The Logic Model of Creativity

I often find myself sharing my daily creativity musings and new interests when spending time with friends. Depending on the kind of friend I’m talking to, I’ll either spiral into a conversation of interesting projects and perspectives with them or be met with a less enthusiastic response. But especially from many of my very logical software engineering or STEM friends, I tend hear this statement over and over again.

“I’m not really a creative person…”

It’s a common misconception that logic and creativity are regarded as opposing schools of thought. In fact, I’d like to suggest that the two work in tandem much more closely than meets the eye. So if you consider yourself a logical person who doesn’t feel very comfortable working on tasks that require creativity, I hope what I am about to share next shifts your perspective.

Creativity is a bit of an abstract concept, so let’s remind ourselves the official definition from the Oxford Language English dictionary:

Creativity: the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.

From my perspective, imagination and original ideas imply that an idea is new and unexpected. So what does it take for an idea to fit into the bill? When observing something ordinary — whether it be a chair, painting, or coffee cup — there is a finite number of human-observable descriptors (or parameters, if that’s more your language) associated with that object. This means in order for something to be recognized as or original or imaginative, we can simply take one of those descriptors and turn it on its head.

The Logic Model of Creativity

  1. Write a list of observable descriptors of an object (parameters).
  2. Pick one that interests you the most.
  3. Take it to an “extreme”.

The Line Exercise

Suppose I asked you to reference a sheet of white A5 printer paper with a black line drawn in the middle, handed you a blank sheet of paper, and asked you to draw another line on your paper “creatively”. What would you do? Let’s step through the Logic Model together and see how it can guide our creative direction.


Following step 1 of The Logic Model, let’s write a short list of the observable descriptors for this line on a page. The list might look something like this:

  1. The line is short (length)

2. The line is horizonal (orientation)

3. The line is black (color)

4. The line is on the front and middle of the page (position)

5. The line is drawn with a black ink (material)

Lets explore option #4, the position descriptor. If the line is drawn on the front and middle of the page, let’s move it somewhere else and play with it. We could move it to a top corner, or to the back of the page. But where’s is an “extreme” position to put this line? Personally, I would draw this line on the thin width of the paper. Remember — no matter how thin the sheet of paper is, all physical sheets of paper have 6 sides, not 2.

A little ridiculous, I know, but it fits the bill of creating something unexpected and original perfectly.

Why does this work?

What this method of aims to do is to demystify the process of creating something unexpected and original by replacing the feeling of needing to “grab new, fleeting ideas out of thin air” with something a little bit more concrete.

For something to be unexpected, then there must exist some expectation that was subverted in some way. Following suit, for something to be expected, by definition there is some common and anticipated traits of that something. If we can recognize the latter of what is expected, we can simply work backwards to create something new and refreshing.

I’ve only provided one example for playing around with the line position in the exercise above here. How would you flip the remaining descriptors into something extreme?


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