Coffee vs Creativity

“Oh, I can’t do anything until I’ve had my second coffee.”

Caffeine is a prolific stimulant. It’s essential in any office and attracts particular acclaim in creative circles for being integral to the production of ideas. But is this praise well founded?

Well, science has proved that drinking a decent cup of coffee can indeed improve mental performance – in particular, alertness and concentration.

But it’s certain that bad coffee is an unwelcome distraction to any thought process. Just picture that cup of budget instant coffee swirling in front of you; undissolved chunks cruising round the surface leaving dark streaks in their wake like some kind of pollutant. This foul liquid, although unappealing, is still thrown down the neck of many a creative. Why? It’s a caffeine delivery system; like a friendly slap in the face. It is unpleasant medicine for the brain.

Coffee does not make you more creative. Likewise, the creative brain does not exclusively run on coffee. It is a consumer of all things new or unknown. A creative person is naturally interested in anything that they know nothing about. Stopping a task to consume a coffee may leave you open to consuming other visual stimuli.

Any coffee, good, bad or – dare I say it – decaf, can take you away from your desk. A screen break is essential to the creative process. You’re also more likely to be engaging with other humans (once you’ve checked your Smartphone of course), which is often the quickest and most successful route to good design.

So it would seem that coffee is extremely beneficial to the creative. Be it through the delivery of a mild stimulant or the process of the creation of the coffee – taking you away from your desk, changing your environment and allowing your brain to follow a different path. Coffee cannot spark an idea. But it can be the catalyst, providing the right combination of chemical stimulant, human interaction and change of environment that gets you where you need to be, creatively.

In the absence of coffee this perfect combination of stimuli can be recreated using the following method:

Take a beautiful book from your creative library. Approach the colleague who is in need of creative stimulation. Holding the book by the spine, lightly slap colleague in the face with the book. Then open the book on a page taken at random, hand the open spread to the stunned colleague and walk away.

Repeat until colleague is inspired, stimulated or unconscious.**

**Don’t do this. It is a terrible idea and may get you sacked. Drink coffee instead. Or maybe tea.