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Embracing Constraints

Life is full of constraints. Sometimes you need to find a way to get to the store even though your car is in the shop. Sometimes you need to figure out a way to get that big couch to fit through the door of your new apartment. Sometimes you need to figure out how to finish a recipe even though you’re out of one of the ingredients.

In a perfect world you’d teleport to the store, the doorway would be wider, and you’d never run out of ingredients. But that’s not how the world works. You can either try to ignore the problems you’ve been given to solve, or you can embrace them.

In terms of a project, constraints differ from goals. Goals determine the high level thinking behind a project whereas constraints are the limitations that be worked around. For example, a goal for a new logo might be “to better connect with a younger audience” and a constraint might be “the logo needs to be legible at very small sizes.” Constraints are the more practical problems you need to consider in a project.

Constraints breed creativity.

One of the worst things you can tell a designer is to “just be creative with it.” Design isn’t art. Design is a science. A project needs clear goals to focus on, and sometimes those goals mean working in a more limited way.

By having goals and limitations a project can thrive in the space it has to live in. If you are designing a logo for an app, that logo is going to appear very small on mobile devices, so you need to keep that in the front of your mind when coming up with solutions.

Don’t get mad that you can’t design something super detailed and intricate, embrace the fact that you need to design something that will work at small sizes. Embrace the constraints and solve real problems. After all, solving problems is what designers do.

Constraints give a project focus.

They limit the endless possibilities available to you down to what is most important. If it weren’t for the constraints of a project you would never be able to find the clarity you need to solve the problem.

At the end of the day, no project will ever come your way that doesn’t come with its own set of challenges and constraints. Learn to love the constraints that your projects present and turn those lemons into lemonade. Make something amazing.

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