Five on Design  |  Episode 98  |  December 11, 2018

The art of doing design you don't like

As designers, there are certain things that we enjoy doing and certain things we don’t enjoy doing. This can be a departure from what got us into design in the first place: creating things we like or are passionate about.

Getting further into your career, its inevitable that you get a project or two that you don’t enjoy working on as much. So how get into a creative mindset while working on something you don’t like? 

For me, designing holiday cards has always been my Achilles heel. My style of design typically focuses on very corporate commercial based marketing items. Shifting from that mindset to a mindset of something that looks pretty is usually challenging for me. Holiday cards tend to be a bit more artful and thoughtful compared to the work that I do. They also don’t go away — almost every work place likes to create one during the holiday season. 

It helps to know why or what you’re struggling with. In the case of the cards, its the type of design thinking. I’m not marketing services or selling anything. It’s simply well-wishes and needs to look nice on a desk or shelf.

Perhaps its a struggle because you don’t fully understand a part of the project. This was my struggle when I was a younger designer. I didn’t ask all the questions I needed to. As a result, I would get frustrated halfway through a project when I’d hit a brick wall. I wouldn’t have enough information to make the next step or know what to do. From there, I’d get frustrated and the project wasn’t as fun anymore.

Splitting up the project can also help. This works great for larger projects, but smaller ones can still benefit from it too. 

I tend to procrastinate when I don’t like something. I would imagine a few people who listen to the show may be the same way. Breaking up a project into bite-sized pieces works wonders. I was able to tackle those pieces in between projects that I did enjoy. This made the work I didn’t enjoy doing more tolerable and I could focus on what I did enjoy.

Additionally, I wasn’t spending a whole day at a time on it something I wasn’t enjoying. I could set up artboards, colors, or fonts. I could focus on basic elements. It all added up until I only needed to focus a smaller amount of time to wrap the project up completely. Of course, I would follow it up with a small reward when I was finished for additional motivation.

As much as I wish I could say design was all about doing things you enjoy, doing work you don’t enjoy comes with the territory. But learning a few tips and tricks can make dealing with the no-fun stuff quite a bit easier.