Almost every designer wants to be more creative. To make more creative designs. But as you’re well aware of, creativity is a finicky thing – you can’t just be creative at will. Yet some designers just seem to be more creative, more consistently, than others.
How de they do it? Well, one way to easily make more creative designs is to set creative limits on yourself. Doing so can really help you be creative more consistently.
While this idea might seem wacky, it’s true and it really works. Keep reading to find out how setting creative limits can actually help you create much more creative designs.
Too Many Options Is a Bad Thing
Some of you might be thinking: setting limits helps creativity? There should be less limitations so that the sky’s the limit. Right?
It might seem counterintuitive, but it’s true: setting limits helps creativity.
See, when you have the option to do anything, you end up doing nothing. It’s indecision paralysis. Notice how in a grocery store it’s really tough to decide between 10 brands of peanut butter? The situation is no different for creative work like design. If you can decide to create anything, you’ll have a really tough time deciding what to start with.
Even after you choose a direction or style for your design, because that choice itself was so huge you end up playing it safe. Out of hundreds or thousands of possibilities, the direction you chose with your design seems so specific enough that you feel you don’t need to do anything more with it – other than sticking to that style’s standard, seen-a-thousand-times template.
Similar to a music artist having an album that samples all sorts of genres – it’s already so far reaching that each tune is basically a genre exercise. It’s already an accomplishment to pick all these different genres, that the creative capacity is peaked and the artist just creates the tune in the standard style of that genre.
Why Setting Limits Helps Creativity
When you have less choices, it’s easier to pick an option and just get started. That’s the psychology of choice at work – less is more. And with designing, it also becomes easier to get more creative.
You don’t have to think very hard on how to get started, so your creative energy is still fairly full. Maybe it’s a specific layout for a banner or page, or a style and structure for a website. The skeleton of the design is already there for you to get to work with.
Therefore, you only really start using your creative energy once it’s time to get to designing. Since your creativity is so fresh, you can put your all into coming up with some inventive and fresh ideas within the design. Maybe it’s the way the text is displayed, or how you use a texture, or using an effect in a creative way, or an exciting color combination.
You also work harder to be more creative. You know that if you don’t do anything extraordinary with what you have, your design will end up looking like all the others of that style. So you get motivated to make your design stand out (it works for me).
Since you have such little wiggle room within the limitations, you’ll need to think outside the box (or better yet, imagine the box isn’t even there) to make that happen. And that’s when you start making more creative designs.
How to Set Creative Limits for Yourself
Here’s an example of how you can go about setting a creative limit for yourself:
- Stick to the most popular and proven layout, arrangement, or structure for that style
- Use only 2 or 3 colors as your color scheme
- Don’t use any effects and filters other than your single favorite one
- Keep a site design within a certain size (640×480 for example)
- Only use vectors – no textures allowed
Basically, you’re self-imposing creative limitations on yourself, so you can only work within certain guidelines for your design. The more specific you set your limitations, the more creative you’ll end up being with certain aspects of your design. Again, the reason is that since you have less to work with, you’ll dig deeper within the aspects you do have to work with.
This is very similar to how many music artists stick to the pop song format, yet they find creative ways to subvert it and add new and exciting spins to transitions, beats or melodies, the delivery, or anything else.
Your Clients Can Set Positive Creative Limits
Sometimes, the work is already done for you. A client wants a visual design with very specific guidelines or of a particular style. Or the website needs to fit some rigid requirements.
Again, while that may seem limiting in a bad way, you might have noticed that you ended up getting the design finished a lot quicker. And you had the opportunity to be creative in a very specific way. The artist inside you didn’t let you simply churn out a functional design with no soul and creative edge.
Within the header, you found a way to arrange the logo and text in a unique way, or the border of the widget boxes gives a cool shadowed or three-dimensional look. Or even the header text itself is something fresh, with you customizing the font or adding a certain gradient. I could go on and on, but you get the idea ;)
Easily Make More Creative Designs
When you set limits, you’re pushing the edges of what you’re doing. You don’t have to decide how to structure something or what color scheme to use, so you put your energy on what you can do that’s exciting and unique within that. Since otherwise your design will look like a boring standard version of that style. And the artist inside you refuses to let that happen.
It’s in those small pockets of moments that you come up with something inventive. And those unique details is what will make your designs more creative. By setting creative limitations for yourself on a regular basis, you’ll help yourself to be more creative on a regular basis.
Your Turn To Talk
How has setting limitations helped you to make more creative designs? And/or how have client guidelines helped you to deliver more creative designs to them?