Working in design plays with your head …

Two things happened last week worth sharing.

The first was part of our regularly ‘design yak’ – a breakfast meeting of like-minded designers. During the discussion (we have a topic each month) a designer shared her frustration at losing a project on price. Yep, happens all the time – difference here was the last project she did for that client had such as short deadline, it necessitated working a few hours Christmas day(!), and up to midnight New Year’s Eve. Instead of rewarding that effort, the client moved on to burn out the next designer.

The next night I met with a community of creatives wanting to change the design industry from the inside. The aim is to build a framework to unite, support, inspire and improve the wellbeing of everyone in the industry. Sound too good to be true? Maybe. Been tried before? Absolutely. I think this time is different because creatives are bending to snapping point…

Andy Wright initiated Never Not Creative because he (and others) do not believe enough is happening to address future challenges in our industry. It’s not in competition to existing communities that celebrate work and talent. Never Not Creative is specifically about the well-being of creatives and building structures to make it easier to look after ourselves, and others.

The Never Not Creative community are hoping to help with discussion, debate and hopefully, provide solutions.

An oxygen mask will drop down… put your own mask on before helping others.

The best creativity comes from healthy minds and healthy minds happen in bodies that are well rested, well fed and well exercised but that doesn’t always happen easily. Never Not Creative is helping creatives be mindful of the steps needed to look after themselves and then each other. Ensuring we’re at our best, ready to face whatever challenge appears.

What can you do.

Firstly, join the community – it’s a Facebook group. And it’s free.

Secondly, get involved by reading (and collaborating in) ‘The Creative’s Pledge’. It’s a pledge to uphold a set of guidelines/benchmarks/thoughts for creatives, written by creatives. The more voices, the wider the conversation, the better the content. Don’t just sit back and observe. Contribute. Post. Discuss. Offer.

Thirdly, create and share resources anyone in the industry can access and adapt for free.

Why you would do it.

Because even if you are not mentally and physically suffered for your career you must know someone that is/has. Because universities and employees often foster an unhealthy competitive environment. And because we should show the same empathy for each other as we do for our clients and end markets.

Some of the issues that have been highlighted.

Stress and burnout

It’s no secret, and perhaps no surprise, that a bunch of perfectionists work their arses off for something that they love doing. Creating new, creating better and creating constantly comes at a price.

Choosing work over family or friends, choosing work over sleep, work over dinner, work over exercise. It’s not healthy and it’s not sustainable. And it certainly doesn’t improve your chances of finding that one golden creative solution that cracks the problem - or gives you the sense of satisfaction that you crave.

Value recognition

I would call this being rewarded fairly for our work, that means different things for different people.

For salaried employees it’s being compensated with a wage commensurate with our experience.

For design studio owners it’s being well paid for projects in a timely manner. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy taking on projects to build our profile rather than building our profit.

For all designers it’s about the value design delivers to a good or service.

We know design is valuable, it seems we’re just not good at articulating that to others.

Isolation and rejection

Solopreneurs, freelancing, working from home (or cafes) is increasing. Infact some sources have stated that half of us will be freelancing (in some form or another) by 2020.

Problem is, while it’s a great feeling not having to commute to work on a cold, wet and windy Monday, it doesn’t feel as good at 4pm on a Friday when you just want to clink glasses with another to celebrate a win or commiserate a loss.

Design is a collaborative activity, so individuals need tools to avoid isolation. My solution was my monthly breakfast crew, but there are others.

Design is a great industry.

Designers chose the creative industry for a reason: the opportunity to be daily challenged and excited is fuel for creative fire. Watching people play with, use and consume what we create can deliver immense satisfaction. Added to this, design is reaching a new status in business, society and government.

The aims of Never Not Creative:

  1. Provide the framework and support for community driven discussion, debate and solutions.
  2. Collaboratively create pledges and standards that creatives and their customers can sign up to.
  3. Create and support projects that focus on improving outcomes for the industry.
  4. Create and share resources that anyone in the industry can access and adapt for free.

I urge you to get involved.

The article is based heavily on the Never Not Creative information released on Medium and Facebook.
Never Not Creative is a not-for-profit initiative supported by Streamtime – project management software that coincidentally I use. Streamtime supports NNC with time and resources dedicated to building the NNC community - there is no intended commercial outcome or KPIs. A better creative industry, is better for the world, and Streamtime would like to see a better world.

Want more information? Feel free to contact me and I’ll try to help.


Carol Mackay

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2018 is a big year for Carol. Thirty-three years after founding Mackay Branson design, she transitioned from client-focused projects to use her skills with the Design Business Council, and The Design Business School. Her design expertise is in making the complex simple. Her special skill is in packaging complicated content into bite-sized chunks of information that can be easily understood and digested.

Carol has just written a new program for the The Design Business School. The Design Studio Management Program is aimed at designers, design graduates and existing design studio managers to help them develop skills to fast track their career path. Contact Carol for more information.

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