Creative entrepreneurs are different from other people. In fact, their entrepreneurial spirit makes them different not
only from others in general, but from other ‘creatives'. This is because not only are they creative, they are also
risk-takers, innovators, originators, thought-leaders and product (or service) makers. They use a combination of
creative enterprise, market knowledge, business acumen and perhaps surprisingly in some cases, a lack of
business acumen to turn creative ideas into commercial outcomes.
Creative entrepreneurs are not the sort of people who sit back and react or respond to ideas. They create them.
What they do best is to be the first to come up with an idea. But, just as importantly, creative entrepreneurs
strive to take that idea further - beyond the workshop, the laptop or the studio - to market, that is, to other
producers and to end consumers. By disrupting the status quo, creative entrepreneurs lead by example, blazing
a trail for others to follow.
‘Creatives' are ‘knowledge workers', that is, people who are paid to solve intellectual problems. Their primary
source of income is the generation, use and distribution of knowledge and information. In the case of creative
practitioners, there is a clear distinction from other knowledge workers in that creativity is their primary
source of income.
According to the Australian Oxford Dictionary,(1) to be ‘creative' is to have the power or ability to create things,
to show imagination and originality (creative work). The Oxford defines an ‘entrepreneur' as someone who
organises and manages a commercial undertaking, especially one involving commercial risk.
A creative entrepreneur therefore, requires a diverse set of (creative and non-creative) skills and knowledge to be
able to create things and to then take those things to market, to turn them into something commercial, while
managing the risk which underpins that commercial undertaking.
In academic and policy discourse, those industries which are readily identified as being ‘creative' are the traditional
cultural sectors like the visual and performing arts and the newer forms of cultural production in industries like film
and television, broadcasting, software development & interactive media and music, as well as writing and designer
fashion. In other words, the creative industries are typically defined to include those economic activities that
leverage cultural roots and assets to generate an income to turn creative ideas into commercial outcomes.
The architecture and urban design creatives
But the creative industries also include what is arguably a sometimes overlooked segment of creative individuals
and enterprises, one that does not fit neatly into a ‘cultural' categorisation but which, by virtue of its influence on
the way we all work and live, is a driver of economic and community development. This is the architecture and
urban design segment.
Architects and urban designers are not typically thought of as ‘artisans' and instead are part of the other broad
grouping of creatives, what Felton et al.(2) call the ‘commercial' creative workers.
A 2005 study by SGS Economics and Planning and the Creative Industries Research and Applications Centre
at Queensland University of Technology (3) showed the significant economic contribution of Queensland's
Architecture, Visual Arts and Design segment, which contributed an estimated $320 million or 17% to the
creative industries' contribution to Queensland's Gross State Product (GSP).
A more recent study prepared for Enterprise Connect and the Creative Industries Innovation Centre (4) estimates
the Architecture, Design and Visual Arts segment contributes 12% of the creative industries' contribution to
Australia's GDP and 23% of creative industries employment. This is second only to the software and interactive
Architects and urban designers have a special role to play in the creative industries framework. As Higgs et al.
contend, the design segment (including architecture and urban design) "is the archetypal ‘leverage' industry:
while it does not generate high employment or have a massive industry turnover in itself, it is increasingly
valuable in what it enables other industries to achieve".(5)
Architecture, urban design and city-building in the 21st Century
The emergence of the knowledge worker in a 21st Century global economy and of lifestyle and liveability as
foundations for economic development has put ‘place' back on the map as a critical investment attractor and
as a driver of local competitiveness.
Knowledge industries (including creative industries) are characterised by dynamic exchanges of information
and collaboration between sectors. For this to occur, they need to be in an environment that is appealing to
knowledge workers, who place a premium on an area's lifestyle attributes. This will be influenced by the quality
of and accessibility to local recreation, leisure and entertainment facilities, the depth and strength of the area's
cultural infrastructure and the level of urban amenity.
