What Is the Role of Creativity in UX Design?

Laura Angelica updated on 2024-06-06 13:48:04
role of creativity

Anyone who works with UX design is familiar with the following situation: you are developing an interface for a new client application, have many successful meetings, and seem to understand each other well. And the moment has come when the customer asks you to be creative. You are given complete freedom of activity, but the only thought rushes in your head: "How creative should I be?" How not overdo it with creativity when working in creative UX design, and why is it important?

According to a recent study by UX Pin:

  • 53% of companies have been using UX design for less than 3 years: this is a relatively new direction with an unpredictable impact on mass sales.
  • 59% of companies strive to create a consistent design for their products: this makes it difficult for a UX designer.
  • 48% of CEOs are wary of UX ideas.

This complicates the tasks for designers: they need to develop a product that will appeal to the target audience, will not be too creative in the opinion of the management, and will fit into the corporate identity of the company. How do you find this fine line?

What Is Creativity?

Creativity is the process of creating something new that has not been previously seen in the world. This is not only about works of art or architectural masterpieces. But the definition of this concept is much broader. The work of a UX designer requires the highest level of creative processing, and they purposefully train creative thinking. They can't wait for inspiration at breakfast or in the shower to generate ideas, as they need ideas every day to stay on track. A UX designer cannot bill a client for "creative thinking".

Example of Creative Thinking:

Let suppose, two salesmen go to an island to sell shoes. After a salesman arrived on the island, he was so angry that everyone on the island was barefoot. He was discouraged, and there was no shoe. How could he sell shoes? There is no habit of wearing shoes on this island. Immediately send a telegram back, call back on the phone, do not ship the shoes, there is no market on this island, no one wears shoes, this is the first salesman.

The second salesman came and he was so happy that he almost passed out. It's incredible. The sales market for shoes on this island is too big. Everyone doesn't wear shoes. If only one person wears a pair of shoes, it's incredible. How many pairs of shoes are going to be sold? Send a telegram right away and air-ship the shoes. Hurry up and air-ship the shoes. The same question, conventional thinking, and creative thinking, different angles, the conclusions are also different.

5 Levels of Creativity

We have already dealt with the definition of creativity, and we can move on to the level of creativity in UX design. This is not an official classification, you can add your own levels if there are thoughts about it.

1. Copying

Around the first level creative often disputes. Some believe that the copy has nothing to do with creativity. Ostensibly to create unique things on the basis of the existing impossible. It will be a distal copy of the original. In this approach, there are sensible ideas, but not so simple. Design Copy - the lowest level of creativity, which is recommended to be used for training purposes. It is more suitable for designers than for-profit companies.

Borrow successful ideas can be competitors, but to create something of their own. The copy is not bad when it is used for training or understanding of the process. Use the result of the work for commercial purposes, just not worth it. Save time and resources will bring very negative. Like its competitors, and the target audience.

2. Copying and modification

The next level of creativity involves not only copying but also modification. There was a phone with an antenna that performs a single function but appeared smartphone with entertainment content. With it, you can make calls, but there are many additional features.

This approach ensures minimal protection from adverse effects. We take a ready-made idea, change it for ourselves and create a unique product. A few years ago, the crumpet became popular - a combination of a donut and a croissant. The new product has taken the best from two "parents" but is unique.

The result obtained on the second level of creativity, ready to use for commercial purposes, but more suitable for situational experiments. When it is necessary to understand the reaction of the target audience for creative UX.

3. Copying, modification, and improvement

At the third level, the complexity increases even more. Only the "skeleton" of the remains from the original idea and the UX designer is increasing "muscle" and forms the "body". Each solution must be thought out in terms of manufacturability and usefulness. Many digital products that we use every day, have been established at this level. Companies analyzed the decisions of competitors, find flaws, and generated ideas for improvement.

4. Creating a trend

Create a trend in UX design is very difficult. The idea should be so good that it started to use other members of the digital world. The most difficult thing is to create a sustainable trend that will be relevant for many years. For example, as brutalism design. He has no clear boundaries, but there are characteristic features that distinguish the direction of the dozens of other styles.

