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Design & Style

On Creativity

Frank Gehry

Lesson time 8:12 min

Frank is considered one of the most creative and expressive architects in the world. In this chapter, he’ll share why it’s important to develop your own creative signature and how to embrace the creative insecurity you will inevitably experience.

Frank Gehry
Teaches Design and Architecture
In 17 lessons, Frank teaches his unconventional philosophy on architecture, design, and art.


When I talk to students, there's two things I advise them. One is to be themselves. And I talk about writing your signature. That if you write a signature, and your colleague writes your signature, you can recognize yours, and they can recognize theirs. There is a you that is different from him or her. And it's worth pursuing because that's where you're the strongest, and so on. And that plus making sure that everything you do, no matter how small, is the best you can possibly do. It's a small thing. It's about two inches long and a half inch high or something. But in that little act of drawing that name, you reveal yourself. It happens automatically. You don't think about it, usually. I mean, people contrive their signatures and all kinds of stuff like that, eventually. Get ego involved and what it looks like. But I'm talking about generally. And that difference is you. And so how did you feel when you wrote it? You didn't think about it. That's a prime example of a visual impact of your own persona. So when you take that to do with designing a building or a teapot or a light bulb or whatever things you're going to do, that persona is still in-- if you let it be, if you don't self-consciously legislate it out, which some people do because they're embarrassed by it and have difficulties and feel insecure because some parent or some wayward schoolteacher tells you you can't do that. You're not allowed to be that person. You're not allowed to be yourself. You're not allowed. You're here to do x; reading, writing, and arithmetic, and you've got to do it this way. No you don't. And no, you shouldn't. And you should enjoy finding yourself, and you should enjoy expressing yourself and being secure in it. They can reject you, and they will. Believe me, they will. And you've got to just keep doing it. I believe that having a healthy insecurity is crucial to doing the kind of work I want to do. I've compared notes with actors, musicians, composers, and see the same. My friend, Esa-Pekka Salonen is an incredible composer, and he suffers so much from it. Sometimes we have to go out and have a drink and cry in each other's beer. I think that comes with the territory. I don't think it's a negative thing. I think it's something we feel comfortable with. And if it isn't there, we don't feel comfortable. As soon as I feel too secure about something, I know I'm on the wrong track. And that's hard to do. And people don't believe it. Because you get all this notoriety for doing stuff, which has happened to me a little bit, and it's hard for them to understand you're not-- or I'm not, and I know a lot of my friends aren't-- that that insecurity is there always. And we rely on it. I rely on it. It keeps me motivated to keep doing stuff, and I don't dismiss it. I used to volunteer...

About the Instructor

At 19 years old, Frank Gehry was a truck driver taking sculpture classes at night school. His vision for what architecture could accomplish went on to reshape our cities’ skylines and the imaginations of artists and designers around the world. In his online architecture class, this master builder invites you into his never-before-seen model archive for a look into his creative process.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

You're always in creative block, just start trying things.

I'm not an architect or designer, but learning from him is very valuable. His suggestion and experience are transferable to many kinds of professions

Frank seems like a guy who doesn't say what isn't necessary. It makes you feel like you're a close friend.

I mentor and coach CEOs. Frank's concepts on voice, his style of communication, and directness and honesty can be applied in any profession.


A fellow student

How Frank Gehry Is Making an Impact Beyond Architecture As with his signature buildings, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect likes to upend the rules and look to the future with his philanthropy. I think we all have clearly understood the message on “your creative signature”. I read Frank’s “philanthropic endeavors at public schools” with great enthusiasm.

Martin J.

I find fascinating that in addition to being a great architect, Mr. Gehry is a great teacher of life and that is a virtue that very few school and university teachers have.

Alexandra Z.

I admire his work! He told a story about how he become Franck Gehry and why arhitectural buildings which have his signature are works of art!

Manuela O.

It is remarkable how he points out that one should not stick to one's own profession, but rather find beauty in everything and in other subjects, because a creative idea can come from anywhere.

Rebecca S.

What a beautifully straight-forward communicator, intelligent and yet so humble in his approach in sharing what he has learned over the years. My background is in industrial and product design, so I can relate to being true to oneself even when others lean towards 'safe' concepts. The business of design requires thick skin, compromise and a higher than normal appetite for risk. Today, I'm a technology consultant, but creativity is everywhere. Having a baseline in design is a powerful advantage that very few in management consulting can't fake it, its in your DNA. The ability to problem solve at a higher level and deeply understand client requirements sets one apart from the crowd. That said, the point were disruptive design and transformative change within a business culture can be a very tricky dance more often than not.

A fellow student

I can relate to what he is saying about the young architects. When I first started in architecture school, I felt so restricted. I kept thinking ‘WHY? Why is all the interesting and imaginative architecture oceans away in Japan and China and parts of Europe while everything I see in the States is a rectangle?’ I cringed at the thought of creating more rectangles. So I switched my focus to interior design at a school that let me be creative.

Meg N.

I'm fairly certain that each of us has a creative signature, whether we develop it or not. The issue may be in whether the timing and the mentoring and the chances that present themselves will conspire to cause us to pick up that signature and develop it earlier in life, or whether we decide, after a long and not-quite random number of years, to pick it up later in life. If, like Frank Gehry, we get those chances early enough, we may have a great lifetime career. If they come later in life, the achievements may be smaller and without fame, but all the more satisfying. Starting earlier in life, there is a danger of burning out or getting bored and turn away from it; starting to develop that creative signature later in life, we've made the big leap to pick up the challenge, and now have a better chance of finding something to keep us active and involved and looking forward to, right up to our last days on earth. Such great fun! I have one of those diffused "later chance" paths in life, and find my income from commercial translation (which differs from literary translation) has been the greatest of the several types of work I did this past year. Now this year I've picked up a new client, an architect, so have chosen this class to get greater perspective on what has gone into the text that he needs translated for his international competition entries. It is a joy to understand and "be on a mission" to convey the thoughts of someone who wants to reach a larger audience - and everything works together for the good.

Gabe M.

Frank, I absolutely love the concept of healthy insecurity. I've been working at a residential design firm for just under 4 years now and have experienced that sense of instability every single day of my job. It's not an insecurity that will cripple us, as long as we don't let it. If we can channel it right, it will ABSOLUTELY do what you said it will! Give each individual that edge to become more and design farther than they every have. You totally put words to something that I haven't been able to! THANK YOU!

Bill M.

I wish I could have had this type of mentor as a child. I had a 5th grade math teacher the belittled and humiliated the students who didn't get the lesson as quickly as others. That definitely impacted my my learning ability for years to come and I still have a significant fear of math .

Sinae K.

So different from what we would expect about the future, "You are not allowed to be the person"; this happens everywhere discouraging others. Thankfully, he's pointed out what crucially we need to have in mind when we're in our own profession and enable us to step forward. I think the bullying might have come from being insecurity as well.