Life is crazy and stressful. We focus on our businesses/practices. The passion, obsession and concentrated activity we bring helps us create great work. But I want to suggest that we all step back and look at our lives. See the bigger picture.
When I was a young designer I had a job in New York City that I loved. I worked at a large firm that handled corporate identity, industrial design, packaging design and interior design. I was part of a team of incredibly talented people.
But, there was something funny going on. Everyone was talking about something else. They would say things like: "I'm a film maker." "I'm a musician." "I'm a ski instructor for the deaf." "I'm an antique appraiser." What was wrong with them? Didn't they realize that we were living a dream getting to design for Fortune 500 companies? I was reveling in the life of sketches, comps and kerning and secretly I snickered at them.
Were they crazy?
It took me time and some maturity to realize that I worked with really healthy people. They were dedicated, talented designers. But they weren't just designers. They were interesting. Their outside passions made them better. They were fun people to be around. They found things that enriched their lives and they shared them.
Design is all about solving other people's problems. Outside work, personal work, is free of many restrictions we face at work and intrinsically has value.
Here is the sad reality, at some point your design work is going to fail. You will screw up. You might be fired. The design firm might close. The economy might tank. I wish it wasn't true but at some point the rug is going to be pulled out from under you. You will be blindsided and you will be forced to realize that work is just work.
I want you to be ready for it and I urge you to use your skills to design your life.
Designing my life
Remember 2009? The economy tanked. Clients stopped returning calls and answering their phones. There wasn't enough work to keep me busy. It was pretty depressing. But…I had a relatively new camera so I set a very simple goal to learn everything I could about it. I decided to take at least one photo a day. I started methodically reading the manual. I carried my camera everywhere. I documented my life and my work and built a network by daily posting one photo to Facebook. I found online communities of artists doing similar things. Ultimately I created a new habit. The photographs ranged from terrible to really good. But most importantly the act of learning photography again restored my creative life. I was excited to learn more. I looked at the world with refreshed eyes. I had something interesting to talk about.
Eventually work picked up again. I found myself struggling to squeeze in photography and processing time. I was glad to be busy but I didn't regret having that quiet time. It created new opportunities. I've become a better art director. I'm better at processing images and preparing them for press. And most importantly it kept me growing and developing as a designer, artist and person.
The images above were photographed during 2009–2010.