Why Making Matters

Tom Manley’s Op-Ed in The Oregonian on prioritizing creative making, tinkering, and innovation.

Immersion in art and design studios equips students with critical skills that ultimately strengthen economies and help solve global problems

Last week, the White House held its first Maker Faire and asked individuals and organizations from across the nation to join the Obama Administration in showcasing the cultural and economic importance of innovators who make things by applying their brains, their hands and their tools.

As the class of 2014 enters the workforce, we believe we have prepared our graduates with the skills that are critical to solving big problems and ensuring healthy economies. But if as a nation we’re not prioritizing creative making, and the tinkering, failing and reworking inherent in it, we’re failing to capitalize on all of our strengths. Nearly a decade ago in A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink argued that the future belongs to creative, right-brain thinkers who bring to the table things that can’t be outsourced overseas or done faster by a computer.

A recent Americans for the Arts report, Ready to Innovate, indicated that U.S. employers rated creativity and innovation among the top five skills that will only increase in importance, and that stimulating them and enabling entrepreneurship are among the top 10 challenges for U.S. CEOs.

Students trained in the studio learn observation, experimentation, collaboration, problem solving, iteration, prototyping, critique, and reframing. Each skill is directly applicable to arenas beyond the arts and belongs on any resume. To be able to create, fail and start over again and again is, as any entrepreneur will tell you, essential in the skillset for success.

Look at companies that thrive and you’ll see those that prize creativity throughout. Apple is known for a culture that incorporates design and user experience into every aspect of the way its products are engineered and built. Our homegrown Nike is propelled by innovative design, with its CEO Mark Parker keeping a sketchbook in which he records business ideas on the lefthand pages and sketches of imagined shoes on the right.

Portland provides a great example of creative people and enterprises feeding a vibrant economy. From craftmakers of coffee and beer to award-winning chefs to designers of sportswear, to the creators of any number of artisanal products and inventions, this is a city that loves its makers. We proudly purchase their wares and show them off to our friends, all the while supporting a creative economy that draws more and more young entrepreneurs to this dynamic place that’s both inspirational and affordable.

Creativity lives in every person and is an element of every professional field, but as an educational outcome it is cultivated most purposefully in art and design studio programs. This ongoing process of producing creative thinkers enhances the world not only by supplying objects and works of interest and beauty and but by turning out problem solvers who will find answers to the most difficult and persistent problems we encounter.

Read the article in the Oregonian

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