Yang Li Senior Art Director



Creativity thrives with constraints

When it comes to creativity, the sky is the limit, but I believe that true creativity especially soars when designing from a place of constraint.

Having constraints when you’re trying design something great for a client might sound suppressive, but it’s actually a great opportunity to be innovative and leverage our skills to create the best solution.

As a designer, I’m often expected to work within many constraints. These include budget constraints, time constraints and expectation constraints.

Budget constraints force me to seek alternative technologies or materials. These limitations may actually influence the way my design works and become part of the solution. Once I was tasked to design an interactive infographic, then the client budget was cut, so I had to make it work with a static PDF version. I ended up making it into a multi-page story book, and the client loved it and thought it was very engaging.

Time constraints are the nature of our business – the client pays us in exchange for our time and expertise. However, I always feel there is not enough time in a day to do what I need to do. At the same time, we wouldn’t be making money if we don’t have deadlines since nothing will ever happen.

No doubt, being able to create on demand is the challenge we face on a daily basis.

Expectation constraints, on the other hand, is the most important part of being creative. This is the constraint of a certain goal – that’s why understanding the goal of a project is crucial in shaping the creative process and outcome. Once, I was tasked to design a logo, and I had to use a certain font, a specific colour and a prescribed symbol. I thought that it would never work, and would look like a mess. After finally accepting the the constraints I was working within, I started to experiment and ended up with a winning concept that was a pure accident during my experimentations. Our job as designers is to embrace constraints, work within the parameters given, and to arrive at the best solution.

If you can accept your clients as partners, and embrace constraints as an opportunity to harness creativity – you will not only feel much more confident with the solution, but also innovate and discover the unexpected.