Embrace the Strain

Filed Under: Inspiration , Article , Voice , advice

Fewer resources, limited time, slashed budgets, rising costs. These restrictions require we work faster/harder/smarter to deliver the same results as before the economy collapsed in 2008 and ever since, while it’s struggled to gain traction. Add to that the competition of “name your price” logo operations and so many websites soliciting spec work, and the idea of delivering successful work while still managing to pay the bills can be daunting—and even a bit depressing.

But rather than have your vision skewed by the negatives, here’s another way to look at things:

Restrictions have always been present. Even before the dot-com bubble burst in March of 2000, when many of us sat on Aeron chairs at Atelier-designed custom desks and enjoyed half-day Fridays with company happy hours, we had constraints on our work.

These came in the form of creative briefs, fixed budgets, production schedules, and competing bids: very much the same challenges we face today. We made do with these constraints—and sometimes went as far as to appreciate them. Limitations provided context and helped define the deliverable. It was good to know that a project had an end date, and whether or not we completed the project within this timeframe helped to determine our success. The parameters were clear. We did our best.

Since 2008, I have heard many designers bemoan limited budgets, clients who hire the owner’s cousin’s teenage daughter to build their website, clients who opt for a pre-designed logo purchased anonymously online, or timelines that are unrealistic (“I know it’s Thursday, but can you have a 16-page brochure released to print on Monday?”). But these are the same kinds of challenges we’ve faced as designers for as long as there has been design. Even as close friends are laid off or design firms close up shop, the same challenge applies: Make do with what you have. There is no other option.

As a designer, a retail entrepreneur, and a board member for AIGA and DesignInquiry, “making do” is what I do every day—and I know I’m not alone. Designers everywhere are juggling multiple priorities. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Yet at the same time these situations give us great  “war stories” and help us to demonstrate how, even in less than ideal situations, we can rise to the challenge.

Failures are often not the result of limitations but the result of our own will. “Making do” is making great design happen, whatever the circumstance.

About the Author:

Branding, web design, teaching, food, retail, color, design strategy, pop culture, @AIGAPittsburgh,  @AIGADesign,  @DesignInquiry, @CMUDesign.

Pittsburgh, PA · http://www.andrewtwigg.com