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Many times when I approach a design problem, my mind immediately goes to visual cliches (ie the generic swooshy logo or the overly boxy website). Especially, when the project seems too open, my mind nuzzles up to these cliches; they are so familiar and safe.

I briefly will digress and talk about a study of children’s behaviors during recess (don’t worry I am making a point here!) The study evaluated how defining (fencing) play areas affected the children’s behavior. In the absence of the fence, the children huddled by the school door and stayed in a very closed pay radius. When the fence was added however, the children felt comfortable to play and explore.

A design problem that is too open (like the children without a fence) can cause the mind to shut down and mentally run around in a smaller creative field (crippled by all of the possibilities.) Fortunately, there is a solution: we can create a metaphorical fence. Our clients usually provide the materials to begin the construction of our fence. If these limitations are not overtly provided, we have the power to self define. Ask pointed questions, like “what message should the piece convey” or “is a specific tone?” Make lists of all of the facts you have in the project and begin to build your fence.

Once your fence is in place, it’s time to really go nuts (within the limitations of course!). In the initial phases it is important not to censor yourself…remember you are safe to run around because you have your built “fence.” Dig deep and trust your gut, this is when I come up with the best solutions.

So what I am saying is, to escape the box build a fence. Ironic I know… but give it a try it may just work for you!