Be creative, be different! This is the one phrase that mostly sums up everything design students are taught at schools as well as what is expected of designers in the society.
If you work in the art and entertainment industry, it’s easy to experiment with things that are shockingly different, cool, and exciting. Creativity can be made tangible and obvious. In some industries you can try things for the sake of trying, be different for sake of being different and still keep your job.
But most of the world isn’t made of cool and artsy stuff. Many creative professionals work in the serious business world. Typically, they refer to themselves as designers not artists. Design is art with constraints. Art is primarily about expressing oneself whereas design focuses on solving practical problems. There can be some degree of self expression in design as long as there is logical reason behind it. That may sound like nonsense since self expression usually doesn’t need any justification in the art world. But designers deal with different sets of constraints and goals. A designer need to be creative, yet, with a concrete and practical purpose. Every line they draw, every color choice, every shape, every shift of the pixel must have a reason. Designer’s ideas and visions must amount to something that is usable and easy to understand to someone other than the designer. Designers still need to think different. But being different for the sake of being different isn’t allowed. Being different must have an explanation. Everything must bring positive results to the business.
Sounds like hell? Believe it or not, opportunities to be creative is endless. Creativity in the serious world is, in fact, alive and well. You just can’t see it right away. Actually, most of the time you never see the effort and creativity that went into it. It’s always easier to tell when something is badly designed. When something is well designed, you just don’t notice it. Designing something you can’t see is just as challenging and requires a great deal of creativity and ingenuity. If you’ve bought something online without banging your head on the keyboard, that is a good design at work.
Whether you are designing a poster for a punk rock band or decorating a shop window, understand there are constraints of different shapes and forms everywhere whether it’s the medium, budget, physical, time, or nature. No matter where you work, you’ll always be solving some problem. A true design professional embraces challenge and constraints. It’s what makes design interesting, enjoyable, and rewarding.