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Unit information: How to be Creative in 2018/19

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name How to be Creative
Unit code UNIV10004
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Simon Blyth
Open unit status Open




School/department Centre for Innovation
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Please note: This unit is primarily for students in the Faculty of Arts.

Are you creative? Do you want to be more creative? Are some people, places, processes, products, objects, moments, behaviours, ways of being or cultures more creative than others? Is creativity dependent on chaos and subversion? How can we measure, assess or evaluate creativity?

These are some of the questions that you'll explore in 'How to be Creative'.

Arguably creativity is what makes us human. Whilst 'artificial intelligence' is challenging and outstripping human capabilities, non­human 'creative intelligence' seems to be constantly playing catch­up . Today, we're told repeatedly of the value of the 'creative economy'. Creativity and innovation within business are heralded as central to business and economic success. A survey conducted by IBM of 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries identifies creativity as the “most crucial factor for future success.” Seventeen countries in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) identify “creativity and innovation” as a core competency, so valuable for the next generation it requires major restructuring of national educational programs and priorities.

Creativity itself is big business. Most bookshops will contain plenty of books promising to reveal for the the reader the secret to finding, unlocking or rediscovering their, or their organisation's, creative potential. Creativity is achieved, they frequently claim, through following a 10­step, 5 step or perhaps even 3 step plan. In turn, happiness, wellbeing, wealth and self­fulfilment are promised.

We'd love to be able to promise similar benifits for the course 'How to be creative'. We wouldn't rule any of them out. But our aims are, comparatively, rather modest. 'How to be creative' is a creative exploration of the science, art and practice of creativity. We will explore the competing explanations and theories of creativity. But we will also try out and test if these theories and explanations really do help us in the quest to be creative. For example, a key project that we'll be working on together is to create and exhibit a physical or digital prototype of a device capable of producing creative material OR a device capable of testing/evaluating creativity or creative ideas.

The course is anchored around 3 phases or approaches to creativity research:
1) Individualist approaches to creativity

2) Sociocultural approaches to creativity

3) Creativity, change and society

But our goal is to develop an interdisciplinary approach. As we'll see creativity stretches across many if not all domains of knowledge and disciplines and creative phenomena are known for crossing, mixing, transcending and subverting boundaries. So as well as approaching creativity through the lenses of different academic disciplines we'll also be exploring creativity through different creative practices ­ for example music, cooking, furniture making, advertising, photography, writing etc.

The unit is part of the Bristol Futures initiative and the Innovation & Enterprise theme; supporting students to realise their potential through generating and acting on ideas to solve problems and create opportunities.

The unit aims to:

  • Develop an understanding of academic and professional models for creatively responding to challenges
  • Facilitate the development of a wide and varied toolbox (not toolkit!) of creativity, problem­-solving and ideation techniques and processes
  • Develop knowledge and skills for successful collaborative work
  • Develop skills in critical reflection of both individual and collaborative work

Intended learning outcomes

At the end of this unit, it is expected that students will be able to:

  1. Apply a range of idea-generation and problem-solving techniques to produce creative responses to a brief
  2. Collaborate effectively and articulate the practices that helped and hindered successful teamwork
  3. Articulate their ideas persuasively to an audience through informal and formal interactions including presentations
  4. Reflect critically on their individual and group work and present their insights in a structured and persuasive way

Teaching details

The course is delivered through three different approaches to learning and is designed to explore, build and challenge the students creative and critical knowledge and skills through:
1) Lectures and presentations (1 hour per week) 2) Workshops and studio learning 3) Field learning (workshop & studio/field learning 2 hours per week)

Assessment Details

Group Presentation (55%) – a five-minute presentation of the group’s response to the brief presenting their final concept. Accompanied by a one-page summary. ILOs 1, 2 & 3.

Essay (30%) – a 2000 word essay selected from a choice of titles, covering the course content. It is expected that the essay will include critical reflection on the student's own creative practice. ILO 2 & 4.

Individual Design Critique (15%) – a critical exploration of an existing design problem and related creative idea(s). The Design Critique must be presented using 2 sides of A3. ILOs 1 & 4.

Reading and References

Sawyer, R. K., 2012, Explaining Creativity. The Science of Human Innovation. Oxford University Press