Kirby Ferguson argues that the three basic techniques of remixing (copy, transform, combine) form the foundation of all creative process. He refers to these techniques as the “Elements of Creativity”…
Creativity isn’t magic. It happens by applying ordinary tools of thought to existing materials.
It seems I can’t dive straight into the five steps of creative process — my content wants to take a different route (more on that later). Instead, let’s start by establishing some broad themes that will resurface regularly along the way.
The Elements of Creativity
Kirby Ferguson’s fantastic video series, Everything is a Remix, argues that the three basic techniques of remixing (copy, transform, combine) are actually the foundation of all creative process. He refers to these techniques as the “Elements of Creativity”.
I won’t go into the details of his argument, but you should. My goal is to pick up where he leaves off, turning creative theory into creative practice.
Go watch the entire series. I can wait.
I’m serious. Consider it homework.
Spark & Slip
Douglas Hofstadter, a writer and professor of cognitive science, makes the same argument in his book Metamagical Themas. He talks about creativity as a process of “sparking & slipping”:
There is a way that concepts have of “slipping” from one into another, following a quite unpredictable path… An example of such a slip is furnished to us whenever we make a typo or grammatical mistake, utter a malapropism… or confuse two concepts at a deeply semantic level.
This isn’t just technique, this is how our brains work — sparking off ideas and slipping towards other ideas — copying, transforming, & combining into new ideas.
The Art is Inevitable
I invented nothing new. I simply assembled the discoveries of other men behind whom were centuries of work… So it is with every new thing. Progress happens when all the factors that make for it are ready, and then it is inevitable.
Art is no different. Like inventors and scientists, our job is to facilitate the process of experimentation and transformation, then capture the results.
These can be difficult skills to master, but they aren’t magic, and there are tools that can help us. It’s nothing new — conceptual artists and remix artists have been honing these tools for years, and we’ll borrow from them regularly — but I want to show that the conceptual/remix process is essential for every medium and every genre.