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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Restricted Creativity

To create something, you need to have restrictions.

That sounds counter-intuitive, but think about it. I give you a piece a paper and some colored pencils and I say "draw something." Your first thought is "anything?" and I say yes. Then your mind starts to go through possibilities and you have so many ideas you don't know what to do. Finally, you draw a car, hand the paper back to me... and I tell you that's not what I wanted.

That's happened to me as a graphic designer. The client wants a logo and wants me to come up with "something." I look at what they have done before, go over their printed and online marketing pieces, and then come up with a few possibilities. (There's a lot more to the process, but I'm simplifying here!) If the client isn't enthusiastic, I ask them what parts of the design they like and what they don't like. Somehow, and I'm simplifying again, we eventually come up with a workable solution. The best clients have some restrictions, such as a particular color palette or a style they like. They've also collected samples of what they like and are able to articulate what they want. When this happens, the design process is way shorter!

Just as you don't tell an engineer to go out and "make a car," you need to have some parameters for your ideas. If you tell your engineer to make the car big enough to haul kids and groceries, but have good gas mileage and a set of safety features, the results are more likely to be in line with what you want.

So the next time you have an idea you want to develop, first decide what you DON'T want.