Designers Love Limitations!
“Designers love limitations. They challenge our ingenuity and often push us to find solutions that are even better than what would have been done without any constraints.” – John Wheatman
What does it take to be a successful professional graphic designer? Well, the initial requirements are a certain level of artistic talent and an aptitude for the work. After those basic considerations, the very next item on my list would be the ability to work within creative constraints. That ability to adjust to and make the most of creative limitations is an essential skill for any successful designer.
As a graphic designer, you’re constantly subject to opinions (everybody has one), along with numerous boundaries that limit creative choices. As with many things in life, it’s all about mindset. Being limited by these factors can be looked at as a creative stumbling block or as a signpost pointing to the optimum solution for the client. In my experience, it’s the latter path that results in work that satisfies and endures.
These limitations, or creative constraints, come in different shapes and sizes, some more easy to deal with and overcome than others. Let’s look at a few:
Budgets – Very few of us are possessed of unlimited business resources, and budget limitations are a constant reality in any company’s efforts. Money buys time and resources, and both must be spent in a way that maximizes results without sacrificing the quality of the design. An effective graphic designer constantly strives to strike that aesthetic/economic balance.
Stylistic Constraints – Aesthetics and style are subjective, of course, but once they’ve been put in place, it’s the designer’s job to enforce already established brand guidelines. Adhering to those stylistic guardrails keeps a brand constant and consistent in an ever-changing marketplace. As a graphic designer, not only am I subject to these boundaries, I also enforce them, playing the role of “brand cop” whenever I see these guidelines being ignored, whether it’s inside or outside of the company.
Compliance Constraints – It’s been said that bad design is easy to spot, while great design is invisible. Whether it’s related to packaging or label requirements, compliance constraints can hem the graphic designer in creatively. Working with those limitations, incorporating them seamlessly into the overall design, can transform irksome requirements into graphic enhancements.
Deadlines – Last but certainly not least on our abbreviated list of constraints are deadlines. Let’s face it, without them, nothing would ever get finished. At Cronin Creative, we like to say we’re “deadline-driven,” and as we’ve gotten busier, that’s become truer than ever. Deadlines keep us on our toes, on schedule and accountable, and those virtues tend to spill over into everything we do as a company.
Whatever you choose to call them, limitations or constraints or boundaries, they are an ever-present reality in the life of a graphic designer. It’s all about putting them to work for the client. In his classic poem, “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” I’ll go with that, and I’ll add that those same fences can also make for some truly inspired graphic design.