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Who are creative professionals or creatives? A former colleague once described working with creatives as “different.” When I pressed her for details, she elaborated that we think and approach problems differently. We like to spend time thinking about the “real” problem before even considering any solution.

The demand for creative professionals is growing. Corporations have realized the need for creative professionals. As illustrated in the conversation with my former colleague, most of the business world find it difficult to understand the skills and values that define us. The resulting conflict is establishing how we can work best in these environments.

Quick and dirty definition of creative professionals

A creative professional is someone who is employed by their skills for creative endeavors such as writing, illustrating, graphic design, marketing, etc.. Today, this list has extended into areas not traditionally seen as creative like engineering and developing software. This shows a shift in what we value as creative output.

Brief and recent history of creative professionals

Creatives have been in the workforce for over 500 years. The recent advances in technology, computers, and data have affected how we now define this genre. In the late 1990s with the Internet boom, creatives with skills in development, graphic design, and interactive design found their skills in high demand. They began to congregate and build their own independent cultures in cities where opportunities for them were abundant (i.e. San Francisco, New York, Boston, Austin, and Portland).

Creative professionals are evolving to be seen as serious business professionals. We on par with professions such as law and medicine which are traditionally seen as the top of the economic ladder.

Creative professionals in corporate

As creative professionals, how do we define our environments? Space is one example. What can we do to bring inspiration to our surroundings?

Defining creative professionals today

In the article, “John Irving’s Lessons on Business,” Mallory Stark and Martha Lagace explain that there are three components that make up a creative professional.

1. Expertise in a chosen domain
2. Creative thinking skills (i.e. risk taking and imagination)
3. Intrinsic Motivation

Where you do work can greatly affect the third component, intrinsic motivation. How the environment encourages and reacts to your work can determine how motivated you are to continue.

Working in corporate culture as a creative professional

The demand for creatives in corporations is at a high. For example, UX or user experience designers have been at the top of the list for highly sought after skills for the past three to four years. According to this article in Economic Modeling, there are 238,000 UX designers working across nearly 130,000 companies.

Creative professionals are the new professionals[[

Creative professionals are the new professionals! We are rising to the level of lawyers and doctors.

The barrier to entry is lower now for creatives in tech. However, we still need to learn how to be effective in corporate environments. Depending on the company, creatives may have a lot of work establishing and fostering a culture that encourages creative thinking.

Are there other creatives? How are they working together and with other non-creative professionals? How open is leadership to nurturing a culture that fosters creativity and risk-taking?

Ultimately, companies that embrace creativity from the highest levels will create cultures that enable collaboration and innovation. I have experienced a variety of company cultures from those that embrace creative risk-taking to others that are very risk-averse. The question for you as a creative is how much support do you have from leadership. Once you are clear on what your company values, you will understand how much you will have to invest to nurture an atmosphere conducive for your work.

Interested in more posts on bringing creativity into work? Check these posts.

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Matt Eng

Matt Eng

DesignOps Manager. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as Alcatel-Lucent, Ogilvy, RBC, Deloitte, Whirlpool, Polycom, Symantec, and Pebble. Matt teaches, mentors, and speaks about design, creativity, and fostering stronger connections within teams.