Question: After twenty years of designing everything from business cards to big brands, everything feels the same. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything creative in a long time and I’m in a bit of rut. How do I get out of it? – Michael, 42
Answer: Let’s not dilly-dally around here – designers are expected to be creative people. We need to design meaningful things and care about our work. Except, somewhere along the way, we can start to repeat the process and stop adding value, and all of a sudden we’re apathetic mid-life Lost In Translation Bill Murray, but minus Scarlett Johansson. And that really is an unfortunate situation.
You need to start by asking yourself, “Why the rut?” It can happen for many reasons, but most of the time it’s because we spend our time in the wrong profession. “I don’t want to be here!”, we say. “It’s Proxima Nova’s fault!”. If everything feels the same, either you’ve forgotten how to be creative, or your job has.
And look, there won’t be a creative revival in your job overnight – chances are you won’t be re-branding TATE Modern anytime soon. Instead, go back to the things that used to excite you. Or learn a new skill. Read a damn book. Learn Spanish. Drink a cider. When you’re feeling interested in yourself and the world again, go back and have another look at your job. Maybe you’ve just been playing it safe. Maybe you’ve become complacent and just need to tweak a few habits when you get a brief… like banning yourself from Pinterest.
And if it’s the workplace itself? Well, a good designer once told me that if you haven’t worked for seven different agencies, you’re not doing it right. Remember: good designers leave. They get restless and look for the next challenge. Whichever route you take, just make sure you’re steering the ship, Mike. Because making it happen sure as hell beats waiting for it to change.
Dizzee Askall will be delivering a weekly lowdown on your design-related dilemmas. If you’re in need of advice or answers, send your questions to email@example.com