The creative principles that guided the miraculous transformations are more similar

Food, clothing, and shelter were some of the first few things a human-animal needed, but evolution started shaping the way we dine, dress, and shelter. Bananas became pies, pieces of cloth became tailored suits, and caves became luxurious suites and private villas.

Design began.

The creative principles that guided these miraculous transformations are more similar than we think they are. People, for instance, cook the same way they design a building or a shirt, by slicing, merging, and arranging natural materials, after processing them in a certain way before presenting them to a seeking consumer. Thus I see no reason why we can’t say things such as “the meals are engineered” or “the buildings are cooked!”

One of the most delightful sights that I have witnessed in one of my favorite cities, Rome, was the Baroque-style Piazza Navona. This spectacular public square, to my eye, had nearly all the elements that I was seeking in a utopian destination; a wide space, hedged by relatively low colorful buildings that presented themselves, at times, under a coat of mounting greenery. The paintings of the artisans were spread alongside three distinguished fountains. A majestic church, Sant'Agnese, was glued in the middle with intricacies that uttered a spiritual element. The cobblestone paving had an earthy hint that made me feel extremely grounded as if I was welcome to the place where my feet rested.

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The fountain of the four rivers in Piazza Navona - Rome, Italy - Image by Kevin Bosc

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Artists in Piazza Navona - Image by Egor Myznik

The colors of the buildings, the passionate artists, and the sprawling water from the fountains, all seemed to create a dynamic that hyped the place, marking it as a place one doesn’t want to leave very soon. It slowly draws you in to enter one of the restaurants and cafeterias that are lined up on the side, perhaps to feed, not only on the food but also on the surrounding energy. As I sat down to eat my Naples-style pizza and side dish of pasta, I began to realize that the ingredients that formed these fine dishes that I was eating were no different from the ingredients that concluded the exquisite buildings and meticulously sculpted fountains that stood in front of me.

The food, buildings, and even the fashion were all “construction projects” that underwent a transformational phase, from the raw to the polished, through very similar laws of creativity. All of them displayed a sort of visual harmony, a balance in form and colors, a tempting composition, sensible proportions, and nice use of texture.

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The laws of creativity in fashion: visual harmony, a balance in form and colors, a tempting composition, sensible proportions, and nice use of texture - Image by Mariya Georgieva

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The laws of creativity in architecture: visual harmony, a balance in form and colors, a tempting composition, sensible proportions, and nice use of texture - Image by Carlos Ibáñez

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The laws of creativity in cooking: visual harmony, a balance in form and colors, a tempting composition, sensible proportions, and nice use of texture - Image by Mgg Vitchakorn

The reason such a realization was significant to me, is because it made me aware of the interconnection between disciplines and the illusion of borders; the melting of margins that could occur between professions in practice. It presented me with the option of a more open identity that isn’t defined by a single status or occupation.

The invisible walls that we have created between professions are no different, in my opinion than the invisible borders that divide countries today. That is, although the globe is one interconnected sphere, as seen from space, we have managed to create detached puddles within it. Although that made it more manageable, it became more restricting.

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The globe as it is, undivided - Image by NASA

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The divisions of the globe after human intervention - Image by Greg Rosenke

Perhaps the same partitions that we were deemed to create for the sake of our comprehension have narrowed our creative senses. To me, I would like to think that the dense partitions which society has programmed me to take into consideration have been shattered.

I figured that if one could understand the parallel principles that cause a transformation between the raw and the presentable; harmony, color, proportion, composition, and texture, they could start to apply the same principles and utilize them to leap into other practices. The architect may become a good cook if he begins to trust the instincts that made his architectural designs seem good, while he cooked. Harmony between architectural forms is not so different from the harmony between natural ingredients, which makes food delicious. Likewise, the chef may become a good designer and the fashion designer may become a good chef, architect, or interior decorator. The chef who balances the flavors in a pasta dish, for example, and whose presentation skills become intuitive, has the potential to use that same intuition and channel it into other arts and forms. Culinary and architectural expression, along with fashion, follow similar laws; the laws of creativity, and an understanding of one can facilitate the comprehension of the other.

This “creative instinct” can be witnessed in many innovators of the past that were thought of as geniuses. One of those masterminds was Leonardo da Vinci, who dissolved those borders between disciplines. He never defined himself as a one-man-thing. His creativity spilled from one profession to the other as he followed similar principles and laws of creation. Armed with curiosity and faith, he was an active architect, engineer, sculptor, scientist, theorist, painter, and much more. But, if Leonardo was born today, he would have been pinned down by an imposing pressure of voices “advising” him to focus and become more specialized. He would have been deemed “lacking discipline” or “unconscientious,” and accused by those who have submitted to limiting classifications.

Maybe faith isn’t energy to be laid on the external after all, but is supposed to channel the self. By replacing conviction with curiosity, Leonardo became too eager to understand the world. Although he had been reasonably prosperous as a painter in Florence, he had trouble concluding his commissions. Passion nudged him to examine new horizons, and he went on to study disciplines like anatomy, astronomy, and cartography, which in today’s world, are considered “unrelated to his field.” Unbothered by physical borders or enforced mental assaults, he believed in the interconnections of the sublime mindset that ultimately led to his creations.

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Thousands of pages of Leonardo da Vinci’s notes survive to this day revealing his relentless curiosity and pursuit of general knowledge. This image, from his notebooks, shows Leonardo pursuing studies of anatomy - Image by Internet Archive Book Images on Visualhunt

Perhaps Leonardo’s lack of formal schooling pushed him towards unconventional action and nurtured his child-like curiosity and freethinking approach to experimentation. This begs the question: are those who are schooled today educated or simply schooled? Because it seemed, at least to me, as if schooling only fulfilled a job position. However, education was an understanding and a seeking of life, which formal institutions don’t offer.

This new understanding that flirts with creativity and innovation made it difficult for me to define myself in public at times. “What do you do?” was a popular question asked by many, a request for identity and self-worth. The answer to that question often caused a rapid upward or downward spike of interest by its receivers, which caused them, at times, to excuse themselves and subtly slide away. Though I am no longer sure whether I am an architect, a writer, speaker, journalist, consultant, graphic designer, photographer, or researcher, I came to see myself as simply curious.

“What do you do?”

“I am curious,” I would answer, in my mind of course.

Come to think of it, I had to answer that damn question by sane standards. Once I made the horrible mistake of telling the truth. “I am not really sure. I do many things,” I responded. The reception wasn’t well-received, as you might imagine, as the receiver seemed to have thought I was bragging.

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The balance in the colors of clouds at sunset - Image by Gavin Spear

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The balance in the textures of cherry blossom - Image by Longxiang Qian

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The sensible proportions of a Shiba dog – Image by Evgeny Tchebotarev

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The tempting composition in a bird’s patterns - No attribution required

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The harmony in the colors of a bird – No attribution required

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The balance of the colors and the composition in a slice of kiwi – Image by Tom Bullock

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The composition of a water droplet - No attribution required

Leonardo da Vinci believed that the boundless works of nature were harmoniously knit together in breathtaking configurations. His ability to construct connections across disciplines is much needed today as information is abundant, waiting for us to form new networks and solutions, by mixing art with technology, science, and the humanities, in this age of creativity. But where can we be inspired, if not on lavish lecture seats?

Perhaps, it is better to spend time wandering in nature than to take a university course. The laws of creativity; visual harmony, balance in form and colors, tempting compositions, sensible proportions, and nice use of textures can be found in nature, the ultimate mentor.