I wrote in last week’s Friday Focus post at Devlounge that “restraint is more powerful than the lack of it, especially in design”. The restraint I referred to was the strength and beauty of minimalism compared to the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink technique, but there’s more to it.
Freedom vs. constraint
In this interview with Andy Budd, he explains why complete freedom in design is not necessarily a good thing:
I think that design is all about constraints. Some people love the blank canvas situation, but I don’t at all. I think that’s really for artists, not designers. I think design is all about constraints — business constraints, technology constraints. And it’s those constraints that actually create the innovation.
I think this validates whatever reluctance I have to choose Flash over plain old HTML and CSS. And I can relate to that awful feeling when starting a design that a client gave you total control over. One-hundred percent control is never a good thing. You end up doing things you weren’t paid to do and designing things that aren’t completely your best work.
I also think it’s very rude of a client to leave it up to you at the beginning only to scold you for not doing “what they wanted” in the end.
More than constraint, design goes hand-in-hand with purpose. Levels of purpose vary with every design, but there is still purpose. Is it purpose that distinguishes it from art? Can design actually be distinguished, or should it always be invisible? Is design art?
Going there would be a slippery slope downhill. But designers should try to figure out what design is about even if it begs more questions than answers.