How Creative Bounds Can Bring Out Your Creative Best
Designers may argue that in order to be effective, creativity should be given infinite space rather than be walled around by certain fixed metrics or parameters. Whenever my fellow designer friends bring up their pushy clients with their overbearing demands and requirements in the creative work, I bring up Dr Seuss.
Dr. Seuss or Theodor Seuss Geisel was an American writer, poet, and cartoonist widely known for Green Eggs & Ham and other great children illustrated books. It was also said that Green Eggs & Ham was written to win a bet with his editor. The challenge: to produce an entire book in no more than 50 different words. The book went on to become the 4th best-selling English language children’s hardcover book of all time.
Of course, a small story of a creative giant like Dr. Seuss is never enough for a cross-argument, so we’ll need a few more points to elaborate the importance of creative bounds.
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How Constraints are Important
In most people, the word "creativity" pops up images like a wide open plane, a white room with no furniture or a man with unruly attire staring into space. Well, thanks to the television media, this kind of stereotype has become quite synonymous to creativity and creative individuals.
In reality, creativity is the uniqueness that you bring to any activity you are doing. It is an attitude depicting your way of looking at things. When you are being creative, you see potential instead of problems and opportunities instead of obstacles.
In fact, for creative individuals, challenges and obstacles stimulate creative ideas and act as important catalysts to think of breakthrough solutions.
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Setting Up Parameters
In the particular case of graphic designers and digital artists, the meaning of creativity is not much different. Although for most of us the process of creativity is quite random, constraints often help in maintaining focus and producing just the right results without quibbling around with multiple solutions.
I know a designer who always used to complain about the constraints and parameters given to him by the clients in the creative brief. One day, his client gave him a task of designing a logo based entirely on his own idea and the only brief he was given was the name of the company.
So the designer went back with a happy heart, but only after a week’s time, he came back frustrated with working on an infinite canvas, and requested the client to give him a few more ‘parameters’ to work on. So much for infinite space for creativity.
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In mentioning the importance of constraints and limitations, I would like to highlight some of the most common boundaries that can help in catalyzing your creativity, particularly during a design experience.
1. Self-Imposed Parameters
Charity begins at home; similarly creativity begins by self imposing certain parameters around your thoughts. For instance, if a designer gets a task to work on something he has already worked on in the past, the creative part of his brain will automatically refrain him from thinking on the same lines as he did before.
One by one, all the recurring ideas will drop and by the end of the day he will (have to) come up with something entirely new and creative. Placing self-imposed limitations can boost creativity because it forces creative people to work outside of their comfort zones or think out of the box.
2. Budget Limitations
A budget has been considered as one of the biggest ‘creativity killers’ of all times. Often designers think of a brilliant idea that they think might impress the client, however they become utterly disappointed when the client tells them that the idea is wonderful but the budget is not enough to execute it.
The way I see it, almost anyone can think of a wonderful idea in a grand budget, the real trick is to keep the creativity high even if the budget is low. When you have less money and fewer resources, you are pushed to think harder not just for a better solution, but the best one, resulting in a more effective and well-thought product.
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3. Content Restraints
Whether it is textual content or visual graphics, as soon as the designer is told to ‘keep it short and simple’ their nightmare starts. However, in my view, this is one of the common fallacies – that the requirement of limited content shackles your creativity.
But if we look at Twitter, we can see that the limited word count (the restriction) resulted in most interesting and absolutely creative micro blogs.
Similarly, when designers keep the visuals and text simple, they automatically produce minimalistic and clean designs which is one of the most difficult and challenging creative design styles.
4. Cultural Constraints
Quite opposite to thinking ‘out of the box’, when it comes to cultural constraints, the only way to deal with them is to think ‘in the box’.
At this point I am referring to the cultural constraints which designers face when developing a design for a foreign culture. For instance, in most Arab countries, it is forbidden to use a woman’s image in posters and ads. But there are many examples where an absolutely feminine product has been successfully and creatively promoted without using a woman’s image.
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Deadlines are most controversial amongst designers and their clients. No matter which date is decided, it always comes too early for the designer, and too late for the client. Designers may also complain that there is never "enough time" to think of a creative idea.
To be honest, I think that deadlines are a blessing in disguise. When the designers know that they have to develop a design in a certain timeframe, they become more focused. This slight pressure tactic helps them squeeze their creative juices to a greater extent. For designers, especially freelancers, deadlines are also a great shield against procrastination.
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Apart from the bounds mentioned above, there are many other major and minor limitations a designer faces during his professional life. However, turning obstacles into opportunities is where creativity jumps in.
It doesn’t matter where you are or which challenges you are facing, in order to be successful you have to try and make the best of your circumstances.