How to kill an idea: write it down and call it a rule

Be wary of rules. They are often well-intentioned but they don’t respect context. They are, by their nature, inflexible. In contrast, a designer needs to be flexible and have room to explore. Constraints are the fuel for a designers creativity while rules are the box that seals in a singular vision. A constraint describes a goal, a rule describes a solution.

That’s not to say rules don’t have their place. They’re wonderful for describing processes that have been reached through the creative process.

Rules represent values from a specific moment in time and, once you document an idea as a rule, it stops responding to the world around it. It becomes a rule and rules, by their nature, are rigid. They’re meant to protect us, to keep us from doing the wrong thing, to make sure we play well together. Think about the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, the NFL rule book and the U.S. Constitution. All of them are powerful documents but once they’re written down people become attached to their interpretation of the text and the principles described become a subject of debate. A distraction from the original idea. Convert an idea into a rule and it will cease to grow. If it evolves that growth will be slow and painful.

Try new things and develop your own tools. Unexpected input from outside our systems is what forces us out of our routines and produces results. View rules as guidelines and tools, use the ones that work for you, discard the rest or save them for another day when they might be relevant.