Are Designers Work-a-holics? What about down time?

I have been noticing a bit of a trend and that is that designers never seem to get away from their work. We sketch on our down time, we analyze every product around us and we even blog about it. It may just be me but I tend to think about my work even when I am at home watching TV or on the weekends I will notice a packaging solution that prompts an idea and I immediately have to sketch it out or right it down.

So my question is how do all of you break yourselves from this? What do you do to shut down you mind from your job? I know as a designer is just as much a lifestyle as it is a profession, but we all need down time.

I’m not a professional industrial designer yet, but design is just how my brain is wired. Its the way I think and its what I like to involve myself in. As far as shutting my mind down from it, I guess I don’t intentionally try to. Even if I’m doing something as “mindless” as video games, I can’t help but notice little things that get my brain going in that direction.

Design is a constant thing in your life once you get used to it. You are always going to be thinking about stuff no matter what the situation. you get inspiration from life. The stuff you see around will have either a positive or negative effect for the most part. so if you see something that inspires you go a head and jot it down. Honestly, it’s a curse and a blessing. you will continually see stuff that needs fixed/changed or draw inspiration from, might as well embrace and move on so you can still have a somewhat normal life.

Are we work-a-holics? Most likely this is a big yes. My experiences are mainly in architecture, but no matter what, there will always be a way to make something better. You can work yourself to death dealing with issues that no one is even going to care about. You just have to learn when to say when.

Although I love design but i need a break sometimes. I use sport as a get out. Playing competitive sport everyweekend takes my mind away from design and gives me enough of a break to refresh.

Its definately a lifestyle choice but you do need other things to your life than design.

I try to balance my time, but it rarely works out that way, most of my time seems to be observation (consciously or not) and making notes (trusty A6 notebook!) but it can take its toll and the ol’ grey matter does need a rest on the odd occasion. I find sport helps alot as you tend to focus solely on that, but a nice beer also seems to help wind down, although the beermat always seems to end up doodled on! (Does that count as work? :slight_smile: )


Have children. :laughing:

It’s just not a 9-5. We aren’t accountants where you balance a spread sheet and go home. I’ve seen designers turn it into a 9-5 and it seems that those are the ones that go dead inside, when it becomes just a job, you loose the edge.

Design is more than my job… but it is also my job. To prevent myself from just giving everything I have to my actual job, I always have other creative design outlets. Ironically these keep me sharp, and make me more efficient at work.

Ditto, I used to constantly be thinking about things, but with a 12 month old running around everywhere that suddenly becomes your focus. I’m sure I’ll drift back to my design 24/7 thinking after a while, but for now when he’s around, he’s my focus.

I have a 2yr old and a 4yr old… don’t bank on finding any peace just yet. Maybe another 17 years you should be good :wink:

I found having kids opened my designers eye to a whole new world, so no, I never really switched off but I do find I don’t have the time to develop ideas outside of work that pays the bills, that keeps me busy enough… I have a sketchbook full of stuff I want to develop into products. One day, one day

I was never one of those guys though who would work obsessively, I always felt fresher as a designer if I took time away from it… but when you’re in the groove, you’re in the groove and no one even wants to stop then :slight_smile: ah, the rush!

I’m pretty switched on most the time, but exercise and especially sports force me to just react instinctively and play the game. Ironically, the ultra quick decision making in sports, where everything is gut reaction, often translates back into design stuff where sometimes your first sketch or concept is just right.

I dont think I can actually turn off design mode (nor would i want to) at most, during down time,i put designer to sleep mode where im not trying to come up with design ideas but if one comes (usually these re the best ideas) the hard drive kicks on. i think the only way to shut off design mode completely is to become dumb, deaf, and blind even then i think my mind would wander.
Down time is very important though because ive seen great designers get burnt out. its important to have a hobby that allows you to think about other things. I row, and when im on the river my mind is not thinking about anything other than finishing the workout. at the end of the workout my mind is refreshed and ready to start my day designing.

I drink. :laughing:

Oh yeah, I’m definitely a work-aholic. I never stop designing stuff so I find myself sitting at my desk all evening and even on the weekends. Unfortunately, I haven’t been giving my girlfriend enough of my focus and attention, so this weekend is a “no laptop” weekend. I’m going off the grid for a few days!

My wife institutes “No Laptop/ No Blackberry” days, times as well. Got to love 'em for the boundaries. She also gets me out, art shows, concerts, dinner parties… but I still see that all as design as it is part of what feeds and inspires me.

I will say, and I’m sure most of you can agree with this, that during my “down time” I usually find some of my best ideas. The commute home, the shower, out to dinner with friends, chasing a toddler. It’s almost like, let your “guard” down a bit and the ideas come flowing in.

Yo I think this is a perfect statement. I put this topic up last night because I started thinking about how designers are not just designers as a career, but how it is our lifestyle. Everything we do and everything we interact with inspires us in some way and effects our work. Also like mentioned in this forum there is no way to turn it off as it is who we are.

I think of what I do in my spare time and when I want to refresh my mind and I turn to the outdoors, like the hiking trip I took to southwest Utah this summer. I go on frequent hikes, bike rides, walks with the dog, and anything just to get me out and with nature. The crazy part is that when I do this is when I get most inspired. I forget about the politics of the office and I come back and have a fresh start with new ideas. There is nothing around me than just plain nature and there is something truly grand about that.

I put this up last night as I was flipping through the channels and happened to come across some show (don’t know which one) about a mom and Dad that did nothing but work and only focused on their careers. They had some finance job and never seemed to know how to let it go. It got me thinking if that was the same as us? But I also go to thinking about the nature of the two different careers. Like yo said they can finish their spread sheet and go home, we are constantly solving problems and that is not something you can turn off. Also being a designer is something that cannot only inspire you, but also others. I imagine when I have kids they will think that the work we do is really cool. :smiley:

I completely agree!!

Today is a weird day, because I actually don’t want to do any of my college design projects. When I’m looking at them, I just want to set them on fire. I nearly screamed “f*ck it all!” when I was walking home from bus stop at midnight. I’ve been working at them non-stop, and the progress is diabolically slow, because I have a zillion of different subjects. I was also doing a number of team projects, and someone screwed one up because we had to hand it up the next morning and he was tired. I don’t blame him at all.

I want a break, but I have 20 more days to go until a couple of weeks of holidays. I had the same situation last year. I completely stopped doing any ID-related activity for a couple of weeks. When I came back to college, I somehow enjoyed going back to projects and thinking about them. It’s plain weird but extended downtime works wonders. :smiley:


Keep working at it. We have all been there and we all know your feeling. I remember my intro to ID class final I had stayed up for about 3 days doing my final presentation model. I had it perfect and was about to put the finishing touches on it when someone bumped the table and it fell off shattering into a bunch of pieces. At that point I had 4 hours to create a new model. I busted my ass, put something together and went to class.

We have all felt like we wanted to scream, and I did that day, but it is the nature of the career and it is always rewarding in the end.