Being a Designer Is a Narrow Mode of Work But a Wide Way of Life

Note: This is Part 19 of the Ruminations for Aspiring Designers series.

Knowledge work has no work-life balance.

That may especially be the case for a designer.

The practice of design changes your ways of seeing, feeling, making and relating.

The practicing of design never stops after work.

As a designer, you grow professionally both inside and outside of your work.

Creativity, insight and empathy don’t wait for you at work. You get them everywhere, anytime. It’s your habit of learning that makes you a better and better designer who’s creative, insightful and empathic.

Attention to good design is often a designer’s secret obsession. You don’t just switch off when you’re off work. Instead, you constantly pay attention to the designed world, pondering what could have been, what can be and what will be.

As a designer, you’re not exactly the same as a design lover. Design lovers are fans. Designers are people who make what the fans love. A designer is more like the director or producer of a movie, and much less like a moviegoer.

As a designer, your way is the design way.

You may be working on a specific product, for a specific company and in a specific industry. What you design at work may be very narrow indeed.

However, your “official” design work is less than half of your design practice. Most of us spend less than one third of our entire lives at work. Your growth happens both inside and outside it.

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon

Sometimes, design is just what you happens to do while you’re busy making other plans.

When you’re passionate about good design, you don’t regard design as inevitable work for which you get paid. Instead, you view it as a life pursuit that you happens to get paid for.

Sometimes, being a designer is a relentless pursuit of insight and creativity, regardless of what your work is about.

If you really love design, come on and let it show.

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