Creative is not a noun

Pet peeve: people who use the word “creative” as a noun. Example:

“The ad will run on Friday, but the creative will be ready by Wednesday.”

If you say things like that, I don’t like you. Don’t bother offering justifications.

(disclosure: According to, “creative” can be used as a noun to describe a person who “displays productive originality” – I don’t like that either, but it’s not as bad)


24 thoughts on “Creative is not a noun

  1. “The creative” is an adjectival noun, like like someone being in “the running”. Unlike gerundives with the “-ing”, however, they smack of communications-brand-speak.

    Use such as “they are creative” in which is a noun as you described is no different that “she is funny”. I don’t want to be forced to say “she is a funny girl” to achieve the more acceptable “that is the creative team”.

  2. Half the web design agencies I know use “creative” in this way. The other half, though, use a word like “comp”, which is pretty much just as meaningless. What is the appropriate non-hatred-engendering noun?

  3. It’s offensive to people who -are- creative, because it commoditizes and belittles what they do. To a production/project manager, “the creative”, “the tech”, etc are replaceable pieces in a larger puzzle.

  4. I don’t like it either, but you’re going to want to get used to it, because it is quickly becoming an industry standard (potentially all encompassing) term within this industry (the creative industry, mind you, not describing us, but rather that which we produce). Designers are creatives, a peice of art is a creative. Its silly, but that’s the lingo we’re using these days. So get out there and produce some creatives!

  5. “The creative”. I’ve heard this for ages. Sounds like a great title for a John Grisham novel.

    I’ve also heard people discuss their clients this way, as in “client doesn’t like the creative”, or “I’ll have to send that to client for approval”. Somehow, it would sound okay in a British accent, but from a Canadian it just sounds condescending and intensely impersonal.

  6. I have issues with ‘creative’ being used to blanket all sorts of ideas, jobs, people, things. Used as a adjective mostly and certainly have issues with it dropped in as a noun.

    If you have time, this is a good example.

  7. Which sounds better, “Pardon me, design diety? Could you please release the creative to the publishers?” or “Hey, pierced peon, haul your pale ass over to Kinko’s and run off a couple hundred more fliers for the Nascar nachos promo!”

    Language should be flexible and expressive. ‘Creative’ as a noun is a useful shortcut because it encompasses a wide range of work like illustrations, graphic designs, video clips and written copy. Creative as a noun is primarily used to refer to ‘creative’ marketing material. There isn’t much point in getting self righteous about the words we use to describe marketing fluff, is there?

  8. How do we feel about “Creative” being used as a noun to describe a person who creates? My boss will use the sentence “I’m not sure, let me go round up the creatives and see what they think.” He’s grouped the UI Designer, the Graphic Designer, and the Developers together collectively as “The Creatives”. I kinda like it 🙂

  9. I don’t want to be a weiner, but you’ve raised questions about your official title as “Creative Director”.

    Do you direct the creative (like an Art Director or a Music Director directs the art or the music)?

    Or are you a director who is creative (like a Sleepy Director is sleepy or a Purple Director is purple)?

    The second one is lame and implies other directors aren’t creative, but the first breaks the law. Thus my confusion! Are there other interpretations I’ve not derived from your (grammatically) ambiguous title?

  10. Very good point Rob, which is it Steven?

    Do you direct the creative or are you a director who is creative?

    Either way your job title is pretty silly given your feelings towards the use of the word “creative” when describing graphic design work.

  11. Touché Rob.

    I do think my dorky job title is still inline with my indictment of “creative-as-noun” people. Please understand that it is with some shame that I discuss myself as a “Creative Director”, especially given the size of our firm.

    The title, Creative Director, does not use the word ‘creative’ as a noun. Rather, it describes the type of director. We also have a Technical Director – and he doesn’t “direct the technical”, he is the “director that of things technical”.

    I think my glass house remains intact for now.

  12. You guys are all haters and semantic game players. I know what kind of person you’re talking about in this discussion, and it has nothing to do with the word “creative” as a noun.

    Me? I can’t stand the word “smoothie”, but that doesn’t mean I hate you because you drink your breakfast.

  13. Well, everything aside, I would like to submit a late comment to say damn straight. I hadn’t heard it used that way at the time of the posting but I just started a new job this week and now hear it about 25 times a day. Drives me insane. Pretty much all of those ‘power’ words and phrases do, and this one immediately climbed to the top of the charts.

  14. Reading Milton Glaser’s 10 Things I Have Learned talk from the AIGA Voice Conference in March of 2002, I was heartened to see he agrees with my distaste of the word “creative” as a noun:

    Unfortunately in our field, in a so-called creative activity – I’ve begun to hate that word. I especially hate when it is used as a noun. I shudder when I hear someone called a creative.

  15. if you go out into the world just looking for an excuse or a reason to be offended you will find opportunities everywhere.
    now here is a person who says “I don’t like you”
    because of the way they used a word.
    are you kidding me?
    do some net browsing, find some kind of a life .

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