The Creativity of Limits

The big hurt ecology seems to be giving us is that it suggests there are limits to what we can do. Of course, we live with such limits every day. We don’t take the window instead of the elevator because we know what height we can just jump from; we take the elevator and not the stairs because we know there’s a limit to the energy we can and want to expend (even if it may be the wrong kind of “knowing” in this age where we don’t really have to save our strength for “fight or flight”).

And yet, when it comes to the big picture, to how humans and humanity are to live in this world, we marvel at internet and iPods, automobiles and airplanes, and don’t even want to hear about any limits to growth.

Instead of just saying that humans are creative and will look for solutions when they become necessary – which, given our propensity for violence and scapegoating may be questionable – there are people who are taking on the challenge of creativity every day. It is a natural part of living, but also needs support. At the very least, inspiration.

Well, here comes.

Humans have pretty much always experimented with the ways they do things. We are bound by the possibilities that are open to us, of course, but also always playing with them. Plant this, or that? Stay here, or go? Stay and do the same, or try something different?

In the course of possible, even likely, future problems, we are seeing people who already take on the challenge and counter it with creativity, designing new things great and small, possible everywhere, and not so much…

In the words of one such designer, Laura Karnath:

with our collective environmental crisis beginning to spiral out of control, designers can no longer design products which rely on energy and resources as if those things were limitless.

What Laura Karnath (together with Carl Burdick) designed was a futuristic laptop concept that – while way beyond current technological capabilities – has design notes inspired by a resource-constrained future. And yet, it is also über-modern, fun, and incorporating elements that are more than noteworthy even now. (Why don’t you find more solar chargers for gadgets? They already have their own storage solutions, i.e. batteries, after all…)

From the ‘FUJITSU design award: a life with future computing’ competition, organized by designboom in collaboration with FUJITSU.


It doesn’t have to be futuristic, un-doable things, however. You can find inspiration even in the trash, and aim “to design beautiful and useful things” out of discarded material. Meet…



When you also consider that being skilled at something and actively doing, creating, are among the things that make happy – welcome, limits.

Sure, it’s more difficult again to find ways to make a living in creative, good, non-destructive ways. So what, that’s what creativity is good for.


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