As creatives we are always told to “push the boundaries”, and “think outside the box”. Why is that? I mean, as creatives it is our natural tendency to do things differently, creatively, hence our title of “creative”. But for us this doesn’t seem like enough, to just naturally do things out of the ordinary, we want to stand out, and we think that means pushing outside of what everyone else is doing. Now I absolutely believe that pushing the limits is an important aspect to the amazing work we all do.
However, I think that we can sometimes discount how a boundary can benefit us.
I myself, have a piece hanging in my office that says, “color outside the lines”; as if the lines are too confining for us, because we, are creatives. We know better than to have to follow the rules. But staying inside the lines can often be the most beneficial way to approach a problem. Restraint makes our brains work harder to find a solution.
Even within boundaries you will find there are always many different directions you can take, and each one allows you to still show what you can do with it-you are never stuck just because there are limitations. Sometimes these limits can be a a two-color design due to budget limitations, or being locked in to a certain typeface because readability issues for the target audience. These different constraints, restrictions, and boundaries strengthen your creative problem-solving skills. Even time constraints can push you to discover solutions you may have never considered had it not been for the limitations. If you want to challenge yourself, try to impose some tough limits on yourself; like coming up with a poster that can only be designed in black and white or trying to use only one font family throughout an entire brochure.
Working within tight budget or other restrictive boundaries and still coming up with an amazing result is actually be more impressive.
Working within tight budget or other restrictive boundaries and still coming up with an amazing result is actually be more impressive. If you can create a successful ad campaign in twenty-four hours versus one you create in a month, it will be much more of a testament to your skills.
How many times do we try to teach our kids to color inside the lines or to follow the rules? Even when I am given the opportunity to take a project and run with it in whichever direction I choose, I create my own boundaries in the form of a concept; that concept becomes my direction. Boundaries are an important component for all kinds of creativity. Direction creates a boundary. Having complete creative freedom to do whatever you want can be like driving without a sense of direction, you get nowhere fast. Limitations force your creativity into unknown territory and create a value you may not have discovered otherwise.
Limitations force your creativity into unknown territory and create a value you may not have discovered otherwise.
This concept goes for creatives of all kinds. A photographer needs boundaries at a photo shoot; these boundaries come in the form of some specific shot requests from a client or a “feel” that the client wants the shoot to have. This doesn’t take anything away from the photographer’s creativity, but it actually narrows the creative field of focus for them (pun absolutely intended). An illustrator needs boundaries when creating a piece for a client; the direction they take of their own accord could be amazing but not achieve the look that the client is after. The limits ensure the best result for them and the client. The examples are endless, but the point is that we frequently think that we can only do our best work if we have free reign to do whatever we want on the creative scale. In all honesty, in my own experience, the challenge of a confined “space” to work in has helped me to be the most productive.
In all honesty, in my own experience, the challenge of a confined “space” to work in has helped me to be the most productive.
It’s easy to come up with an idea when you can do whatever you want, but often the best ideas can come from forced margins. So embrace the restrictions, love the lines and borders, pretend that they are an electric fence that keeps your creative sparks in check.
So embrace the restrictions, love the lines and borders, pretend that they are an electric fence that keeps your creative sparks in check.
Try to test your own restraint in less freedom and I think you will be impressed with what might happen. Design is a wonderful world, I hope you’ll join me here. Because design matters.