You Need a Hobby

I’ve often heard designers explain how important it is to find inspiration outside of your work — outside the field of design. But I’ve always struggled to understand what they meant.

Today, I’m coming to understand that this means you need a hobby. Hobbies are more than relaxation — they’re also inspiration for our work.

Jason Fried, who is the CEO at Basecamp, is one of the people who I think exemplifies this. He’s a designer by trade, but judging off his Instagram, he has a huge interest in watches. And this, I would assume, isn’t forced. It’s not like Fried gets stuck for ideas and turns to watches for inspiration. It’s just something that he loves that he spends time researching, reading about, and learning from. Those learnings can influence what he does at Basecamp.

You might already have a hobby like this. I know I’ve been doing it for a couple years, somewhat accidentally.

One of the websites I’ve made in the past couple years is Unsung Sundays, which is my music blog (currently on hiatus). It’s been over a year since I re-designed it, but I still get emails from strangers complimenting this site’s design. The thing is, designing it came naturally because I’m passionate about music.

I love music. Nearly everything I touch in design is influenced by my love for music. The way I think about colours and visuals the way I think about my guitar playing. I try to dramatize my designs the way you might when you’re writing a song. It’s not that this always improves my design, but it’s a part of my aesthetic, and that aesthetic is (sometimes) why people hire me.

I also keep my guitars and an amp beside my desk. Partially because we have no space anywhere else in the apartment, but also because I often play when I’m stumped and need to think something through. The guitars keep me creatively energized.

None of this is an excuse to shirk work for your hobbies. It’s encouragement to find something you love doing outside of work.

Here are some other things that might creatively lift you up, if you’re looking for ways to get started:

  • Cinematography. Good, dramatic colour grading can be really inspiring when it’s time to work with colours. Plus, this can be an excuse to watch some wicked movies.
  • Volunteering. I know many people who are spiritually and emotionally energized by the community they volunteer with.
  • Photography (assuming you’re not a pro) can encourage you to see the world from new perspectives.
  • Poetry (or other good writing). At the end of the day, we are all communicators. Whether you work with words or not, reading well-written prose or poetry can inspire and expand our vocabulary.
  • Video games. This is art too, right? (I won’t deny that I’ve been playing the new Zelda non-stop.)
  • Sports or the gym. (I enjoy going to the gym, but don’t find it inspiring at all. That might not be the case for you, though.)

Hobbies can create a loop that keeps you feeling refreshed and inspired. They’re worth your time.

Originally published at on May 17, 2017.

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