Constraints is a deck of cards to improve the way you tackle web design problems. If you are involved in creating websites as a designer, coder, producer, content strategist, creative director or conference hound - you need Constraints.
Constraints cards give you constraints to practice against.
Each card asks you to do something, to consider something, or to avoid something. Sometimes it's very direct, sometimes it's more ambiguous. In all cases the objective is to shift your perspective on your problem. Shifting your perspective is often all that is required to see the better solution.
All of the cards are aimed squarely at challenging the way you work, pushing you to find new, often better techniques and ways of thinking about design problems. Sometimes by taking something away, by adding something new, sometimes simply by making you focus on one specific area.
This kind of practice will have a direct impact on how you think, design and build.
How to play
There are a multitude of ways to play Constraints. You can play solo, at work, at hack days, in person or remotely. Here are a few:
On your personal side projects One of the most important aspects of side projects for web designers is the learning opportunity they present. Trying out new techniques is one of the best ways to learn. Constraints push you around to keep you in that 'hard enough to learn, not so difficult you get disheartened' sweetspot.
When you are blocked When your brain lets you down - grab your constraints cards and start battling the constraint. More often than not this shift in focus gives your brain licence to solve the initial problem.
On less challenging tasks at work We all have elements of the day job that 'just need to be done'. The danger of going into autopilot on these tasks is that your mental energy drops, meaning that when you move to more challenging work you bring lethargy, not energy. Throw a 'better labels' or 'focus on speed' at that task, keep your brain happy, and avoid complacency.
Hack days There's nothing like a common enemy to bring a group together. No matter the task at hand, throw some constraints cards at your team to bring them together, keep things moving, and spark discussion.
Idea sessions I work in an agency, we often need ideas, ideas can be hard. One of the most powerful ways to bring out ideas is to distract yourself. Constraints cards are a great distraction to lead you to your ideas more quickly. The 'common enemy' effect kicks in here in group idea sessions.
The deck consists of 54 cards - they break down like this:
- 20 code cards - these constraints are on the code rather than the approach
- 2 jokers - these could be anything
The cards are printed on highest quality stock to look great and wear well. They are poker sized, but printed on much heavier stock than typical playing cards, and printed with a flat matt finish. The basic deck comes in a simple tuck pack.
The Smartbox desk / carry case
Cards need a case right? The smartbox does a couple of things that a regular box doesn't. It holds the full deck of cards, plus mini logbook, with room for a pencil / pen. You can fit a usb drive in there too (not included). You could probably even squeeze in some business cards and a spork. Everything you need.
It looks great, and just like the cards, it's built to age nicely.
It stays closed in your bag. The lid slides off so you get easy access to the cards without spilling them everywhere. It even has a holder for your current constraint card. Keep it on your desk - staring you down - keeping you pure to the constraint.
You remember things more effectively when you write them down. When playing constraints the important, interesting thing is how you handled the constraint. Note down what ideas came up, which were pursued, how that worked out.
The Constraints notebooks have a pre-printed 'card a page' format to help you capture your work. As you play you will build up a treasure trove of hops, skips, and jumps over constraints to draw on when the real thing attacks in the future.
I love laptop stickers. These are high quality, die cut, PVC stickers of a selection of artwork from the cards. Every backer will get at least one constraints sticker, higher rewards will get a larger selection.
If you want to get in front of the smartest web folk out there, the two Jokers in the pack are available for a collaborative constraint which can carry your logo / URL. I'll work with you to confirm the design of the card - fitting a suitable constraint to convey your message.
I've been working on these for six months, trying different cards, play testing with different groups, and improving the design. They're working really well now, and looking great, so it's time to share the fun.
I've done really short test runs of constraints cards, but the cost per deck is pretty high. Kickstarter funds will let me jump to a bigger print run, allowing the cost per deck to fall to £10 shipped.
It also allows me to do a run of notebooks and custom smartboxes for the cards. A lot of training tools come in low quality, tearable, packaging which wears badly. I don't want constraints cards to end up being carried around in a rubber band - I want a box that works.
Risks and challenges
The cards are all worked up and ready to go, I've done a few very small scale print runs already, I just have a handful of final artworking tweaks, and a final card selection to make. I have quotes from printers, have picked card stock, and know my shipping rates and times.
There are some final checks to be made on the smartbox, but everything else is ready to roll.
Once the kickstarter is funded I'll confirm final artworking, finalise packaging, and hit print. Then having everything printed, shipped, packaged and mailed out shouldn't take any longer than 8-10 weeks. International orders may take longer to arrive.
I've worked in agencies which produce print work for years, I'm not short of options to get help in getting things sorted if anything does go wrong. I plan to post weekly updates assuming it gets funded, as a kickstarter backer I love updates, I'm looking forward to writing some.
Are these photographs the finished design?
The photos above are from the test decks. I've refined the design somewhat since these, and some of the cards have changed following playtesting, but yes, this is pretty much what the cards will look like.
The notebooks and boxes are structural prototypes, the print finish will be better, and you'll get backer update previews before we go to print.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)