The terms 'creativity' and 'engagement' are used broadly throughout the literature and are in common usage in our education and design language. Students, however, understand these terms in unexpected ways and this can sometimes cause a disjunction between the teacher's intention for the learning activity and the ways in which the student may go about it. In this article we tease out the relationships between engagement and creativity for student learning in design. Our data suggest that engagement relies on certain conditions and attributes that have to be met before a student makes a personally meaningful commitment to study. Engagement here means some form of interlocking between the student and the task, or some form of attentiveness facilitated by the teacher or the environment. By creativity we mean the meshing between person, process and product which is then appreciated by the broader design community. We suggest that understanding creativity as a complex attribute contributes to the nature and quality of student engagement with their learning and the profession.