The power of limits

In the recent issue of Wired (17.03) they included a spread focused on design. Wired has often been know for its design -- some hailing it, and some condemning it, especially for white text on neon orange pages. For many years I avoided the magazine because I was simply not cool enough to read it.

Either I got cool or they got lamer, but regardless, I've been reading it cover-to-cover for several years now.

The design spread talked about how good design comes from limits.

At Wired, our design team sees this constraint as our daily bread. On every editorial page, we use words and pictures to overcome the particular restrictions of paper and ink:


The idea of operating within constraints—of making more with less—is especially relevant these days. From Wall Street to Detroit to Washington, the lack of limits has proven to be a false freedom. With all the economic gloom, you might not be blamed for feeling that the boundless American frontier seems a little less expansive. But design teaches us that this is our hour of opportunity.

I've been tossing that idea around in my head lately. Effective design comes not from a lack of rules, but from creatively using limited resources. Whether that limited resource is space on paper, time, bandwidth, or even money, the best ideas come from people doing extraordinary things within those limitations and transcending them.

And while the challenges facing the economy today are serious, these limitations we face are what will take us into the next great period of growth and strength. I'm not minimizing the pain people are going through. Nor am I saying there is no reason to be afraid for the immediate future.

But right now, the economy is going through a purge. We are facing limitations unimaginable just 2.5 years ago.

Those limitations will reinvigorate the American entrepreneurial spirit.

New companies will be born from people who lose their jobs. There is a need for companies to save money and resources through new processes and ways of doing business. Entrepreneurs will find new ways to address those problems.

While we face severe limitations, we also have more tools available than anytime in the past. The country is filled with dark fiber left over from the dot.com bust. Cloud computing and server farms offer huge IT resources at low cost. People have more ways to connect with like minded people than they ever had before. And, unfortunately, millions of people have more time on their hands than ever before.

Economic limitations mean we all face new constraints. Panic and fear from companies and consumers that are afraid to spend money, even when they have it, create even more limitations. Success in the coming years will depend on how successfully we can manage those constraints and use the new tools to transcend them.

We have a blank page in front of us. Now the only questions is, "How do we fill it?"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the article a little there. Sometimes designs or designers can not afford all the big shiny things the larger companies do.
I am seeing a trend lately, more more companies are hiring freelance or smaller design companies to do what larger companies do.

This can be good in a few ways if the smaller firm can handle the pressure, smaller firms can grow, or they can employ third party designers which gives freelance designers some work as well.
I am myself have been a freelance designer and have a business registered, but I primarily work alone and outsource on large projects. I cant complain to much because I find i am getting more businesses coming to me, cause of my lower rates. Most businesses are trying to save as much as they can right now. But in saying that, I have to be careful, because my rates are lower I dont have the same resources available as larger companies do so I have to use my resources to the best of my abilities.

Anyway Great article.. thanks