IDSA, ADHD, and Design

First of all, a huge shout out to all of my new found friends and colleagues I met at the IDSA NW Chapter Conference this past weekend.

I’ve been on a pretty cool journey for the past year. I was diagnosed/confirmed as having ADHD. I’ve been blogging about it, and figuring out how it fits into my life. The reaction I’ve received since starting my blog has been life changing. It all had a cherry put on top this past weekend.

I presented on the topic of ADHD and the Creative Mind. Like my confirmed diagnosis of having ADHD, I knew I wasn’t alone in dealing with this issue in the world of Design. The number of people I have had approach me since speaking out on the subject has been amazing. This past weekend, getting to meet some of you face to face was one of the best things that’s happened to me in a long, long time.

Not much else to say other than, Thank You to everyone who was there and listened. The talk will be posted to the IDSA site in due course. I’d love to hear more stories, and would love any thoughts or suggestions as to how I can get this conversation out to more people.


This is very interesting as I was recently diagnosed with ADHD. It was previously thought that I had bi-polar II. I’ve really struggled with it but the medication REALLY helps a lot. When I don’t take it, I have a really rough time focusing on much of anything, am easily frustrated and find myself in a very depressive state.
Looking forward to hearing more on this subject. The most annoying thing is how loosely the term is thrown around in popular culture. Every child has it, right? Well, I can tell you this, ADHD really sucks if you are a designer. And if you really do have it, it’s quite a challenge.

Thanks for that 6ix!

For me, I refuse to see it as a “disorder”. It is one of those things that it is definitely a spectrum and it affects everyone differently and with varying degrees of intensity. If you can figure out how to harness the plusses of ADHD, it is something that can play in your favor. It sounds like you’re doing exactly that!

Medication definitely helps me too, but I try not to take it unless I need to be “on”.

I should also say, if anyone here thinks you are dealing with ADHD, go talk to your doctor. I am not an expert, nor do I claim to have any answers. I am sharing my experience and finding that there are WAY more people out there that are coping with a similar situation.

I was diagnosed when I was in first or second grade with ADD. I took Ritalin from then to my sophomore year of college (on school days only), then I took myself off of it. I want to get re-evaluated for medication to help my productivity, I just hated how the medication made me feel. I was also concerned of the side effects of taking Ritalin for so many years. I also have Synesthesia but there isn’t much that I can do about that.
In my childhood I was raised to not ever think of myself as having a problem. I don’t I process information and draw abstract and conventional correlations to that information better then a “typical” student would. I attended a selective college prep program for high school and did very well on my ACT and SAT. Being able to use native skills like hyperfocus and being able to get to “where” I needed to be to get stuff done.

I have severe ADHD and I have had it for my entire life. I’m now a 23 year old college grad. When I was in kindergarten, the teachers/school board said that I was not fit for a standard school environment. Luckily, I got out of that one and ended up being a very good student. I was a huge smart-ass throughout grade school and was very disruptive but still got straight A’s. I was a teacher’s worst nightmare. However, I went to a lot of therapy sessions and I gradually improved. By 5th grade I was a well-mannered student and I was doing well.

It certainly has its disadvantages and advantages. On one hand, getting things done in a timely manner when my mind is elsewhere is painstaking. On the other hand, when I’m interested in the project or motivated to do it, I work incredibly efficiently. I can get into a mindset/zone and just bang out concept after concept.

I took the medication for about a month while in high school. I really didn’t like that it made me feel so robotic so I’ve been med-free for pretty much all of my life.

I don’t really see it as a disadvantage. But generally, people with ADHD aren’t fit for today’s sedentary society. They’re hunters by nature. Not farmers/office workers.

Creativity ‘closely entwined with mental illness’

Interesting quote from the article:

“Beth Murphy, head of information at Mind, said bipolar disorder personality traits could be beneficial to those in creative professions, but it may also be that people with bipolar disorder are more attracted to professions where they can use their creative skills.”

Being bipolar is a double edge sword, and the meds usually prescribed counter act the creative flow and ability to produce hyper results with a clairvoyant like vision. But at the same time the meds prevent you from getting to deep into a depressive funk that yield horrible results or worse yet destructive creative results. Now this is only as i see it as it applies design there is another whole level for life in general.

Now you can also do play a little Russian rullet where in you stop taking the meds shortly before you know that you are going to need to be uber creative and productive… something your doctor will highly recommend against…

This is a good radio documentary about Comedians and mental illness, that has some interesting bits about mental health and creativity:

Slightly off topic, but did you read Seinfeld said in an interview that he feels he falls somewhere on the Autism spectrum?

To bring this topic up again, I’m really curious about your guys’ experiences when it comes to learning.

I have a similar story and was diagnosed in high school but I’ve always feared the medication, I couldn’t get past the constant wondering of “is this how everyone else feels or am I a robot now?”

The past few years of school have been pretty great but also really difficult when it comes to learning new things. I’d say it takes me 2-3 times longer to “get” something than it does my peers. Of course, by working hard I am always able to catch up and even surpass my classmates. However, with the learning of another 3d modelling program (Alias, Rhino, now Solidworks) I’m incredibly frustrated with this common trend. I can sit through a 3d-modelling demo and retain maybe half of it, or I can listen to someone explain how to make something and lose them after the first 3-4 steps.

Is this something you guys have experienced? If so, I would really love to hear how you conquered it.

I have been on ADHD medication for more than 25 years, and in public school I was the student who was passed to the next grade because they did not want to deal with me (this was in the late 60’s to late 70’s)

I ahve always felt that I was more like Forest Gump when it came to learning the basics, but my incredible focus on something I was interested in made me exceptionally sucessfull in learning that. So powerpoint and excel are things I dread, but meshmixer and vred I can spend days using.

The thing is, knowing the test results of tests are great, but how do you turn that into useful info in life? Being aware of those “things” when they happen has helped me immensley.

You will not feel like a robot on medication, it will, with the correct med and dose, allow you to focus longer, and realize that you are wandering. There is not a pill that will completly negate it, and why do so? You see differently and focus differently, and that lets you create in ways other do not.
Some of the habits are hard to supress, one of mine is saying things without thinking, which comes across as arrogance ot stupidity most of the time.

For example, at my first job out of design school, I had a meeting with the VP of GE plastics, along with the VP of engineering from my employer, my assistant was there as well. The meeting was going well, discussing new ways to utilize the materials when I drifted off, at some point I got up, walked around a large table of samples, picked up a white imac first gen case front, put it over my face, walked up to the GE VP and said, “These aren’t the droids you are looking for”. The admin assistant who was taking notes and my assistant fell over laughing, my VP stared, the GE VP chuckled, and I was never asked to attend another meeting like that again until our parent company took over my employer. I get kidded about that all the time.