When presented with the word “constraint”, I often form a nasty image in my mind. An image of something that restricts freedom and curbs creative expression. Is this image always truly nasty, though?
A truth that struck me recently is that constraints are one of the key factors in creating a good, even marvelous, experience.
Take iA Writer, the piece of software this was written on. It constrains a user by offering only one font, automatically determines the type size, and offers absolutely no customization of the layout. It’s marvelous because it perfectly facilitates the one thing it’s intended for: to write.
Creative Mornings is a group of fantastic creative gatherings happening monthly in major cities around the world. Each gathering is structured the same way; starting at 9AM there is a 20 minute presentation, 20 minutes of discussion, 20 minutes of breakfast, then everyone is off for work. Another example of constraints that provide a positive experience.
And now a personal example. When choosing tile for a home project a while back, my Mom was presented with less than 20 color choices. The builder informed her that there were thousands of other options available, but he made only a small, well-rounded selection available to preserve her sanity. Yet another example of a good constraint.
Takeaway: There are empowering constraints all around us, and they play a significant role in improving our experience with anything. It’s up to us as Creatives and Creators to implement and encourage these empowering constraints.