Design Principles vs Creativity: My Battle as a UI & UX Designer

Raksha S
5 min readApr 12


As a UI and UX designer, you know that following the rules of design is crucial to creating a functional, aesthetically pleasing product. But what happens when you stick to the rules and this starts to stifle your creativity?

Girl feeling frustrated

I am a self-taught UI and UX designer who has been learning design for the past two years. Currently, I work as a professional UX designer for a Bengaluru-based startup. When I first started design, I remember being extremely creative and enthusiastic. I would constantly play with different design styles and create out-of-the-box interfaces.

However, lately I have been working on more professional design projects and I am required to use a set of design systems for better structure. With this, I noticed my creativity getting limited to these systems. While using a set of guidelines has its benefits, I found that relying on them too heavily could stifle my ability to express myself fully. As someone constantly looking for a creative outlet, I struggled to strike a balance between following design principles and allowing myself the freedom to be creative. And for this reason, I went looking for a solution.

Design principles vs Creativity

I noticed that this is a very common struggle among my fellow designers as well and understandably so, as it can be frustrating to feel like you’re not able to fully express yourself. According to a recent survey by InVision, 76% of designers feel that sticking to design rules is important. However, 60% of those same designers also feel that creativity is their most valuable asset.

Firstly, we must understand why designers should follow UX Principles.

Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

Adhering to UX guidelines is essential for creating interfaces that are accessible and usable for all users. By considering the needs of all users, designers can create products that are intuitive, easy to use, and effective at meeting the needs of their users. So, how do we balance the need for structure with the desire for creativity?

When you become too focused on the “right” way to design something, you may fall into a rut of using the same patterns and styles over and over again. You become so focused on following the rules that you forget to think outside the box.

In fact, studies have shown that creativity is positively associated with breaking the rules. A study published in the Journal — Social Psychological and Personality Science found that people who broke the rules were seen as more creative than those who followed them. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should throw all design principles out the window XD. Instead of battling between them, you must use them as a foundation upon which you build your design.

Here are some steps to overcome this battle.

1) Start with a blank canvas:

Man drawing on a blank canvas sheet
Starting with a blank canvas

When beginning a new project, try to avoid looking at existing design systems and guidelines. Instead, start with a blank canvas and let your creativity flow. This will allow you to approach the problem with a fresh perspective and come up with unique solutions.

2) Experimentation:

Person experimenting with different patterns

One way to strike a balance between structure and creativity is to experiment with different design techniques and styles. Try incorporating unexpected elements into your designs, or break a few rules and see what happens. You may be surprised at the results.

3) Collaborate with others:

Design flow discussion among people on a white board
Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

Sometimes, bouncing ideas off of others can help spark creativity. Collaborate with other designers or colleagues to get feedback and generate new ideas. This can also help you see things from a different perspective and approach problems in a new way.

4) Embrace imperfection:

Imperfect patterns blending into each other

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes or try something new that might not work out. Embracing imperfection and learning from mistakes can actually help you become a more creative and innovative designer. Remember, some of the greatest design innovations came from breaking the rules and trying something new.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that there’s no one “right” way to design. Every designer has their own unique style and approach. While it’s important to stick to rules to ensure a functional and user-friendly design, it’s equally important to embrace your creativity and think outside the box. Users won’t use your products if they aren’t unique and creative, regardless of whether they adhere to design rules or not.

So, the next time you feel like your creativity is being stifled by UX rules, remember that there’s no need to choose between following rules and being creative. The two can coexist, and in fact, often work best together.

Thanos balancing UX Principles and Ceativity with his finger and saying ‘Perfectly balanced, as all things should be’
Thanos balancing UX Principles and Creativity

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