The creator of the trend must not only navigate in the digital environment but also closely monitor the activity of the community. Some ideas suggest the community - one designer to try something new, others praised his approach, and he gradually became popular.

The Brain Science of Creativity

The creative activity of the brain is one of the most difficult areas of human consciousness to explore. It is generally accepted that logical thinking is born in the left hemisphere, and vivid images - in the right. According to Scott Barry Kaufman, creativity is responsible for three areas of the brain, which he called "networks." When a UX designer tries to create something new, it involves:

  • Executive attention network. Responsible for shaping the task: for example, when you are trying to figure out how best to design some form in an application.
  • Imagination web. It turns on immediately after the task is set and offers various solutions.
  • Significance web. An unconscious "controller" evaluates the importance of ideas proposed by the Imagination Network and decides which ones to convey to your consciousness.

Putting Your Creativity to Work

By understanding how your brain works, you can stimulate it to bring more creativity to UX design. There are 4 methods that will help you become more creative and develop a successful product.

1. Clearly identify your intention/Set your clear goals

To activate the Executive Attention Network, intent must be clear. Don't work on several large-scale tasks at the same time, it is better to gradually solve the problems facing the UX designer. For instance:

  • Which wireframe should you use?
  • What color to choose when hovering over this navigation bar?
  • How to present the data visually (or is it better to leave it in a table)?

2. Take a break

After your brain has "understood" what you want from it, experts recommend taking a break. The unconscious part of a person is responsible for the work of the Imagination Network, and for its connection, it is important not to overload the head. Therefore, you can:

  • Take a break.
  • Take a walk in the park.
  • Switch to solving current work tasks (correspondence, communication with colleagues).

The best option is to set an intention before going to bed. In this case, while you sleep, the Imagination Net will do its job. This does not mean that you will see the solution in a dream. But it is likely that in the morning you will have some interesting project decisions.

3. Write down your ideas

After the Imagination Network finishes its work, various ideas may come to your mind. It always happens suddenly - while you finish your lunch or wash your hair in the shower. So make sure you have a notebook, voice recorder, tablet - whatever you can use to jot down your best choices.

Do not analyze the quality of ideas - at this stage, it is important to write down everything that the subconscious mind throws up. These tips work no matter what creative problem you're working on. For example, if you need to create conversion content for a landing page or find a good slogan, do the same.

4. Switch between concept and detail

A UX designer has many challenges, both strategic and tactical. We found that a good professional can switch between scales: think about the general concept of the application, and in a minute work out the structure of the page. Then switch back to the "strategic level" and check how the developed structure corresponds to the general concept, and return to detailing. So a specialist can solve all problems without losing the overall integrity of the work.

At first, constant switching can be difficult. Use the following technique to develop this skill:

  • Determine in advance how much time you have for a specific job.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes and spend it on creating a general concept.
  • Sketch for the next 10 minutes.
  • Then - again return to the general idea.

If you learn to switch between micro and macro tasks, you will grow as a specialist and be able to generate higher-quality creative UX designs.

Encourage Creative Thinking/Mindset

A UX designer has to not only take into account the user experience in order to create a high-quality and understandable application for the target audience but also be guided by the wishes of the customer. This leads to the fact that many professionals feel limited in creative possibilities. As a result, many products look clichéd and do not evoke a lively response.


To develop a unique UX design, but not go beyond the limits set for the project, try:

  • Set yourself one clear task that needs to be solved at the moment. For example, develop a successful wireframe. If time is limited, remember to clear this up to your subconscious mind. The goal should be to "develop a wireframe in three days."
  • Switch to solving current work issues or just relax. Take up a hobby, meet friends, hang out with your family. At this time, the subconscious will work on solving the problem.
  • Always keep tools handy for writing down ideas as they arise. After you write them all out, choose the most successful ones (and fit into the concept of the project) and start working on them.
  • As you go into detailing, remember to periodically revisit the overall concept to make sure you're still following it. The more often you switch between big and small, the better the bottom line.
  • And most importantly, don't be afraid to bring an element of creativity into your work.