Constraints in Design

Constraints in Design

Achieving balance: don’t let limitations dictate culture

Achieving balance: don’t let limitations dictate culture

Achieving balance: don’t let limitations dictate culture

MAY 15, 2023

Designers are well-acquainted with constraints; they are embedded in nearly every facet of our work. Our work is often defined by limitations in time, resources, technology, and business objectives. When judiciously balanced, constraints can enhance creativity. Limits and boundaries can catalyze innovation, sharpen focus and drive unconventional thinking. Plato’s observation, “Necessity is the mother of all invention,” perfectly captures this sentiment.

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that constraints aren’t universally beneficial. When pervasive, shaping team dynamics and work culture, we miss opportunities as the unique value designers contribute are diminished.

Understanding and managing constraints in a manner that allows design talent to thrive becomes imperative.


Craftsmanship separates us from the rest by combining creativity and quality to turn ideas into functional masterpieces. However, this important process may clash with time constraints.

Efficiency and quick decision-making can be beneficial when facing time constraints, but they can also compromise the quality of the end result. Designing superior products requires patience, focus, attention to detail, and an appreciation for how each element contributes to the final product. Rushing through the process due to time pressure may result in a functional but mediocre design that lacks the finesse of exceptional work.

As we navigate constraints, it’s critical to champion the time and space needed to uphold craftsmanship principles integral to our profession. We should prioritize quality over speed and ensure that a culture of speed doesn’t overshadow our work. When time constraints dictate work culture, haste precedes quality, and quick fixes supplant well-considered solutions.

Craftsmanship requires contemplation and freedom to explore. When we are in a perpetual rush, it can undermine the quality of our work and devalue designers’ unique insights and expertise. The true power of design lies in its ability to find elegant solutions to complex problems, creating outcomes that stand the test of time.

Our goal as designers extends beyond creating functional products; we aim to develop products that resonate with users. While acknowledging and working within constraints is important, we must advocate for a culture that honors the time and space necessary for quality craftsmanship. A balance that enables efficiency while delivering the best possible design outcomes.

Investing time in design craftsmanship reaps substantial long-term rewards. We prioritize quality to create features and products that have lasting value.

By focusing on quality, we can enhance the user experience, increase customer loyalty, and generate recurring revenue by combatting churn. Maintaining high design standards improves our brand reputation, building trust and loyalty among our user base. Emphasizing good design also leads to greater accessibility, better compliance with safety and regulatory standards, and more inclusive and user-friendly products.

I want to emphasize the significance of craftsmanship by sharing this story about Gränsfors Bruk, a company that makes axes. They changed their approach and started focusing on making each axe with great care and attention to detail, which helped them become a symbolic company.

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge that constraints aren’t universally beneficial. When pervasive, shaping team dynamics and work culture, we miss opportunities as the unique value designers contribute are diminished.

Understanding and managing constraints in a manner that allows design talent to thrive becomes imperative.


Craftsmanship separates us from the rest by combining creativity and quality to turn ideas into functional masterpieces. However, this important process may clash with time constraints.

Efficiency and quick decision-making can be beneficial when facing time constraints, but they can also compromise the quality of the end result. Designing superior products requires patience, focus, attention to detail, and an appreciation for how each element contributes to the final product. Rushing through the process due to time pressure may result in a functional but mediocre design that lacks the finesse of exceptional work.

As we navigate constraints, it’s critical to champion the time and space needed to uphold craftsmanship principles integral to our profession. We should prioritize quality over speed and ensure that a culture of speed doesn’t overshadow our work. When time constraints dictate work culture, haste precedes quality, and quick fixes supplant well-considered solutions.

Craftsmanship requires contemplation and freedom to explore. When we are in a perpetual rush, it can undermine the quality of our work and devalue designers’ unique insights and expertise. The true power of design lies in its ability to find elegant solutions to complex problems, creating outcomes that stand the test of time.

Our goal as designers extends beyond creating functional products; we aim to develop products that resonate with users. While acknowledging and working within constraints is important, we must advocate for a culture that honors the time and space necessary for quality craftsmanship. A balance that enables efficiency while delivering the best possible design outcomes.

Investing time in design craftsmanship reaps substantial long-term rewards. We prioritize quality to create features and products that have lasting value.

By focusing on quality, we can enhance the user experience, increase customer loyalty, and generate recurring revenue by combatting churn. Maintaining high design standards improves our brand reputation, building trust and loyalty among our user base. Emphasizing good design also leads to greater accessibility, better compliance with safety and regulatory standards, and more inclusive and user-friendly products.

I want to emphasize the significance of craftsmanship by sharing this story about Gränsfors Bruk, a company that makes axes. They changed their approach and started focusing on making each axe with great care and attention to detail, which helped them become a symbolic company.

The story of Gränsfors Bruk

Gränsfors Bruk, a Swedish company founded in 1902, produced axes by the thousands for years. But a focus on mass production led to declining quality. In the 1960s, Gränsfors Bruk shifted its focus to quality and craftsmanship.

Gränsfors Bruk focused on two key areas to make a successful pivot. Firstly, they researched the type of axe people needed and would want to buy. Secondly, they developed a strong sense of purpose within the company that would inspire the forgers.

Gränsfors Bruk went above and beyond to craft the perfect axe for their customers, which started with research. They delved into the depths of axe analysis, scrutinizing over 2,000 models, and even sought the opinions of Nordic locals who use axes daily. Armed with this wealth of knowledge, they designed the Gränsfors Bruk Scandinavian Forest Axe, a masterful tool that can easily chop wood, split kindling, and clear brush. Made from a single piece of robust Swedish steel and boasting a sturdy hickory handle, the axe head’s convex profile ensures swift and efficient wood chopping.

The company’s next step was to instill a strong sense of purpose and pride in its workers. Gränsfors Bruk became fixated on producing high-quality axes, so they asked their axe makers to take their time and put their utmost effort into crafting each one. Only after completing their work to the best of their ability would the axe maker stamp the company logo and their initials onto the axe. This new approach gave the workers a sense of purpose and pride in their craft, and it became a defining characteristic of Gränsfors Bruk’s manufacturing process. Their focus on quality and craftsmanship helped establish the company’s reputation for producing top-notch, handcrafted tools.

The decision to focus on craftsmanship proved wise. Gränsfors Bruk’s reputation for producing high-quality, handcrafted tools proliferated, and demand for their products increased. Today, Gränsfors Bruk is known as one of the premier axe manufacturers in the world.

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