Irving A. Taylor (a psychologist who studied creativity and creative processes) arranged creativity levels into a creativity hierarchy that recognizes five levels: 


Expressive Creativity- These are unfettered ideas, generally primitive, that emerge without the benefit of any guidelines, physical laws, or other restrictions. You might think of expressive creativity as the child described earlier using a box of multi-colored crayons to draw something.

The first level incorporates the primitive and intuitive expression often found in children and in adults who have not been trained in the arts. There is an innocent quality to primitive art, but also directness and sensitivity.  The naive artist creates for the joy of it. The paintings of Grandma Moses would be a prime example of this category or many examples of folk art.


Technical Creativity- In this stage, we use rules and physical laws to constrain our thinking, with little expressive spontaneity.   Think of this stage as "practicing."  Things that emerge may be new to you, but may already be known to the world. 

The second level of creativity is the academic and technical level.  At this level the artist learns skills and techniques, developing a proficiency that allows creative expression in a myriad of ways. The academic artist adds power to expression through the mastery of craft.


Inventive Creativity- In this stage, we develop the ability to creatively combine existing technical concepts using prior design solutions to create new designs.  Examples might be to use an old item in a new way.

Many artists experiment with their craft, exploring different ways of using familiar tools and mediums.  This heralds the third level of creativity, invention.  Breaking rules is the order of the day, challenging the boundaries of discipline or academic tradition, and becoming increasingly adventurous and experimental. Inventive creators use academic tradition and skills as a stepping-stone into new frontiers.


Innovative Creativity- Innovative creativity involves departing from existing thinking patterns and making the leap to “out of the box” thinking. Results in something that seemingly has not been done before.

At the level of innovation the artist becomes more original. Materials and methods that are out of the ordinary are introduced.  Now the artist breaks the boundaries.  The academic foundation remains as a substructure of unconscious thought guiding these creative efforts.


Emergent Creativity- Emergent creativity is the highest creative level. It involves rejecting current physical laws, principals, and constraints, and forming completely new theories about how the world works.  This often results in a ground-breaking idea.  Few people achieve this level.

The fifth level of creativity is characterized as genius.  There are individuals whose ideas and accomplishments in art and science defy explanation. Genius is arguably the one level that is unexplained and perhaps unattainable through persistence or applied work ethic. Rather it is something that an individual is born with. That said it can certainly be nurtured and supported, or suppressed by external control.