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How boxing myself in, gets me thinking ‘outside of the box’.

For me the hardest thing is starting, period.

And maybe the second hardest thing is truly innovating — as opposed to closely imitating.

Every new endeavor requires that tricky first step, to get the wheels spinning and build some momentum.

But staring blindly at an empty page or blank canvas awaiting the light-bulb moment is like torture for any creative soul.

The willingness is there but the activity isn’t -yet.

It’s a strange sensation, a bit like overwhelm or confusion, but a quieter version — more sinister, and harder to get a handle on.

After all, the whole point of being a creative individual is to be liberated and open to all possibilities, but the result of so much opportunity can be paralysing.

So, how do I start?

Maybe it’s the engineer in me, fishing for a logical path forward but I’ve discovered over the years that the best course of action in these situations is to ‘box myself in’.

Sounds counter-intuitive I know, but it really does work.

I reduce the options in front of me — limit the moves, the plays, the opportunities. Not so much so that I can’t start, but just enough so that I can.

It’s not a new concept, these limiting parameters are sometimes referred to as ‘Creative Constraints’.

You define the basic boundaries that will restrict the project possibilities as quickly as possible. And there will always be boundaries — don’t let yourself be fooled if you’re not initially seeing any.

And then by giving myself fixed parameters to play within I reduce my first possible activity down to something that isn’t so seemly intimidating anymore.

I give myself the gift of starting — through the reduction of opportunity.

Here are a few ways I look to box myself in at the beginning of any design project. I start by asking a combination of these following questions as quickly as possible.

I’m starting with logic, not waiting for inspiration!


What functional tasks will be required from the finished product (if any)?


What are the functional implications on the final size of the product. Are there any ergonomic or logistical size limitations involved?


What is the anticipated retail price range of the finished product?


How does the function and/or retail price of the product restrict the material options available to the project?

Manufacturing tools/techniques

How will the viable manufacturing tools and techniques effect the overall design. Just because I can conceive it, doesn’t mean I can create it!

Clarifying these types of logical constraints guides my decision making and creates a platform from which creativity can take place. It gets me out of the gate as quickly as possible and moving in the right direction — or at the least just moving which is still genuine progress.

And as creatives we all know from experience that design is an iterative process anyway, everything will evolve — Ironically, the first brush stroke is not as significant as it might first appear to be when we’re paralysed at the beginning.

So is the foundation of creativity grounded in logical thinking? I don’t know but logic has sure helped me to start and once I’m moving then I can head in any direction.

And it’s only when I’m moving that I feel boundless.

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