A friend once told me that having no constraints kills creativity. I’m inclined to agree with him.
To me, the concept of creativity has always had more to do with making something great with less input, rather than “thinking outside the box” and making something good with a lot of input.
When you give someone a goal or directive and then give them a sandbox of constraints to play with, the output is generally more clever and clear.
Creativity needs a reason.
Without a solid reason to get creative it can be hard to sift through ideas and come up with a great answer to a question or a solution to a goal.
Take music for an example
I’m a drummer and I hear all the time in the drumming community that if you are in a creative rut, remove half of your drum kit.
It’s simple. Give yourself less to work with but keep the same expectation that you can play a full song or solve a holistic problem and you might marvel at how much more space, opportunity, and dynamic you notice that was previously hidden from you.
In this sense, being a creative designer is not the same as being a good designer, a unique designer, or even an aesthetic designer. Being a creative designer is about making great designs, workshops, and products precisely when you are facing constraints.
You’ll be forced to think critically, consider deeper thoughts, and mirror more realistic environments which are fraught with naturally occurring constraints.
Note: These naturally occurring constraints are often the same ones that we set aside during the creative process but that come back to haunt us in development.
Stay in the sandbox
Rather than think outside the box, stay inside it. While thinking outside the proverbial box can be challenging and open up your mind to all that is possible, it often distracts you from what really matters and stunts what you are actually capable of.
Not only will staying inside the box necessitate that you be more creative, it is also more natural. We tend to find ourselves working with people, mediums, and concepts that all come pre-loaded with opportunities and challenges.
Rather than solve unwalled challenges, embrace the existing realities as your sandbox and even add more if you feel it helps focus your thinking.
Creativity is about “making it work” despite the environment’s limitations and shortcomings. It’s not about what you can do as a designer, it’s about what you choose to do.
Add constraints, get more creative.