Eat, design, sleep, repeat. Or how to be a poor designer.

I came across this t-shirt design this morning on Twitter.

Eat, design, sleep, repeat


What a sad commentary for some designers if this is how they really work!

The words may be sort of cute and funny, but designers who find truth in it should not laugh but rather think twice about how they work.

To me, “Eat. Design. Sleep. Repeat.” appears to focus on the production side of design. Getting things done. Which is great, except that getting things done that matter involves way more than these four things.

Great design involves getting to know your customers and clients. Deeply. And not working 80 hours per week. Great design also involves balance, and results from living well just as much as from working hard.

I know an architect, now retired, who was very talented at sketching his design visions. But he lived such a sheltered life that he was incredibly awkward at a lot of daily things. So despite his creative skills, as a designer I was never envious of this person. He always embarrassed me a bit despite his creative skills, and his tendency to work all of the time. His very creativity and work habits got in the way of his ability to properly understand the world. As a result, his ambitious designs were often such grand visions that everyone else in the office had to pare them back enough for the designs to be practical, useful, and affordable for their clients.

Of course, great design can often start with higher ambitions than can be achieved, and always involves iteration. But in these particular examples, I’m convinced that design work that happens in a vacuum is much different. There, the iteration happens because the designer didn’t just aim a bit high, they were way off target.

So don’t just eat, design, sleep, and repeat. And especially don’t do this 12 hours a day, plus weekends, and never provide yourself with enough context of living to ground your thinking and give yourself a creative break. Workaholic-based design might generate more results, but they’re not going to be better results. And it’s especially not going to generate results that are solving people’s problems. How can they, if you’re not making time to live, listen, and devote time to hearing and understanding those problems in the first place?


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