3 things that made me a happier designer

1. I only say yes to projects that excite me

What you don’t do determines what you can do. –T. Ferriss

We love our job. This is in no way a problem, but it can definitely lead us down the wrong path if we’re not careful. Especially when starting out, we have the urge to say yes to every project that comes in. Don’t do that. When we choose to only say yes to the projects that excite us, it’s inevitable that we will be happier and in turn produce better work. We can then proudly display this work on the interwebs to attract similar work and initiate a snowball effect of design happiness. ⛄

I know that first hand, we don’t always have the option to say no. When I was 17, I had to say yes to a terrible project in order to pay rent. I’m sure many of us have been in similar or even worse situations. It’s not ideal, but starting out, having a day job that takes care of the daily necessities allows you to maintain the freedom to design on the side. Since then, I have been fortunate enough to land a design job at an agency that allows me to be selective with how I spend my time after hours.

Being more selective also avoids burnout. I have a close buddy who used to be a super passionate designer, and he gave up on design because he had to take on work he didn’t enjoy in order to pay rent. Stressed out, no longer enjoying design, he ended up transferring to a completely different profession. It’s unfortunate stories like this that make me sad, knowing they could have been avoided.

2. I live more

Every man dies. Not every man really lives. –Braveheart

In the book, Delivering Happiness, by Tony Hsieh, he discovers that through understanding of our true motivations, one would eventually realize “true happiness.” I found that work, I wasn’t passionate about, was leading me to an indirect path towards the pursuit of happiness.

I’ve done many 100+ hour weeks, in my day, and I really don’t recommend allowing it to become a habit. We only have so much time on Earth, and I don’t think we should spend a majority of it behind a computer screen. I now spend much more time with friends, family, and my girlfriend. It is now a goal of mine to go on adventures, try new things, and relax.

Spending more time doin’ shtuff and less time working, actually makes us much better designers. We gain new perspectives, experience more of the world, and learn more about ourselves. Spending less time working, has made me even more focused and excited, when I do sit down at my desk.

And hey, there are times where you gotta grind and put in those 100+ hour weeks (and often I enjoy it), but in my experience it’s not healthy to let it become a habit.

3. I learned confidence and humility

People are so scared to lose that they don’t even try. –Yeezy

Not everybody will like our work, and that’s good. It’s like baking a cake. Many people choose to bake a perfectly average cake, knowing that no one will love it, no one will hate it. But if you decide to bake a delicious chocolate cake, know that not everyone will like chocolate, but many will love it. Bake the chocolate cake. Having the confidence to be bold when needed is 🔑 to doing good work.

As designers, we also need to accept the inevitability of failure. We need to have the humility to accept when we’re wrong just as much as we need to know when to stand by our design decisions. It’s hard, yo. It’s something that comes with time, practice, trial and error.

I just heard a story about a brilliant design student. This student repeatedly theorizes thoughtful and innovative ideas, but rarely is able to begin bringing them to fruition. Fear has petrified them. The intimidation of a perfect blank screen overpowers their minute confidence to risk making the page imperfect. We need to accept the ebb and flow of the creative and design processes if we expect to create good work.


One thing that I’ve done that made me a happier designer is that I listen to my inner self, looking for what what the #1 thing that made me want to work everyday. For me it was the “fun” in any projects. It drives my passion and direct it into constructive energy. –@jmdenis

What’s something you did that made you a happier designer?

Send me a message on twitter and let’s talk about it. I might even add what you have to say to this article (and give you credit of course).

See what else I’m up to at ryan.menu. The more you share and recommend this article the better chance it has to make people happy.