Posted by: Jack Henry | August 23, 2012

Editor’s Corner: Standards vs. Creativity — Why must they be at odds?

A big “thank you” to the welcoming folks in the Springfield, MO office—you put on an excellent conference (summit). In honor of our time together, I’ve put together this Editor’s Corner about standards. This is for every kind of writer, designer, coder, instructor, painter, crafter, dancer, sculptor, or any other type of artist out there. Read and rejoice!

Web standards, code standards, writing standards: whatever department you’re in, you are bound to hear that standards are killers of creativity. Or perhaps you are one of the people that feels stifled by standards? How can you create amazing and wonderful things when someone limits you? Here are some wise words from different fields and different resources that may make you think twice before you call your standards team a group of tyrants.

· Web designer Andy Rutledge says that web standards are “about quality, not compliance.” (

· A software designer from a “creativity and limits” blog ( shared these nuggets of wisdom:

o The creativity in software development comes from how you apply your knowledge of the language and patterns to solve a problem that brings value to your organization.

o The limits of a medium simply define the creative space. They don’t prevent people from being creative within that space.

o Every medium has limitations. Part of creativity is getting around them and coping with the problems.

· Scott Dadich, Creative Director for Wired magazine, wrote a great article on the topic. (“Design Under Constraint: How Limits Boost Creativity” worth reading in full at:

Here is an excerpt from the magazine:

You are looking at a box…A 16-by 10.875-inch rectangle containing precisely 174 square inches of possibility, made from two sheets of paper glued and bound together . . . D. J. Stout calls the science of filling this box with artful compositions of type and images "variations on a rectangle." That is, in any given issue of a magazine—this one, for example—subjects and stories will change, but as a designer, you’re still dealing with the same ol’ blank white box.

At Wired, our design team sees this constraint as our daily bread. On every editorial page, we use words and pictures to overcome the particular restrictions of paper and ink: We can’t animate the infographics (yet). We can’t embed video or voice-over (yet). We can’t add sound effects or music (yet). But for all that we can’t do in this static medium, we find enlightenment and wonder in its possibilities.

And a few quotes:

o “. . . designers understand the power of limits. Constraint offers an unparalleled opportunity for growth and innovation.”

o “Given fewer resources, you have to make better decisions.”

o “. . . the imposition of limits doesn’t stifle creativity—it enables it.”

So, as new PowerPoint and Word templates are rolled out over the next few months, embrace them! The styles, dimensions, and colors are taken care of, which leaves you time to produce thoughtful, creative, outstanding content.

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