virgin islands scene

To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.
-- Soren Kierkegaard


Friday, January 5, 1996

The value of art

For about five weeks I had been stuck. I was working on designing a brochure for a client and I just couldn’t come up with a good idea. I had tried several different approaches, and nothing seemed to work.

Then one day, I was listening to some music while working on the project. In one of the songs, I heard a word -- just a single word -- that suddenly made something click. It was just the right word, at just the right time, that I needed to hear. Hearing that one word in that one song suddenly brought forth a wealth of ideas for my design project. It completely turned things around. I was then able to produce several very good design ideas that were perfectly suited for the project at hand.

We relate to our world through symbols and representations. Often, a single symbol can conjure up a whole world of meaning. Thoughts and feelings can lie hidden for years, and can be brought forward by the whiff of a familiar scent or the strains of a familiar melody. The representations are hard-wired into our brains and we couldn’t function without them. They are what enable us to make sense of the world around us.

Art is full of symbols and representations in their purest form. That is why art, including the fine arts and the performing arts, can be such a powerful spark for creativity. For centuries, the rich and powerful have sought art in their lives. Generally, when the rich and powerful want something, it is very much worth having.

In the practical world of business and commerce, we sometimes make the mistake of dismissing art as frivolous. It is not. Art is a rich source of raw material for solving problems and creating new ideas. The symbolism contained in works of art is a very high bandwidth data source that can reach far into the corners of our brains. Art can help us retrieve information we forgot we knew, and help us see things in a completely new light.

— Ralph Marston

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