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The field of arts has been thought of as opposite to the world of engineering. In engineering, the world works in defined ways governed by rules of physics, math and science. However, arts and creativity has less of a tangible definition towards, what works?

Very often you hear someone making a statement – “I am an engineer and am good in math, I cannot be creative, and I do not understand art”.

In 1985, Nike held a 24-hour shoe design contest. Nike was struggling as a public company. Their stock dropped 50%. They had to lay off people. Adidas, Converse, and Reebok were all selling more shoes. So, in a panicked attempt to revamp their designs and find creative talent, Nike held a shoe design contest. The winner was a corporate architect named Tinker Hatfield.

“Two days after the competition,” he said, “I wasn’t even asked—I was told that I was now a footwear designer for Nike.” As he got to work on his first official shoe design, he thought about a building he had studied in architecture school: The Centre Pompidou in Paris. The Centre Pompidou is an inside-out building, meaning that the structural, mechanical, and circulation systems are all exposed. “That building,” Tinker said, “was describing what it was to the people of Paris. And I thought, ‘Well why not do that with a shoe? Let’s cut a hole in the side and show what’s in the shoe.” So Tinker designed an inside-out shoe: The Air Max 1. The Air Max 1 was a massive success, and it steered Nike’s design direction from then on. “To this day,” Tinker says, “Phil Knight says I saved Nike.”

Had he not studied that building in Paris, Tinker says, he couldn’t have created the Air Max. Creativity, he says, is a function of the “library in your head.” “When you sit down to create something…what you create is a culmination of everything you’ve seen and done previous to that point.” Creativity continues to have its linkages to history and combining elements across nature and creations. Creativity does have a science and logic to it too.

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