Triangles is a Slack channel dedicated to the gamut of design professions across London, it’s a great community that helped me settle back into the scene when returning to the UK after living in Sydney.
One of the many traditions in the group is a weekly Question of the Week (#qotw). Each week, a designer will be nominated to ask a question to the group, and the responses never fail.
This week’s question, by Ollie Strang, yielded such powerful responses that I wanted to share with the wider design world, with permission.
Would you say you’ve ever lost your passion for design?
What was it that sparked your interest again?
It’s a toughie, but I’m sure you’ll agree that the responses really resonate with the state of the industry at the moment and how temperamental our jobs can be.
This is a bit rambling and at points probably doesn’t make sense so please excuse me, but I wanted to get it down in word vomit form for it to be as authentic as possible. It depends on what you mean by design — for me I’ve always been interested in it but I can certainly go through lulls where I feel like I either cannot do digital stuff anymore, I’m bored with it or something similar. When I get to these stages I try to take some time out, and go and do something else for a little while.
This will normally be me switching up to something a little more physical and having a play with that, or heaven forbid I’ll start to try and code something, or I’ll just have a wonder around a museum and start to gain inspiration from there. Design for me is wider than what I do for my job and it’s a bit more about the creativity and I’m lucky to think that I’ll have that in my life for good, whether it’s in the digital product design phase I find myself in now or maybe it’ll lie somewhere else, I know I’m passionate about creating things, and that doesn’t always have to come from design (my kitchen is good for this too).
Oh yeah I’ve had this loads. Where I was considering borderline going to change my career to be a builder.
I just call it my design mojo, it normally happens when I get to a point where I care too much, don’t feel like i’m being listened to, or people don’t let me do what I’m meant to do (like actually design… when people step in and basically want me to artwork)
I guess to try and find my interest in design again I usually have to have a break, either a holiday, some time away from the job, doing just something else. But sometimes I just have to switch the company I am in. This isn’t something I’ve done lightly though, it’s usually after a decision where I’ve said I’m not happy and then the same situation occurs again.
Also when feeling deflated I try and list out all the good things about my job and career. Or do some free writing, where I write about everything I enjoy and then keep asking yourself why and you will get to the root cause. For me I know that I need to be doing work where I help people and feel valued otherwise I don’t have a good time.
My passion for most of my life was for art, and I spent a long time working in different ways with contemporary art as an artist and writer. I made the switch to design after accepting that art was probably incompatible with my other ambitions (to work with a team, not be poor, have a family etc). And while I can abstract both art and design enough to find some overlap, like “creating meaningful experiences”, the truth is that I just feel differently about design… and I wouldn’t call what I feel “passion”. I wouldn’t, for example, make sacrifices for design in the same way I did for art.
To be honest, though, working in a field that I’m not passionate about has been great and sort of liberating: I get to chase interesting problems without having to worry too much about ego or over-identification with the work. If I get bored, then it’s just about finding new problems or learning something new, which is much easier to deal with than the crises of self and purpose that happened like every other month as a studio artist.
Funny enough, many of the most successful artists I knew had also dropped into art late, and usually had much healthier relationships to the field and to their work. I wish I could have seen it as just something interesting that I like to do, which is how I see design now.
My passion is in making things — whether it’s as a designer or elsewhere I could take or leave — it’s just a job, not my definition, and it’s ok to be bored with a job sometimes. Just so happens this is a lucrative and varied way to fill that passion, and I prefer that over alternative options like cooking or carpentry.
I go through phases, which is usually dictated by how much I engage with the wider design world.
There’s a big problem with design, and tech more widely, that there’s always something new you should be mastering.
It’s exhausting trying to keep up, trying to be this unicorn designer that everyone wants, when maybe I just want to be a regular horse running around a field enjoying my life.
I’ve never really fallen out of love with design, but I’ve definitely gone through lulls of not feeling very passionate about jobs.
But I think that’s probably super natural, as jobs are the practical application of a more general set of skills.
In my experience, being able to change teams or move on to new projects is the best way to reignite the spark of feeling passionate about a job again — that or starting and never finishing a side project.
I’ve fallen out with parts of design, be in the hypothetical work, the wireframing all the way through to the working with developers and implementation phases and testing. I’m lucky in that I can kinda avoid bits and focus on others so long as someone else is willing to trade places. This stops me doing the same kinda tasks for too long. As for design as a whole, I dunno if I’ll ever fall out of love for it, digital product design maybe, but not the wider sphere.
I don’t think “design” is only what I do as a product designer. I enjoy being part of building quality software.
But I ended up with this job because I was better at art than other subjects, so in my spare time I started picking up painting again, which I enjoy much more now it is not related to my job.
100% yes multiple times, and it’s totally fine. For me it’s usually an interesting bit of work that drops in, hanging out with good designers at a conference or something, or picking up something side-projecty that I really love doing (band posters has been a big reinvigoration this year). I’ll be honest and say I’m still a big meh about product design this year, but it pays the bills
This has certainly happened to me a few times. I’d say that it’s good to realise how varied the paths are that can be taken in our roles. There are other things which you could potentially get motivated about. For instance, I spend quite a lot of my time now working on improving processes and ways of working as that is something which motivates me along with the actual design work.
Another option could be to switch up the kind of work you’re doing. If you’re used to working on MVP’s maybe try to get a role doing more granular work on a mature product, or vice vera. Also sometimes the team you’re in can be more important than the product you’re working on — so make sure you’re surrounded by a team which lifts you up and ensures you’re being challenged.
I wouldn’t say I’ve lost my passion for design, but that I got so burnt out of some aspects of my work life that involve design that had made me thinking about how it affects my relation with design itself. In most cases it was related to unhealthy work-related issues, from the way one of the companies was handling the design aspect of the project to a phase where I was interviewing for new positions and I got rejected many times, what made me think about if I was worth it or if my work as a designer had any value.
When I reached that point of frustration I’ve tried to focus on other things, maybe not strictly design related but I try to run side-projects, help friends with their design-related things, code some experiments in a programming language I’m not enough fluent at, etc. And one of the things that has helped me recover from this meh moments for the last few months and is something I recently discovered is mentoring, showing other designers my approach to design, my day to day work and how I see things from my own personal designer perspective, and it’s something I would recommend, no matter the level or experience, just find someone to share your thoughts and experience and learn from others (that are more likely gonna be in the same situation at times…).
I went through this phase a while ago for at least a few months and it’s really painful and fatiguing. Some of the downsides i noticed are that in this phase it can make the world of design appear like everyone is enjoying their work and you wonder how could you ever be that passionate towards what you do? when in-fact all you need to adjust is the lens you have in regards to what you’re working on.
I truly believe everyone needs to accept a sense of purpose with what they work on, you can be passionate about something, but if you believe you don’t have a purpose associated with that passion, the flame can die pretty quickly, if you have purpose, the passion can be ignited much more easily.
When thinking about how i could re-ignite my purpose for my work, it’s important to be extremely critical of what you want to work on, which includes the company, what the product and goals are is, how they do it, who you work with etc… for me, i realised that I’m just not interested in a ton of industries where design jobs are currently flourishing. I realised that i would love to work in health, as i saw this as something i could find a lot of meaning from, and luckily enough after searching, i found a small startup trying to achieve some hefty goals in health.
One of the biggest tips in nutrition is diversity, and i think this applies to what we do in our everyday lives too, so try and add some diversity to what you’re working on, the way you work on it, and the structure of your day, even having lunch at a different time may be more energising.
Some fantastic insights there from a selection of fantastic London-based designers.
Stay tuned, we may do this again.
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