Working Constraints Can Be Beautiful

Rejecting the idea that more is always better — especially in our work. What would it take for you to create your best work? A year? A month?

If you had all distractions completely eliminated, would you suddenly deliver the best [insert whatever you create here] ever made? Maybe. Maybe you’re the type of person who has a long-term vision and can deliberately chip away at your goals everyday.

On the other hand, you might be the kind of person who relies on deadlines to help you get something out the door. The stress of it all helps you get in gear, shed your excuses, and get down to the work of it all.

There’s a difference in opinion in how healthy and productive insane deadlines can truly be, but in any case, accomplishing something is still better than just dreaming forevermore. It’s in the process of creating that you see what you really can do.

But, there are constraints beyond the amount of time required to complete a task.

How about a budget? That’s always a constraint we face. Whether your budget is in the hundreds of thousands or only a few dollars, you still have the opportunity to communicate with people. You still have the freedom to convey your ideas to an audience. And, surprisingly enough, the reach of your voice is not determined by the amount of money invested.

When Constraints Work for You

Remember the heyday of MTV Unplugged? Unplugged was such a phenomenal concept following the heavy synths and forever-long guitar solos of the 80's. Stripping away all of the extras helped audiences reconnect with major acts on a more personal basis.

And this idea isn't limited to music.

From pure aesthetics to functional interfaces, designers and developers utilize elegant simplicity on a daily basis — much to the delight of web users everywhere. This emphasis on ease of use is especially important on the mobile web, where screen space is limited. No matter how much I might love detailed artwork, I can’t click on intricate, tiny buttons on my phone and actually select the item I wanted.

Another beautiful approach to constraints is the agile approach. This is a work method that focuses on measured improvements and updates at a time. The goals are realistic, and they keep the project consistently improving. Or, if the latest sprint wasn’t an improvement, the damage can be undone without too much pain or time.

When Constraints Work against You

Constraints mainly become a beast when you don’t adjust your expectations. When you expect a $5,000 website to function the same way a $50,000 website would, you will be disappointed. All of the pretty effects won’t be there. And, critical parts of the site will likely not work since the team probably spent its budget on the framework WAY too early in the project.

Time constraints can be the same way if you don’t change your mindset. Just because you can throw a project (a website, a book, a house, whatever it may be) together in a ridiculously short amount of time doesn’t mean that you have the quality you need. You can look for incremental improvements, or you can get a rush job that may or may not be at the standards you need

Constraints Will Always Exist. How Will You Respond?

Beauty exists in constraints. Look at the emotion of carefully crafted poetry. Think about a one-page advertisement that powerfully captures the ideals of a brand.

It can be done.

You might have to think at the scale of a poem instead of a novel, but it can be done.

Will you be the one to do it?

WorkflowMichael Roberts