Beer and Creativity

Working in any creative industry, striving for solutions can prove difficult. Working at a web design company such as MyWork can compound the issue – quick turn arounds, numerous looming deadlines and challenging briefs can stunt creativity and even force you into working in a safe and set design paradigm.

These are challenges that face every designer. There have been a plethora of ideas and exercises that have been tried and developed to help increase your creative cognition. One that piqued my interest is beer.

A co-worker said off-hand to me one day that drinking beer actually helps with creativity. I honestly thought she was living in some (divine, heavenly) fantasy land, but a quick search proved that her statement bore seeds of truth.

There have been numerous studies carried out that prove this theory. These studies involved experiments using sober and mildly intoxicated individuals (Blood Alcohol Level of around 0.075) completing various tasks to gauge their creative problem solving. The test subjects or groups under the influence all scored higher, or were able to come up with more innovative ideas than their sober contemporaries.

The reason for this? Solving creative problems isn’t achieved by direct, systematic step-by-step investigation (and one could even argue this would be detrimental to the process). Studies have shown that in order to produce moments of insight, you need to be relaxed. This is why people often have great ideas when they are completing mundane tasks.

When you are relaxed you are less worried about any immediate problems and things around you, so your brain is dedicated to making deeper connections. The sober control groups were fixated on misleading/distracting information, or were relying on previous knowledge of the experiments – whilst the intoxicated party were less likely to use complex strategies and opted for passive or associative approaches to solving the tests, which ended up being beneficial.

So moderate intoxication is a way to alter your attentional state to be more conducive to creative processing. Whilst having a cold beer on hand whenever you get stuck on a design sounds ideal, it is not always practical in the workplace. So what can you take away from this article?

I’ve found that when I get stuck on a design, sometimes focusing on it even more makes it worse. I find I beat myself up because I just can’t come up with a viable solution. When this happens, turn to other colleagues for help. A different perspective can be the breath of fresh air you need.

Another possibility is go back to your initial sketches and brainstorming. Usually if you are struggling with a design, you will find that your initial concepts weren’t enough to begin with. You should always have several ideas before you progress to the next stage, just so you have different ideas to work off and different ways to approach the problem.

If you really are well and truly stuck on a concept, sometimes the best thing you can do is to drop it. Find something else to do & come back to it in a day or two when you have a clear head and a fresh pot of coffee. I’ve even heard of a design studio that refuse to touch a logo brief for a whole week after the initial briefing, allowing themselves a “gestation” period for ideas to flow naturally.

In conclusion, beer not only tastes great but also helps with creativity. Please drink responsibly.