I haven't read all of them yet, but my initial impression is some disappointment that the workshop participants were academics and no one purely from the creative tool "user" persuasion was there. It looks a bit industry internal, and not just software industry internal, but research-world internal. Many of the literature citations support this, although I did find a book or two I didn't know about (e.g., Polya's How to Solve It). It wasn't surprising to see quotes from Csikszentmihalyi's Creativity but it was not clear to me that the cultural recognition of creative work as valuable should be relevant to the design of software to support the act of creating.
This said, there are interesting points, especially if you work on software design for creatives, as I have in the last 3 jobs (if you include scientists, which Mihaly Csik. does). The Design Principles article includes these items:
- Support Exploration: First, it must be very easy to try things out, and then backtrack when unsuccessful. This means that the tools must be trustworthy so that users are comfortable trying things. For example, a very good Undo capability is required in the tools.... A second requirement is that the tools be “self-revealing” so that it is clear to users what can be done. If the flexibility is not apparent, it will not be used....Another way to support exploration is to make it very fast to “sketch” out different alternatives at the early stages of design.
- Have Low Threshold, High Ceiling, and Wide Walls:Effective tool designs should make it easy for novices to get started (low threshold) but also possible for experts to work on increasingly sophisticated projects (high ceiling) [Myers 2000]. The low threshold means that the interface should not be intimidating, and should give users immediate confidence that they can succeed. The high ceiling means that the tools are powerful and can create sophisticated, complete solutions. Too often tools that enable creative thinking may be quite hard to learn (they don’t have a low threshold). Instead, they focus on providing numerous powerful features so that experts can assemble results quickly. Now, we add a third goal: wide walls. That is, creativity support tools should support and suggest a wide range of explorations.
- Support Many Paths and Many Styles. People work in different ways, right brain vs. left brain, "hard" vs. "soft" approaches.
- Support Collaboration among multiple users. In all of our projects, in schools, and in the “real world,” most creative work is done in teams.
- Support Open Interchange: The creative process will not usually be supported by a single tool, but rather will require that the user orchestrate a variety of tools each of which supports part of the task. Creativity support tools should seamlessly interoperate with other tools. This includes the ability to easily import and export data from conventional tools such as spreadsheets, word processors and data analysis tools, and also with other creativity support tools. This requires that the data formats in the files be open and well-defined.
- Make It As Simple As Possible - and Maybe Even Simpler: A plea to reduce featuritis, which will appeal to my boss, for sure.
- Choose Black Boxes Carefully:In designing creativity support tools, one of the most important decisions is the choice of the “primitive elements” that users will manipulate. This choice determines, to a large extent, what ideas users can explore with the tool – and what ideas remain hidden from view.
While the principles look good to me, the examples surrounding them are a little thin, as far as my needs go. But I found it interesting reading nevertheless and recommend browsing the site.