Some Types of Creativity 
as described by Elliot Eisner

Boundary Pushing (the rules are too constraining) 
". . . . the ability to expand the limits that define uses . . . to place objects into classes from which . . . previously excluded."   It is ". . . extending the given."   p. 326    Examples include the use of a rubber eraser as a printing stamp or finding ways to bend plywood in order to make chairs.

Inventing (bring things together in a new way)
"The inventor does not merely extend the usual limits . . . (but) creates a new object by restructuring the known."   p. 326     The inventor often finds useful combinations, congruencies, to produce reconstruction's.  It is discovery followed by "purposeful activity."  p. 327    Examples are Guttenburg, Bell, Marconi, etc.

Boundary Breaking   (the rules are the problem)        least common    ". . . . the rejection or reversal of . . . assumptions and making the 'given' problematic.' p. 327     The creator notices problems with existing assumptions and is able to imagine and generate solutions by thinking "outside the box".  Opposite thinking and gap filling thinking.   Examples are Einstein and Copernicus.  

Aesthetic Organizing (order and beauty from chaos)        most common   Qualitative organizing.  The need to produce order, harmony, and unity.  Differs from the others in that novelty is not required.  I often wonder if aesthetic organizing should be included as a type creativity.  Of course when one of the other types is used with aesthetic organizing, the result will be creative.

NOTES:  These classifications are from Eisner, Elliot W. "A Typology of Creative Behavior in the Visual Arts" published in Readings in Art Education. 1966. Edited by Elliot W. Eisner and David W. Ecker.  Blaisdell Publishing, Waltham, MA. pages 323 - 335.

Eisner used these classifications in a study of the work of sixth grade children whose artwork was evaluated according to these types of creativity.

How have I used these categories in my teaching?

Familiarity with types of creativity has helped me accept and acknowledge my students efforts.  Often it has helped me phrase questions in critiques that have helped students find their own solutions.  In teaching I have posted lists of of ways students can think about their work in order to invent and push or break boundaries.

In classroom discussions of comtemporary and historical artwork I have been able to highlight aspects of artwork that illustrate these kinds of creative thinking on the part of artists. 

How have I used these categories in my own artwork?

I have been able to learn from other artists by coming closer to seeing the thought processes reflected in their work instead of thinking of their work as something to be replicated in terms of its appearance.
In my own work, being familiar with this taxotomy has helped me identify, honor, and respect my own best creative outcomes.  I have been able to discover the conditions under which these moments occur. 

I know that anybody can do aesthetic organization and I realize that I do this while producing or finalizing every artwork.  It is probably an instinct built into our brians.  I can easily find aesthetic organizing boring.  It is the work of artwork.  I am most pleased when I am able to foster play of artwork.  These are the conditions that bring forth one of the first three types of creativity. 

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updated 29 February 2004