Characteristics of Creative People


As a creative person and a graphic design instructor for many years, I've heard myself and my peers often referred to as, "Those artist types." or, "Those temper mental people." I guess, being honest with myself, those character traits do ring true in myself—some of the time. I found it interesting that as i read through the list below, most of them hit fairly close to home. However, this doesn't have to be a bad thing? Right?

As an instructor of designers and artists, I find this information very helpful when addressing their instructional needs. It helps me to better understand why creative people may react in certain ways, and it helps me better understand how to motivate them to d their best.

Dr. Donna Fitzroy Hardy (2007), Professor of Psychology at California State University-Northridge, citing Creativity - Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1996), outlines several personality characteristics of creative people.

These characteristics are as follows:

  • Creative individuals have a great deal of energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest.
  • Creative individuals tend to be smart, yet also naive at the same time.
  • Creative individuals have a combination of playfulness and discipline, or responsibility
    and irresponsibility.
  • Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and rooted
    sense of reality at the other.
  • Creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between
    extroversion and introversion.
  • Creative individuals are also remarkably humble and proud at the same time.
  • Creative individuals to a certain extent escape rigid gender role stereotyping and have a
    tendency toward androgyny.
  • Generally, creative people are thought to be rebellious and independent.
  • Most creative persons are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely
    objective about it as well.
  • The openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering pain
    yet also a great deal of enjoyment.

Wilson (2007), adapting and adopting from the scale for Rating Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students by Renzulli and Hartman (2002), also outlines several characteristics of highly creative people. They are:

  • Display a great deal of curiosity about many things; are constantly asking questions about anything and everything; may have broad interests in many unrelated areas. May devise collections based on unusual things and interests.
  • Generate a large number of ideas or solutions to problems and questions; often offer unusual (“way out”), unique, clever responses.
  • Are often uninhibited in expressions of opinion; are sometimes radical and spirited in disagreement; are unusually tenacious or persistent -- fixating on an idea or project.
  • Are willing to take risks, are often people who are described as a “high risk taker, or
    adventurous, or speculative.”
  • Display a good deal of intellectual playfulness; may frequently be caught fantasizing,
    daydreaming or imagining. Often wonder out loud and might be heard saying, “I wonder what would happen if. . .”; or “What if we change . . ..” Can manipulate ideas by easily changing, elaborating, adapting, improving, or modifying the original idea or the ideas of others. Are often concerned with improving the conceptual frameworks of institutions, objects, and systems.
  • Display keen senses of humor and see humor in situations that may not appear to be humorous to others. Sometimes their humor may appear bizarre, inappropriate, irreverent to others.
  • Are unusually aware of his or her impulses and are often more open to the irrational within him or herself. May freely display opposite gender characteristics (freer expression of feminine interests in boys, greater than usual amount of independence for girls).
  • Exhibit heightened emotional sensitivity. May be very sensitive to beauty, and visibly moved by aesthetic experiences.
  • Are frequently perceived as nonconforming; accept disordered or chaotic environments or situations; are frequently not interested in details, are described as individualistic; or do not fear being classified as “different.”
  • Criticize constructively, and are unwilling to accept authoritarian pronouncements without overly critical self-examination.

I believe that these characteristics, while only a starting point, can help teachers evaluate where their students are and, in turn, help them decide how to differentiate the instruction and delivery methods used to develop each student’s creativity. I believe strongly in pre-assessment, and feel that although this is certainly a subjective area to evaluate, teachers should attempt to pre-assess their students’ creative abilities and use their findings to begin to teach them to be more creative—no matter what field of study they are in.