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Creativity is the New Workout: A Key Aspect of Wellness

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INFLUENCER: Dr Rebecca Swift of Getty Images points out a flame of hope during the Covid-19 pandemic

Even in bleak moments, there’s always a flame of hope. In our current situation, the flame of creativity is that hope, and it’s burning brighter than ever. All around us, both at work as well as at home, creativity is gaining ground. These unprecedented times have unleashed a tidal wave of creativity that I don’t recall ever having seen before.

At Getty Images, our creative team has been analysing visual trends for over 25 years and the rise in creative expression we’re seeing and experiencing now, is wholly unique. I think back to previous times of collective crisis and difficulty, such as the global financial crash of 2008, and before that, the Dot com crash and 9/11 in 2001. Both gave rise to creativity in their own ways, with many using the creative process to heal from the trauma of those events.  

Yet back then, the rise in creativity didn’t manifest itself in quite the same way in the days following. In our current crisis, the tidal wave of creativity is bold, explosive and all around us in every facet of life. That can be anything from sewing masks to keep loved ones safe, to knitting, baking, creating sourdough starter mix, as well as using photography to capture one’s surroundings and self-portraiture. Whichever form it may take as we grapple with our new normal, the activities we are undertaking en masse are undoubtedly a potent creative outlet, a means towards expressing one’s self when other avenues have been restricted. 

A desire to work one’s creative muscles, in addition to our brains and bodies, has gained steam and is further boosted as we face fresh challenges presented by Covid-19. Just as gym visits and daily workouts have become the norm for many of us—although it looks different in practice based on our age and demographic - now, we’re increasingly making time for creative expression, too. 

In fact, at Getty Images, we found that the role of creativity in the leisure activities of everyday life was on rise even before this pandemic. In 2020, we published a research effort known as Visual GPS aimed at distilling insights around consumer values, needs, wants and behaviours. The results of that consumer survey showed that 31% of Gen Z and 24% of millennials said they “regularly participate in creative activities like crafting, painting, and photography.” Similar percentages were shared by Baby Boomers, showing that the rise of creativity in our daily lives transcended demographics. Our consumer survey found that people of every generation, young and old alike, were intentionally carving out time in their lives to participate in creative activities that added value to their lives.

Although our survey was conducted before Covid-19, I do expect future survey results will show even higher percentages of affirmative responses as we collectively treat creativity like the “new workout.” I also expect this rise to have a long-term impact on creativity in the professional sense, as well. As creativity becomes more ingrained into people’s daily lives, there is more inspiration to draw on all around us. We’re already seeing this in the inventive TikToks and music videos that people are making during the pandemic, or some of the unique artwork emerging from this crisis – both from amateurs and professionals alike. 

Becoming collectively more creative is a good thing for the industry. Not only does flexing creative muscles make them stronger, but a greater consumer appetite means that creative professionals will feel free to take bigger bolder steps for commercial projects. I look forward to the creativity we might see brought forth on the other side of this crisis. 

With gyms closed in lockdown, we’ve found creative solutions to maintaining our physical fitness, like working out to online videos in the small spaces of our homes. We’ve been working with what’s to hand. Intellectual creativity is no different. We can use this time in hibernation as our opportunity to find new ways of flexing those creative muscles – and when the world emerges from our hibernation, who knows just what may bloom from those creative seeds. 

Dr Rebecca Swift is global head of creative insights at Getty Images