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Limitations Foster Creativity

By February 19, 2014Graphic Design
Foster Creativity

Here’s a quick exercise: Think of a new idea that is creative and awesome!

Was it easy or difficult? Why?

When you think about innovation and creativity, it almost always comes about to solve a problem.

The wright brothers built a plane as a solution to human flight. Movable type sped up the process of reproducing books. The iPod solved the problem of skipping CDs in Walkmans and the need to carry around a huge library of discs.

In each case there was a problem to be solved that had to fit certain criteria. The plane had to allow someone to sit in it. The iPod needed to be portable and have good battery life. They started with a problem and then solved it.

The same thing goes for graphic design. Often someone will just say, I want you to design (insert whatever product here) but not give any more direction than that. While we might THINK that leaving it wide open gives the designer the ability to be creative, it actually often leaves the designer lost without direction. Why are they designing (insert product)? What is the purpose of it?

Almost without fail the designer comes up with some ideas and it misses the unidentified mark. The designer then gets some feedback and they go back and forth on designs and changes until finally we have something resembling what the client wanted.

Here’s where you can really help foster creativity and expedite the design process. Give SOME limitations and criteria. Then the designer can creatively come up with something that solves all of the problems. Without a problem to solve you just get pointless fluff.

You can say things like:

I need something that communicates (insert your core message here).

It has to appeal to older people. It needs to feel like (______).

For more suggestions on things you should tell your designer before they start designing check out our other blog post: questions to answer.

With a few constraints a creative person can then produce something with purpose.

DISCLAIMER: Give limitations to direct the creativity to have purpose, but not so specific that you are basically designing it yourself. Often that leads to a product that is sub-par when compared to what you. COULD have from someone that is trained to solve problems and be creative. You hired the designer; let them do what you paid them to do.

For a different take on how limitations inspire creativity check out this TED Talk by artist Phil Hansen entitled “Embrace the Shake”