Quality urban form is something architects and urban designers can appreciate and influence. In architecture
and urban design, the successful creative entrepreneurs know what appeals to others too. They understand
economic and social trends and they are well-versed on government policy concerning investment in urban form
and supporting infrastructure; and they are informed about policy and legislation regarding tariff and taxation
laws for example, both here in Australia and overseas where they might seek to export.
And if the policymakers are not in tune with the urban planning and city-building needs and expectations of the
greater populace, entrepreneurial architects and urban designers need to inform and advise them. Otherwise,
there is a real risk of disconnect between what cities are and what people want and need. As Marcus Westbury
argues about governments that fail to respond to community needs, "a flagrant disregard for community and
cultural consequences has led to buildings, cities, suburbs and communities that are ludicrously profitable
and culturally barren". (6)
Charles Landry, who writes extensively on the concept of ‘creative cities', argues, among other things, that people
"want places to meet, talk, mix, exchange, interact and play". He adds, "the city should feel creative and
imaginative, a place with a ‘can do' mentality that is ‘entrepreneurial". (7)
Over the past decade or more, urban planners, urban designers, architects and government policy-makers have
become increasingly aware and placed greater emphasis on the important role that creativity and ideas generation
play as foundations for quality of life and economic performance. It is now widely understood that new ideas will
increasingly underpin almost all forms of economic development in a city's engagement with the new economy.
As creative entrepreneurs working in the field of architecture and urban design, creative practitioners have an
important role to play in policy-making by actively demonstrating and promoting the merits of urban amenity
and the role of good design in facilitating the development of liveable (and therefore) prosperous cities. In other
words, creative entrepreneurs working in this field must be willing to proactively communicate the value of their
contribution to citybuilding and economic development.
As Leadbeater and Oakley point out, "cultural industries and entrepreneurs will play a critical role in reviving large
cities that have suffered economic decline and dislocation..... culture is not just a source of jobs and income but
also a sense of confidence and belonging. Cities that have invested successfully in cultural renewal do so to
generate not just economic growth but also a renewed sense of civic pride and purpose".(8)
As creative practitioners who can have a direct influence over the form and function of the places where people
live and work (our cities and towns), entrepreneurial architects and urban designers can directly influence the
policy environment within which they operate. But every city and town is different. This means they need to
understand local socio-economic dynamics and trends to effectively articulate to a wide audience, the value
of their output. That is, the contribution that quality architecture and urban design can make to the liveability,
functionality, investment appeal and therefore, prosperity of places.
Footnotes and references
1. Ludowyk, L. And Moore, B (eds) (2006). The Australian Oxford Paperback Dictionary. Fourth Edition. Oxford
2. Felton, E., Collis, C. and Graham, P. (2010) ‘Making Connections: creative industries networks in outer
urban locations' in Australian Geographer, Vol. 14, No 1, March 2010 pp 5770.
3. SGS Economics and Planning Pty Ltd in conjunction with Creative Industries Research and Application
Centre (2005). Mapping Queensland's Creative Industries: Economic Fundamentals. Technical Report. CIRAC,
Queensland University of Technology.
4. Centre for International Economics (June 2009). Creative Industries Economic Analysis, Final Report.
Enterprise Connect and the Creative Industries Innovation Centre.
5. Higgs, P., Cunningham, S., Hearn, G., Adkins, B., Barnett, K. (2005). The Ecology of Queensland Design.
CIRAC, Queensland University of Technology. Page 3
6. Westbury, M. (2008). ‘Fluid cities create', in Griffith Review, Edition 20: Cities on the Edge. Griffith University
and the author.
7. Landry, Charles (April 2010). What makes a great creative city?
http://www.creativecities.org.uk/charles-landry/ (accessed October 20, 2010). (Landry, April 2010).
8. Leadbeater, C. And Oakley, K. (1999), ‘Why Cultural Entrepreneurs Matter', in John Hartley (ed),
Creative Industries. Blackwell (2005), pp. page 303. Landry, Charles (December 2009). Charles
Landry on ‘civic creativity'. http://www.creativecities.org.uk/charles-landry/ (accessed October 20, 2010).