Why You Should Apply Constraints to Your UX Project?

A fundamental difference between inventive people and the rest of us is their core relationship with CONSTRAINTS.

While we may see constraints as something restrictive, and to be avoided, they see constraints as NECESSARY, BENEFICIAL, and TO BE EMBRACED. 

For example, Michael Beirut from Pentagram says he is incapable of working without constraints. 

If you give him a completely open brief, the result would be a paralysis. If you think about it, an open brief would be exciting, total freedom of choice, a lot of designers dream of these types of clients. Imagine doing an open brief for a client like Nike. 

And yet Dan Wieden (he coined the tagline ‘Just Do It’) is candid about the one time they tried this, for the launch of the Nike 180 shoe in 1991, when they were given the shoe specs and FULL CREATIVE FREEDOM:

“It was a disaster. There was no theme to anything. There was a bunch of weird film-makers that came in and did their own little things and it added up to nothing. It was a failure for us as an agency.”

Or Todd Batty, the creative director from Electronic Arts, offers an interesting perspective on the result of A complete freedom in his field. 

The ABSENCE of any constraints on video game designers, in his view, leads not to an infinite range of possibilities, but the opposite: a predictable sameness, where everyone comes up with something like a massive, online multiplayer game where the city of New York has been turned into a Mafia playground.

To be very good at problem-solving, you need to be able to very clearly articulate the problem you are trying to solve, and constraints are key parameters of that definition.

Researchers found that when you put up a fence around a playground, children will use the entire space—they'll feel safe to play all the way to the edges. 

But if those walls are removed, creating a wide-open playground, the space the children choose to play in contracts: they stay toward the middle and they stick to each other, because that's what feels safe. 

This is what happens in the creative process. When there are no clear limits in the brief itself, we aren't sure what boundaries to explore and push against. 

We end up without the necessary focus and passion!

The reason a completely unconstrained project is the most challenging is because it is so difficult to grasp what it is that you're really trying to solve. 


Always set boundaries to the problem you’re solving. If the boundaries are not clear, you don't know whether you've solved the problem or not.

A lot of people set big boundaries thinking if they have a bigger problem the more important they are. It's the opposite, the more tightly defined the problem, the better the chances of you solving it.