The Ambiguous Role of Constraints in Creativity: A Cross-Domain Exploration

Michael Mose Biskjær, Balder Onarheim, Stefan Wiltschnig

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


The relationship between creativity and constraints is often described in the literature either in rather imprecise, general concepts or in relation to very specific domains. Cross-domain and cross-disciplinary takes on how the handling of constraints influences creative activities are rare. In this paper, we explore these particular issues in two creative domains: art and engineering design. These domains vary so greatly in terms of number and types of constraints in play that we argue for considering them as opposite extremes of a continuum of levels of creative freedom. By comparing two case studies of Danish cutting-edge proponents of creative expertise thus exemplifying each domain, this preliminary exploration mainly focuses on similarities in how such successful professionals work with constraints to frame their creative process and ensure its progression toward the final outcome. Our main observations suggest that despite vast differences between the two domains, significant patterns and strategies reoccur. From a list of nine such similarities identified, four patterns are analyzed across the two domains in more detail as a contribution to encourage further advancement of cross-disciplinary research into the ambiguous role of constraints in creativity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of Design, Development and Research 2011 : Annual Research Conference of the Faculty of Informatics and Design, Cape Peninsula University of Technology
EditorsEddie Appiah, Nhlanhla Mlitwa, Dzigbordi Anyomi
PublisherCape Peninsula University of Technology
Publication date2011
ISBN (Print)978-0-620-52128-4
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventDesign, Development and Research 2011 - Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa
Duration: 23 Sept 201127 Sept 2011


ConferenceDesign, Development and Research 2011
LocationCape Peninsula University of Technology
Country/TerritorySouth Africa
CityCape Town
Internet address

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