Lamar Graphic Design Blog

Lamar University's Graphic Design Department Blog

Designing Within Constraints (Part 1) by Jordan Gonzales


One of the most rudimentary ways to define graphic design is to say that it is a method of problem solving. All problems have parameters, and all designers must work within parameters.

Some designers dislike the challenge of design, only enjoying the work where they control the outcome and the scenario. Others relish the idea of coming up with creative solutions to problems, even thriving under the pressure of the task. I believe that the strongest design work is produced in this type of environment, created to solve a challenge or arise to a challenge. Designers should bask in the opportunity to solve the puzzle given to them, and find enlightenment in the possibilities in front of them! If you ask around, most designers will even tell you that one of the most inhibiting things a client can tell you is “Do whatever you want.” This can really kill the process for many designers. This is because design, in juxtaposition to what many would think, thrives in constraint and sputters in absolute freedom. Designers understand the power limitations can have, and unmatched opportunities for development and improvement.


One example of working in with-in an idea would be the designing of the well-known Coca-Cola bottle shape. Coca-Cola famously developed a contest and sent out a nation wide challenge to design a new bottle for them, only it had one very specific parameter – it’s shape must be recognizable in the dark.

The Company … decided to create a distinctive bottle shape to assure people they were actually getting a real Coca-Cola. The Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, won a contest to design a bottle that could be recognized in the dark. In 1916, they began manufacturing the famous contour bottle. The contour bottle, which remains the signature shape of Coca-Cola today, was chosen for its attractive appearance, original design and the fact that, even in the dark, you could identify the genuine article.”

Today that very design is one of the most recognizable and unique shapes worldwide, and is incorporated in all of Coca-Cola’s branding and advertising strategies, and would have never been created with out the proposition the company sent out. The Root Glass Company found a creative way to meet this challenge.

“The question came up as to what Coca-Cola was made of…. It so happened we found in a book of reference, an article and a very good illustration of a pod that contributes to the flavor of Coca-Cola.

I was very much interested in the shape of the pod. It had a very short neck at the stem end and the body had four different diameters and vertical ribs which I incorporated into my first drawings…”

This ended up becoming the bottle design we think of today, designed based on nature and developed under constraints to meet a challenge.


To sum it all up – make more with less. Work within your confines, they won’t hinder your creativity; they will allow it to grow.




Check back this week for part 2 of this post!


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This entry was posted on May 6, 2013 by in Graphic Design, Student Writing.
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