The percentage of creativity is 3%, according to Virgil Abloh

You only have to slightly innovate an existing project to create a new one: the American designer describes the rules and strategies of his duchampian approach. 

This article was originally published on Domus 1060, september 2021. 


It’s a theory. Developed in practice. Evolved over time.

Gradually. Not seen from one day or year to the next; only to be studied over gross periods of time. It’s a ploy, more specifically.

I once read, the greatest way to reduce genius is to immediately recall what something you see reminds you of. 3%, in my canon, is a figurative term in one direction and a literal term in another.

3% is intentional.

3% is experimental.

3% is a luxury handbag laden with holes. I call them meteors.

To design and truly think one can exist in a vacuum is linked to humans’ desire to exist outside the timeline of other humans.

3% is a doorstopper accent for Ikea.

3% is effective.

3% “the theory” is a perception tool against racial bias. See: the hidden assault that hides between or behind words.

It’s a parting from the structures designed to inhibit or constrain.

3% gave us Picasso in his African period. In the same way that it gave us J Dilla and the hip-hop movement that raised me.

It’s the black canon – a collection of ideas meant to remain just so.

Virgil Abloh, Meteor Shower, Off-White. Courtesy Off-White

3 % is applicable across practices and fields, different media,eras of our history. Our future.

A series of 3%’s brings the classics to modernity. Connects iconsto burgeoning talent.

Original style and invention are two different things. Origin stories varybut methods are universal. It’s a cheat code.

3% is packaging, 3% is marketing.

3% is a single sneaker with Nike, executed 50 different ways.

3% is ultimately self-endowed freedom.

Freedom and 3% are mutually beneficial. One fosters the other, equallyworking hand in hand to add depth to culture, society, policy.

3% is slippery.

Virgil Abloh, Mercedes Benz Project Gel+ñndewagen. Courtesy Mercedes Benz

The 3% ideology has its advantages. It recalls an eye-to-emotionconnection in the brain and adds an alternate voice. 3% expands ourworld view, without pushing our zones of comfort to the brink. We’reexposed to “new”, but not eccentric or disconcerting.

What the larger ecosystem doesn’t understand is sampling theready-made to make anew.

It’s a crystal sipping cup with Baccarat. A concept car with Mercedes-Benz. A deadstock flannel, screen-printed with Pyrex 23 and resoldfor an astonishing mark-up.

3% hinges on conceptual art and theoretical foundations.Something more than profound happened when a urinal was placedon a plinth. This ripple effect extends past the 4 walls of art, extendspast the age of its beginning.

3% is a shorthand phrase.

It’s a canon of primitivism. See: Picasso, Donald Judd.

It’s moving design forward, which sometimes means taking a stepback.

Caravaggio on a hoodie.

It’s the pre-rationalisation to frame post-rationalisation.

Don’t be confused – 3% is situational.

3% itself is a prototype, just the beginning.

3% is continuation.

3% is change.

3% is social justice, racial equality.

3% is a new status quo.

Virgil Abloh:
A fashion designer, artist, industrial designer, musician and DJ, Abloh was born in Rockford, Illinois, in 1980. Currently, he is the chief creative director and founder of Off-Whit e️ (in 2012) and men’s artistic director at Louis Vuitton.
Opening image :
Virgil Abloh. Photo Alessio Segala

Latest on Design

Latest on Domus

Read more
China Germany India Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Sri Lanka Korea icon-camera close icon-comments icon-down-sm icon-download icon-facebook icon-heart icon-heart icon-next-sm icon-next icon-pinterest icon-play icon-plus icon-prev-sm icon-prev Search icon-twitter icon-views icon-instagram