The Four Species of Imagination

4 Species of Imagination

There are Four Species of Imagination – the experimental, the visionary, the intuitive and the calculative, as demonstrated in the work of major innovators of the 20th century. This infographic shows how they map out.

That said, are there really only four? Seems like an instant oversimplification. Although infographics tend to have to find ways to simplify. And granted, this one’s simpler than most.

A quick search reveals many more types.

Here, we get this detail of 8 Types of Imagination:

  • Effectuative imagination
  • Intellectual or constructive imagination
  • Empathy
  • Strategic imagination
  • Emotional imagination
  • Dreams
  • Memory reconstruction

Which is more important — imagination or knowledge?

When interviewing Albert Einstein, poet and journalist George Sylvester Viereck asked: “How do you account for your discoveries? Through intuition or inspiration?” To which Einstein responded:

“Both. I sometimes feel I am right, but do not know it. When two expeditions of scientists went to test my theory I was convinced they would confirm my theory. I wasn’t surprised when the results confirmed my intuition, but I would have been surprised had I been wrong. I’m enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination, which I think is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Knowledge versus imagination. It’s an ongoing debate, at least as old as humans’ ability to debate these things, no doubt. The “war” between what we know and what we dream is found in every field. It’s responsible for the difference between rationalist and mystic interpretations of religions, and causes the chasm between realism and surrealism and the rational number-crunching of science and the speculations of superstring theory.

What matters more to a copywriter?

I can’t answer for all of us, but I will borrow from Einstein and say both.

Without the practical, hands-on knowledge of thousands of hours of professional copywriting, I wouldn’t know the tricks of the trade. How to look at text as a visual element, as much as any graphic. How to write cutting headlines. How to coax the right key messages out of clients who’ve never really thought about marketing.

And without the flights of fancy that imagination can bring, I wouldn’t be able to craft the kinds of concepts you can build a whole advertising campaign around.

Whichever type you are, ultimately, matters less than that you use it.

See on, or on See on – Advertising, I say

2 thoughts

  1. Hi Karen, Thanks for the link.

    Regarding your comment:
    “How to coax the right key messages out of clients who’ve never really thought about marketing.”

    I’m also thinking about a similar topic (but within User Experience / usability side of things), and I think it may be helpful for us to create “Tips” or “Guides” or other resources that can help the client learn how to contribute to the process.

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