Why designers shouldn’t think outside the box

Have you ever had a client who gives you this challenge?: “Just think completely out of the box on this one.”

You’ve probably just gone along with the idea assuming the client knows best (even thought I’ve told you they don’t) and the minute you sit down to “think outside the box,” your stumped.

No great ideas.

No good vibes.

Why? Because what your client forgot to mention when he asked you to think outside the box was exactly which box to think outside of.
Why you need a box…

In order for any project to be successful, run smoothly, and achieve it’s goals, you need “a box.”

What your client should have said was:

“We always cater to adults with more conservative design, restrictive fonts, and long copy. What I need you to do is think outside that box and cater to a younger audience–teenagers.”

Now you know what direction to take your design. Your job now is to think outside the little box (designing for adults) but inside the bigger box (designing for teens).
Outside the little box, inside the bigger box

Every project that a client hopes you can get a little more creative with needs a “little box” you can think outside of and a “bigger box” you work inside of.

That makes your job, as a designer, to do the best work you can within your box.

The bigger box could be budget (“we want something more extravagant than usual–little box–but still can’t spend more than $10,000–bog box.”)

There should always be a little box that you can think outside of and a bigger box to enhance creativity.

You heard me right, “boxes” don’t restrict, they enhance creativity.
Boxes liberate, they don’t restrict

I learned a long time ago that if I have a completely open design project, I either usually get it completely wrong the first few tries until the client gives me a few more guidelines (boxes) or I can’t even seem to get started.

After all, why do you think we have creative briefs? To restrict us? Nope.

To liberate us.

The more we know about the target audience, the budget, the time frame, the product or service we’re designing for, the company’s branding strategy (all very common and very real “boxes”) the more likely we are to create something amazing.

Boxes rock, right?

Do you agree with what I’ve said here today? Either way, leave a comment and add to this post–I’d love to hear what you say about thinking outside the box (or not).

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