“Constraints drive creativity.”
You’ve probably heard this quote (or some variation of it) before. I see it all the time. But I always find myself asking: “What is it about constraints that make us more creative?”
Is it a mindset we get into, that forces us to think deeper about the underlying problem we’re trying to solve? Or is it that our back is against the wall and we suddenly get an underdog mentality, with heightened awareness and purpose?
While I like to think that on our very best days designers might actually reach enlightenment, I think the answer is more simple than that. I think that constraints (real constraints) force us to cut things out of our design. They force us to remove stuff we normally keep and ruthlessly prioritize the rest. This is unusual…on most design projects everything is kept…maybe swept to the side but kept nonetheless.
When designing, the act of removal changes everything. Once we’ve left those parts behind, we naturally spend more time on what’s left, taking it from pretty good to great and really pushing further on the core issue at hand. We have increased awareness in a way by removing distractions. The 70% that is gone allows us to make the 30% that is left as great as possible.
But the real odd bit about this is that it really hasn’t made us more creative, just more focused. And when we’re focused on a tighter problem and are able to solve it more gracefully, then the result feels more creative to onlookers, if not designers themselves.