Creative, as a word, has done more damage than many others to the field of design, and to language in general. I seem to share this idea with Max Jackers, a character from the novel Then We Came to The End by Joshua Ferris. Max lives on a farm back in Iowa, and from time to time his nephew Jim, working in an advertising agency in Chicago, calls him for suggestions or new ideas.
He told Max he’d missed his calling. “You should have been a creative”, he said.
“A creative?” said Max.
Jim explained that in the advertising industry, art directors and copywriters alike were called creatives.
“That’s the stupidest use of an english word I ever encountered, “ said Max.
Jim also told him that the advertising product, whether it was a TV commercial, a print ad, a billboard, or a radio spot, was called the creative.
Sometime later that afternoon, Max Jackers surprised Jim by calling him back. “You folks over there,” said Max, “you say you call yourselves creatives, is that what you’re telling me? And the work you do, you call that the creative, is that what you said?” Jim said that was correct. “And I suppose you think of yourselves as pretty creative over there, I bet.”
“I suppose so,” said Jim, wondering what Max was driving at.
“And the work you do, you probably think that’s pretty creative work.”
“What are you asking me, Uncle Max?”
“Well, if all that’s true,” said the old man, “that would make you creative creatives creating creative creative.” There was silence as Max allowed Jim to take this in. “And that right there,” he concluded, “is why I didn’t miss my calling. That’s a use of the English language just too absurd to even contemplate.”
With that, Max hung up.
Joshua Ferris, Then we came to the end, 2007