As I continue reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs I have been thinking about Jobs’s assertion that people don’t know what they want. He didn’t believe in focus groups and market research as a way of developing products but instead followed his own vision of the future. For example, he believed a computer should have a graphical interface that allowed people to interact with it the way they interact with a desktop, something people were already familiar with. He also believed tablet computers should be controlled by our fingers, not a clumsy stylus. The computer should be simple and sophisticated simultaneously. Today we expect and demand these features even though some of us still remember punch cards and monochromatic green DOS screens.
When we create new work it is something nobody has seen or experienced before. It may be a combination of familiar things presented in a new way that forges new territory or seeing something everyone has seen and presenting it in a new way.
Oftentimes new and innovative work will surprise others and our selves. Our new direction will face both external and internal criticism because it is innovative. Embracing our creativity can be difficult under these circumstances. However, this space is where we want to be as artists and we must find the courage to stay there and thrive (see Rollo May’s book The Courage to Create).
We must learn to become comfortable with the unknown if we are to become truly creative and innovative. Willing to surprise people and catch them off guard. Willing to be caught off guard ourselves.
People don’t know what they want. As artists our role is to show them.