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Group Design Project

Design constraints improve creativity



Constraints are not requirements


Design constraints are restrictions which affect design decisions, but, not caused by design requirements.






Constraints may come from informal practices and local conditions


These constraints are the easiest to identify early in the design process. For example, the coursework has 2 constraints: components purchased from the SK Pang vendor and solution based on the Arduino Uno.

At an organizational or enterprise level, voluntary constraints may be created for operational or cost reasons. Although there are many different products for computer networking, many organizations often opt to constrain their purchases to one or two vendors in order to minimize the variety of maintenance skills required and the gain volume purchasing discounts.

Initially, informal local constraints often produce clear benefits. At this point, they are often referred to as standard operating procedures. The challenge for all organizations is to decide when standard operating procedures become obstacles and how to develop improved operating procedures.




Constraints may come from formal regulations, legislation and standards


Below are several sources of regulatory and legislative standards that affect technology product designs:





Constraints may come from informal standards


The most powerful source of informal standards is the commercial market for products.

Below are several examples of competition caused by default or de facto technology standards:

Carl Shapiro and Hal Varian wrote a classic article in 1999 about the importance of default standards for market competition.




Design constraints applied to developing economies


Ethan Zuckerman is a researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. The following is an excerpt that he wrote about the role of design constraints for innovation in Africa, which is relevant on a wider basis:

Innovation often comes from unusual and difficult circumstances – constraints – and that it's often wiser to look for innovation in places where people are trying to solve difficult, concrete problems rather than where smart people are sketching ideas on blank canvases. I offered seven rules that appear to help explain how (some) developing world innovation proceeds:

  1. Innovation (often) comes from constraint (If you've got very few resources, you're forced to be very creative in using and reusing them.)
  2. Don't fight culture (If people cook by stirring their stews, they're not going to use a solar oven, no matter what you do to market it. Make them a better stove instead.)
  3. Embrace market mechanisms (Giving stuff away rarely works as well as selling it.)
  4. Innovate on existing platforms (We've got bicycles and mobile phones in Africa, plus lots of metal to weld. Innovate using that stuff, rather than bringing in completely new tech.)
  5. Problems are not always obvious from afar (You really have to live for a while in a society where no one has currency larger than a $1 bill to understand the importance of money via mobile phones.)
  6. What you have matters more than what you lack (If you've got a bicycle, consider what you can build based on that, rather than worrying about not having a car, a truck, a metal shop.)
  7. Infrastructure can beget infrastructure (By building mobile phone infrastructure, we may be building power infrastructure for Africa – see my writings on incremental infrastructure.)

Source: E. Zuckerman (2008, Oct 17). Innovating from constraint. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/10/17/innovating-from-constraint




Design constraints applied to technology


Wired Magazine wrote about the importance of design constraints as applied to their work as a magazine and also to technology products generally. Below is an excerpt written by Scott Dadich which emphasize a different aspect of design constraints:

This is a belief most designers share. In fact, the worst thing a designer can hear is an offhand "Just do whatever you want". That's because designers understand the power of limits. Constraint offers an unparalleled opportunity for growth and innovation. Think of a young tree, a sapling. With water and sunshine, it can grow tall and strong. But include some careful pruning early in its development – removing low-hanging branches – and the tree will grow taller, stronger, faster. "It won't waste precious resources on growth that doesn't serve its ultimate purpose". The same principle applies to design. "Given fewer resources, you have to make better decisions".

Source: Dadich, S. (2009). Design under constraint: how limits boost creativity. Wired Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/culture/design/magazine/17-03/dp_intro




The constraints of working in a group for the coursework


Working in a group of 9 to 11 students is the most significant constraint of the coursework.