The latest issue of Wired has a special feature on design. The subject that they hit upon is one that is close to my heart. Here is the article. They are designing in a medium that predates embedded video and infographics. It is a blank white rectangle. “At Wired, our design team sees this as our daily bread,” they point out.
The constraint of the page actually inspires more creativity.
It reminds me of a creative writing course in college. You would think that the most clever and creative work would come from a no-holds-barred approach to expression. However, that was not the case. The best work we produced came as a result of placing restrictive guidelines and forcing us to come up with a way to express an idea from inside a cage. The most inspiring work happened when we had to write in iambic pentameter or rhyme certain lines or begin our stories with some random sentence (I saw the horse in the rain, and I knew I had to leave my wife…who couldn’t write a good story with that line?).
The constraint of the economy can inspire your creativity.
The beauty of our current economic situation is that it forces us to strip down our business into the essential elements. I am not a neurologist, but it feels like there is a part of my mind that works better under restriction. Be it real or imagined.
The same is true for many successful companies that I talk to. They are coming up with ways to still express their value when prospects have less money. One example is Kuhlmann Leavitt, Inc., a St. Louis-based design firm. They have spun off a new company, Stax Modular, a mobile display product that can be used for anything . So far, the response to their new product has been exciting, and they are going to showcase it as trade shows in the Spring.
With markets crashing around us and a breakdown of the financial world, this gives those who have always been on the outside of traditional forms of capital even more reason to innovate. Small business owners have always had to be creative and design something striking and beautiful out of very little.
The trick now is distilling your idea of what your business is and allowing constraint to design your business better.
Here are questions you can ask yourself to get to the root who your company is:
- Who would notice if my business went away? List the people, institutions, etc. These folks are your champions. Get to know them better. Most people cover up when times are tough. People will be more important than ever now.
- What is it that is valuable about my company? Is it people? Is it a product that is unique? You service. Whatever it is, don’t fall into the temptation to cut it lose for budget reasons.
- What makes us money or raises our funds? These are revenue streams. Pour resources to them. They, as our former commander-in-chief says, “keep food on your family.”
- What other talents do I or others on my team have that we have allowed to go by the wayside? These are new revenue opportunities. You have good ideas already. Use them now. See the Kuhlmann Leavitt example above.
This is only a beginning to a job that really should not require a crappy economy. You probably have some better questions. Now is always the time to continue innovation.
LET ME KNOW
Send me some better questions to distill a business down to its core. I will send you a copy of the sestina they made me write in my poetry class. If nothing else, it will be a good laugh.
- Jeremy Nulik, Creative Energy Officer, St. Louis Small Business Monthly