around for as long as humans have been. From cave drawings to rock sculptures, humans’ ability to be creative and innovate is what has always driven us forward. Neurological studies show that creative epiphanies evoke activity in the brain’s rewards centres, making creativity addictive and encouraging us to innovate2. Next time someone tells you they’re ‘not the creative type’, you can tell them they are literally genetically coded to be creative (in one way or another).

The magic is in the idea, the tools help you execute it
Of course, the latest technologies and tools that are available are undoubtedly helpful in expanding your creative palette. They allow you to create wildly diverse content across various platforms and make the process of producing something more efficient.

But all the technology and resources in the world won’t make you a better creative. A huge part of being a creative is the ability to bring an idea to life with whatever tools you have access to. A strong creative will adjust their processes and find new ways to bring their ideas to life.
“A huge part of being a creative is the ability to bring an idea to life with whatever tools you have access to.”
Too many tools can be a hinderance
Research shows that having creative constraints can actually be highly beneficial to the creative process3. Without constraints, the mind tends to get complacent and run with the most intuitive idea. With constraints, the mind is forced to keep searching and invest in more novel, creative ideas.

How much has technology changed advertising?
Technology has undoubtedly changed the format of the ads we see, but how different are they really? Take the newspaper ad below. If you look past the black and white palette and long chunks of copy and instead strip this ad back to its concept, the quirky, unexpected and humorous vibe isn’t at all different to the ads we create today. Similarly, think of a more recent campaign like Apple’s ‘Shot on an iPhone’4. It’s one of the brand’s most simple campaigns of all time and also one of their most iconic and successful.
Our greatest tool is our mind
Over the decades, Disney has become known to push the envelope with new technologies that help them tell their stories. But through it all, story has remained at the centre of everything they do. Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney says that the story must always come first and be prioritised over all else – including technology5. At the end of the day, no matter the resources available, humans will always find a way to create. It's part of who we are.

on design dominance
An ever-changing design landscape means tools are in constant flux, whether that’s updates to existing programs or the creation of new ones. And yet, there’s still one Creative Cloud to rule them all. How? Adobe’s track record of reinvention proves it’s always ready to innovate in response to its environment and competitors.

Written by Erin O'Rourke, 52 Words by Abby Clark, editing by Adelaide Anderson, key visual by Alice Guo, page built by Angelica Martin and Patrick Brennan
  1. ACMI, Disney: The Magic of Animation (2020) ACMI.
  2. Drexel University, Making art activates brain's reward pathway (2017) ScienceDaily.
  3. Oguz A. Acar, Murat Tarakci and Daan can Knippenberg, Why Constraints are Good for Innovation (2019) Hardvard Business Review.
  4. Alan Friedman, How "Shot on iPhone" became an iconic ad campaign for Apple (2021) Phone Arena.
  5. Bill Carmody, Important Lessons in Creativity From Ed Catmull, Pixar Founder and Disney Legend (2015)
CX Lavender acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.