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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Working with constraints

When you added new objects or scenarios to your Challenge in the Reframe game, you were basically adding constraints.

Constraints are limitations that affect what you can design. For example, if you want to design a vegetable garden for your backyard, you may be constrained to certain areas (or certain kinds of plants) due to the amount of sun they can get during the day. Or, if you want to design an app for CIA agents, you may be constrained by security procedures.

Constraints may sound like bad things, but they often can be helpful. Starting with a totally blank slate can be difficult - just ask a novelist about starting with a blank screen when she’s beginning a new book!


Sometimes, adding constraints helps you start with a structure that you can work within. It helps you focus on a smaller set of possibilities, and can also help you reframe the question you’re trying to answer.

We’ll talk about how constraints help you simplify when we get to Sculpt. For now, let’s explore how adding (or removing) constraints can help you generate a lot of different variations when you’re trying to Splatter a lot of concepts.

Game: Interior Design Your Life



Understand designing with constraints by rearranging your bedroom furniture to suit different needs.

What You’ll Need

  • Ruler
  • Pen & paper
  • Scissors

Step 1: Measure Up

Using a ruler or measuring tape, measure your bedroom. Then, converting feet to inches, draw your room proportionally on a piece of paper. So, an 10.5 foot by 6 foot room would be 10.5 inches by 6 inches on paper.

Step 2: Doors, Windows, Closets

Now, measure your doorways, closets, windows - and any other openings in the walls of your room. Convert those measurements from feet to inches, too. Then, mark that distance off in your room drawing, being careful to place them correctly.

For example, if you have a three-foot window on your six-foot wall, measure where that window begins (two feet in from the corner) before marking off the proportionate three-inch window space in your drawing.

Helpful Hint: For doors that swing into your room, don’t forget to measure the length of the door along with its opening radius (see the example on the next page) - or else you might “arrange” yourself into your room with no escape!

Step 3: Furniture

Last but not least! Measure all your furniture, again converting feet to inches. Draw your furniture on a separate piece of paper and cut them out. So, if your bed is 6 foot by 4.5 foot, draw a 6 inch by 4.5 inch rectangle, and cut it out. If you want to get fancy, you can “decorate” your paper furniture with photos. If not, you still might want to label each piece so you don’t forget what it represents.

Step 4: Constraints? No Complaints!

Arrange your furniture in your room drawing to mirror the way you currently have it placed in your room. How could you rearrange your room to make it more fun? More convenient? What if you had to add in a second bed for a roommate? What if you wanted to move all the furniture around to have a party? Play with your furniture without breaking a sweat!

What elements in your room take up the most space? How does that constraint affect how you want to rearrange your space for different purposes?

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