How Constraints Inspire Creativity

Behind the Scenes

Without the strike of inspiration, everyone experiences the struggle to start creating something—even the staff here at Message Agency.

Thriving without Blue Sky Opportunities

In order to make the most of our clients’ resources, we have developed processes and methods to help us jump start our creative process, increase productivity and utilize industry knowledge.

This is especially important for our clients, who typically have big issues to tackle and resources that are precious. Budget is usually the first constraint, but it’s not the only one that we come across with our clients. Even our own processes at the agency can create constraints. Here, I’ll outline these constraints, the arguments for them, and how you use them to find inspiration and creativity.

A Solution That Works for You

When organizations are ready to consider the design of their service, brand or digital product, it usually—and should—starts with research, asking: “What do we need?” and “What can we afford?” This is where we typically begin relationships with clients. Given the assumptions they start with, we build creative scopes to solve their known concerns, and uncover issues that might be unknown. We purposely create strategy in our plans to account for lessons learned and use transparency, collaboration, and communication to evolve the scope that will best solve for the organization's needs, all within the project budget.

There are, in the broadest sense, three phases to our process: discovery, design, and development. The first step is always discovery, which varies by project. Discovery allows us to align the project vision with the realities of execution. We start with roles and responsibilities, project challenge and risk mitigation, and accessible project management and planning.

For example, when we are creating a website, one of the biggest ways to address budget is to identify the staff and tasks an organization can contribute. Entering or creating content is a simple, yet timely task that a client can take ownership of with the right training and a content management system (CMS) like Drupal or Wordpress. This also gives the client the power to update content internally, instead of paying a website developer to make costly changes.

The last part of our discovery is adjusting the scope to address new findings and evolved assumptions. We share interactive documentation with our clients to outline how much of the budget each project feature can use as well as the opportunity to prioritize the features most important to their goals. This creates a collaborative process for arriving at the greatest budget-friendly impact, and makes sure that we deliver what we promise without going over budget. What we end up with is a precise road map for the project, and an opportunity to create phased plans to share with stakeholders to continue strategic growth when budget or time allows. Once we have the road map the design process begins.

Designing Tools for Our Process and Your Mission

We are constantly adapting and evolving our process, especially our design process, to find ways to efficiently and effectively deliver products that work for our clients. We know that an organization's whole team cannot always participate in a project, so we create tools to integrate the new products into your workflows or instructions to save the team time explaining new products.

For instance, when creating a new brand, we understand that the complexities of each element can be overwhelming, so clear and informative brand guidelines are crucial. What's the difference between a tagline and slogan or the brand voice and tone? How do you use them? Because all of our clients are from the third sector, we understand capacity constraints and what is needed to integrate new tools and products.

That means we don't just deliver a file with your logo in it or a list of brand personality traits, we integrate examples, definitions, and instructions along with a trained team member to be an ambassador for your new brand. This translates the product into an accessible tool specifically for your organization. We apply this thinking to all of the products we deliver and execute through three lenses: action-ability, usefulness, and quality.

Passing It Along

We were founded as a full-service design agency, specifically for the third sector. Our foundation has informed our evolution, and our processes are different from other design agencies. We believe in creating adaptive and flexible design systems instead of bespoke solutions that usually come with a large price tag. This, along with our cutting-edge technology and expertise, makes us more productive at creating custom solutions for our diverse clients.

From understanding how to develop an accessible database for a university library that wants to share its resources, to designing a movement for a whole county of nonprofits to educate their stakeholders, we use our process to establish frameworks to build on for the next client. This advantage allows us to constantly and exponentially give back to our clients, and ultimately the communities they serve.