It’s been a while since I wrote last, at Switch. In my vocabulary, putting pen to paper normally refers to anything but writing – doodles and sketches are more up my street. I was recently having a rather interesting chat with a young graphic design graduate. Among the topics we covered was the right career path to take. I asked whether he had a particular inclination towards seeking employment with a design agency or offering freelance design services. He very promptly replied, “Both! I’ll work as a designer at an agency and then do freelance work from home in the evening.” I sprung out of my seat to express my sincere disapproval, forgetting for a moment that this person was all excited and eager to start his journey in the real world. So, I simply shared a small part of my story, hoping it would serve as an eye-opener.
April, 2004: the birth of a child, a house, and an agency.
Our first child was only a couple of weeks old and suffering from severe colic. I was never an early sleeper but this took sleepless nights to a whole new level. I’m sleep-walking up and down the corridor with this poor being in my arms and even if the first seven months felt like eons, I look back at those days today and smile. I can proudly say it was worth every kilometer of ground covered. Thanks for keeping me in shape, John!
We were also blessed with a new home. A place with great potential needing to be gutted, redesigned and done up in just over three weeks. Packing and moving out hadn’t yet featured on my never ending To-Do list. I would get home at around 3am every night, hop into the shower and get ready for my night’s walk 🙂
By now I’d spent 10 years of employment with a number of agencies, and I enjoyed the occasional freelance design project in the evenings. I had decided to give up my agency job and dedicate more time to servicing the clients I had. Staying solo for good was not an option because I truly believed that collaborative efforts and great teamwork offered a much better output. This was an interim period until I set up the agency which, by this time, had become a very pressing matter as projects were piling up. One Sunday afternoon, while free from the utter chaos of the house project, I decided to lock myself in the room I was using as an office to get some work done. I needed a name and an identity for the agency. How hard could that be?
12 hours, 9 coffees and 43 names later I had nothing. My brain was fried.
Heading out of the room, I turned off the lights and was enlightened. This little device, the light switch, had the ability to change so much – so ‘Switch’ it was! The time it took me to reach a conclusion made it obvious that I needed to stop and focus my efforts on one of the projects at hand. Trying to juggle a house that needed redesigning and project management, meet clients’ deadlines, set up an agency and cope with family life was slowing me down.
It’s not all about the money. Unless you really want to work two or three jobs in order to save up for something huge, I’d stop and ask myself whether the love you surely had for design since childhood is turning you into a slave.
Bring the love back
If you have an eye for detail, a great love and passion for the creative and design world, and self respect, then there’s no way you can ever hate your job. If you do, you’re probably over doing it, or you’re simply not cut out for this industry. Stop and think about your most valuable qualities and capabilities. Are the people you share most of your time with a great source of inspiration? Are you doing your 9 to 5 job at the agency and speeding off home to meet more deadlines for more demanding clients? Are you getting enough rest? Master the mysterious art of sleeping. I haven’t quite mastered it myself although I’m working on it. Dream. Build a repository of ideas – the next bit of creative to break the internet could be yours and should be yours.
It is wise to satisfy your craving for design, to create or innovate with a complimentary project that ideally changes your physical posture. Try to avoid sitting behind a computer screen the minute you get home unless you are keeping yourself in-tune with current design trends or simply to get inspired. Be positive and a source of inspiration for the people around you. Grab a camera. Capture amazing moments. Try new recipes. Restore an old classic.
Switch to a simpler life
Clear your mind and your busy schedule. Focus on the one large project or job at hand and give it your utmost. You will be surprisingly more productive and you’ll find that you can make time for lunch and if planned well, dinner too. Ever since I’ve tried this, coffee intake has been reduced considerably and naturally, so have coffee spills. Replacement keyboards are few and far between.
Keep yourself inspired and appreciate the quality of your own output as a powerful motivator to create even more greatness. Learn lessons from your own story and that of others. If I look back at what time has taught me, it is mainly my appreciation for simplicity, a love for functional aesthetic, and the family. The family at home, the family at the office and the family of clients who we form amazing relationships with. And if you’re stressed you probably see no way out. Don’t make excuses – switch to a simpler life as soon as you can and you’ll reap the rewards before you know it.