A long time ago, in a land far away, they say it really happened: Albert Einstein was asked for paternity tips. “I would like my daughter to be a scientist, too. What kinds of books do you recommend?” According to a 1958 New Mexico Library of Congress journal, Einstein replied, “Fairy tales, and then, more fairy tales.”
We should talk about the importance of fantasy, whether you are a designer, illustrator, administrator or accountant; yes, being a human being, stories have the power to transform you, and by extension, everyone around you.
The trigger for me to write about this was watching the adaptation of Sandman on Netflix, a classic graphic novel and one of the first to appear on the New York Times bestseller list. I’m quite a fanboy of its author, Neil Gaiman, so don’t trust me, but know that the TV adaptation was the most watched series in the world for three consecutive weeks.
I never liked superheroes. I thought they were fake. As the smallest teenager in my class, I found refuge in heavy metal, Edgar Allan Poe and Vertigo, the adult label from DC Comics (now DC Black Label), where heroes aren’t quite heroes, and life isn’t quite what we imagined when we were kids. Even so, I remember my fascination when I read that there was a library, in the Dreaming, that kept all the books ever written by humanity, as well as those that have not yet been written. These are there too, side by side, waiting for some dreamer to find them. If you think this is silly, I invite you to look around you. Look at everything that didn’t come from nature: the chair you’re sitting on. The device you are reading this on. The clothes you’re wearing. Your desk. The pen on your desk. The room where you are. The house or the building. All of this was designed by someone. And before it was designed, it was imagined.
Chesterton said that fairy tales are not meant to tell us that dragons are real, but that they can be defeated. I love this idea. But also that dragons could be imagined. Combining dangerous reptiles with our limitation of being unable to fly, we idealize in an imaginary creature all the power we would like to have. Combining different elements to create something new is the closest thing to a recipe for creativity ever dreamed of.
The first time I used Midjourney, one of the tools that generate images by artificial intelligence from just one sentence, I was paralyzed. What to create, if I can create anything? I called my son and soon ideas came up: Cristiano Ronaldo as a pokemon. Naruto fighting Power Rangers in space. It works. They are already creating a plugin for Figma and Fast Company reports that architects are using the tool in their creative process, saying that “It’s almost like you’re speaking a building into existence.” Another user of this tool won an art competition in Colorado, leaving many artists outraged.
When the ability to draw or paint is no longer necessary to create a drawing or a painting, what really matters (Einstein already knew, of course), is our ability to dream and imagine.
Sandman is the #1 @netflix show in the world for the third week running
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