This New Yorker cartoon by the great S. Gross celebrates the benefits of constraints and limitations: those things that define a problem, that we have to work with in order to find a solution and climb outside the box. The constraints ARE the box. We’ve learned to love them because they’ve usually led to our most creative explorations as well as useful solutions to everyday problems.

Hreinn Friðfinnsson

Our favorite advice about constraints comes from Getting Real, Basecamp‘s free pdf about the smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application that we stumbled on years ago when we were creating Improvised Life. It applies to MANY creative endeavors:

Let limitations guide you to creative solutions.

There’s never enough to go around. Not enough time. Not enough money. Not enough people. That’s a good thing. Instead of freaking out about these constraints, embrace them. Let them guide you.

Constraints drive innovation and force focus. Instead of trying to remove them, use them to your advantage.

Emil Ferris, author of astonishing graphic novel, My Favorite Thing is Monsters, put it another way here:

…we use the constraint as if it were a tool for our benefit….

Embracing constraints is a practice. We occasionally find ourselves losing faith in it or plain forgetting it, and thinking we have no choice in whatever matter we are considering because we have no money, or don’t know how to do something, or….




Then we come to our senses and remember our experience: constraints ALWAYS lead us to an unexpected answer.

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