Limits are possibilities

At BarCampBank I confessed that blogging stresses me out a little bit. There’s always so much going on, so much to say, so many ideas that it can be overwhelming to sit down and tackle any one of them with clarity. I was feeling this yesterday – I knew I wanted to write a post, but wading through the potential topics was, as they say, like drinking from a fire hose. So I gave up, grabbing a book to distract myself. I’m reading Chip Kidd’s novel “The Cheese Monkeys.” Here’s what I read:
“Always remember: Limits are possibilities. That sounds like Orwell, I know. It’s not – it’s Patton. Formal restrictions, contrary to what you might think, free you up by allowing you to concentrate on purer ideas. As graphic designers you want the world as your palette. But beware: You can be crippled by too many choices, especially if you don’t know what your goals are.”
One of the most difficult but important challenges in creative work – whether it’s writing, design, media strategy, product innovation, or gardening – is narrowing the focus and creating self-imposed limitations. In visual design, using a pen and paper before you even think about touching a computer is key. Photoshop has so many bells and whistles, it’s easy to get caught up in the ancillary aesthetics before working out the concept. Make sure your house has a foundation before you hang up curtains. In our web design process, we limit ourselves and the client by starting each design with a site wireframe (for example: Filene’s initial wireframe). It is unimpressive to look at (a common client reaction is “What’s with all the grey boxes?”), but crucial because it is the underpinning of the entire design. This step forces everyone involved to focus on information architecture and usability before we worry about the pretties. By the same token… Social marketers: Think focused, initiated communities over huge vanilla communities. Podcasters: Develop each episode around a predefined template (ex: intro, topic, break with contact info, topic, exit) to help keep it organized and easy to produce. Web application designers: Build less. Limit features to only what is necessary. Gardeners: I dunno. Good luck.