Does Music Make Me a Better Creative?

Posted by Rach 25/05/19

It occurred to me the other day, that if I have a sizeable/important design brief to tackle, the most important factor in achieving success is setting the mood… with music. Music sets a tempo in my head and I’m off, out of the gate, racing towards a deadline.

I’m the kind of person who will listen to an album, a playlist or even a solitary song (if it’s a real, “banger,” to quote our resident Millennial), on repeat. For example, I have listened to the soundtrack to the Book of Morman so many times I’m fairly certain I could jump on stage and keep the show going if a cast member were to become incapacitated (any casting agents out there need me to send in a headshot?).

Thinking back, I was a musical creature from the get-go, my proud parents watching on as I tortured my clarinet with the greatest of ease. As an adult, I like to sing like nobody’s watching when I’m in the safe surrounds of my car or in select company (this list includes my two small children and the proprietors/patrons of karaoke bars).

As a designer, music has just as an important place for me, though I tend to keep the live performances away from the office. I spent a good few years designing in an office that was open plan, where blaring music wasn’t always appreciated by all around me. It was interesting to note though, that in this particular environment, the more creative folk would always be plugging away at their work, headphones in and heads nodding or feet tapping, completely focused on their task at hand.

Now, creativity may not mean being a designer, or artist, or musician. Creativity is required in all facets of society by a plethora of different professions – whether it’s a surgeon undertaking a complex procedure that requires thinking outside the box, or a barrister who needs preempt and curate arguments before even stepping into a courtroom. Creativity is subjective in this respect.

For example, my lovely other-half knows music and loves most genres. His job is largely dedicated to complex financial modelling – but don’t be fooled into thinking that this isn’t a creative role. He may not be shredding his document live in front of an art auction à la Banksy, but he does need to think about what the numbers could mean in the scheme of the Australian economy. Think Tetris, but not as fun and within an excel spreadsheet. I asked him what plays in his headphones during the day (another open plan office situation) and the answer was, “classical piano,” which came as a surprise to me. He needs music to focus, but lyrics cloud his mind when he works. Funny how the human mind works in this way, isn’t it?

We’re a lucky bunch at BlueMelon, in that everyone in the studio feels that music is essential to our day. But not all workspaces are the same. So, what is it, specifically, and scientifically, that makes music so good for focus, creativity, and memory? Is it simply because music relaxes us, which helps open the creative floodgates?

A recent study on this very topic may have uncovered the answers to these questions. The researchers tested two types of thinking – divergent (coming up with a variety of creative solutions to a problem) and convergent (finding the right answer to a problem). A variety of music was used in the study, ‘happy’ music, classical music and the control group, worked in silence. The findings showed that the subjects who listened to happy music came up with the most creative solutions. Here’s the clincher for me though – the results suggested that those happy music listeners may or may not have actually enjoyed the music. Excusez-moi? Could this mean that although Miley makes me want to stick pins in my ears, she could in fact, have the power to make me more creative? Just kidding, Miley, I’d party in the USA with you any day.

So does music make me a better designer? In my opinion, it’s a solid YES. If I had no sweet beats with me during my creative process, would I suddenly work exclusively in a beige colour palette? The result would (hopefully) not be that dramatic, yet I think it’s fair to say that anything that energises, motivates or inspires will likely result in creative bursts that may not have shown up at the door otherwise. The result for us at BlueMelon? An outcome that gets delivered above and beyond our clients’ expectations. Win.  

What is your favourite tempo to tap away to? Let us know so we can add it to our studio playlist!

Rach works at BlueMelon Design, where we listen to all manner of tunes throughout the day. You can join the Blummie community here.

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