Play the Cards You’re Dealt

In the context of creating, evolving or maintaining brands, don’t spend any time bemoaning what you might wish were otherwise. Instead, have faith in one of life’s greatest paradoxes – that nothing spurs creativity and unique, inventive solutions more than obstacles, adversity and limitations. Don’t think of the cards in your hand as things you are stuck with, think of them as your differentiators. Your unique brand DNA. Your palette and building blocks.

A good exercise design teachers often deploy is to assign two projects. The first assignment is to design a promotional poster for some event.
The students are allowed to design the poster at any size or proportion, and use any fonts, colors, photography, imagery or illustrations they deem fitting.

What an opportunity to explore so many facets of expression and arrive at something truly creative and communicative.

The second project is to design a promotional poster for the same event, only this time the students must work within a set size format, using a supplied color palette, one single font and they are not allowed to use any photography, imagery or illustrations.

The second assignment, by comparison, seems exceedingly limiting and most students feel convinced that the design solutions for the first assignment will be much better and more interesting than those produced for the second assignment.

Invariably, this is not the case.

When we “limit” ourselves to fewer components – or accept the cards we are dealt – we immediately begin working creatively with what we have. In many ways we experience a paradox of freedom. We aren’t burdened with so much choice and instead we are able to more quickly discover great ways to solve problems by working with what we already have. We are not spending precious time searching for things unknown, or worrying that we may be missing out on so many things we don’t have and can’t explore. Most importantly, we are creating something that is uniquely us from materials that we accept as ours. We discover that limitations can lead to endless options and that we are actually better able to explore with a sense of being unbound. That It’s not the cards that matter so much. It’s the hand that’s holding them.