Just the Tip: Not doing work

When you are being paid, you are being paid to do work, when you are not being given pennies to do that work, you need to rest from doing said work—advice that I give so easily and barely ever listen to.

I am writing this from my kitchen table, piled high with foreign objects that we’ve occurred through a short break that has just ended; the kitchen is our first port of call and the table our dumping ground of miscellanea. Like most employees, I too was entitled to time off work which I have recently seized and not until the day of my return have I realised how liberating it is to change-up routine and to hide away in the woods for a week.

I have always been a person that valued the importance of time off, headspace and mindfulness but it’s not something that I put into practice that often because, simply, I love the things I do. I turn no scornful eyes to finishing a day of work and continuing the work again later that evening, but like any human – or even any machine – rest and repair are vital to optimise performance.

I hope to ignite a fire within you for not working and understanding the importance in the lack of progression, not all the time but some of the time. It’s a message I will likely not take heed of but I pray that you might.

Tip 1: Do or do not—creative purgatory is not an option

A common place many creatives will find themselves in is the place between actively making something and purposefully not making something; or even the guilt of not doing any said thing. You must decide what to do and when not to do things, for you only waste time and emotion wishing your were doing something when you are not and it’s hopeless to wish you are doing something when actually doing something else.

Tip 2: Time off doesn’t have to be time off everything

Myself, like every ‘millennial’ (christ, I hate that term) finds enormous worry and guilt when we recognise that we are currently not working towards our main productive narrative—but to not be building your career does not mean that you cannot do anything. Read a book, visit a museum and climb a hill; productivity is natures’ greatest distraction and it has no restrictions on whether that productivity is work-based or personal.

Tip 3: The Wind Down Period

As described to me by a friend, the ‘Wind Down Period’ is something we all do naturally that hasn’t any designated name, but if you just nurture it a little, pay a little attention and allow yourself to shut off—the time you spend not working can really enhance your time when working.

If you work a non-creative nine to five job, it’s easy to come home, pop on your slippers and tune out until your post-work haze is shattered by the morning alarm but being a creative means that your work continues after the office door closes. Clearly you relax more at home but to enduce the WDP you need to actively force yourself to relax. IN JUST 5 EASY STEPS, YOU TOO CAN RELAX LIKE TRUMP IN AN ARMS FAYRE!

  • Give yourself a bedtime and stop an hour before bed
  • In said hour, be selfish and do whatever you need to relax
  • Go to be and allow yourself to switch off—design ideas at bed don’t bode well for great periods of rest
  • Avoid screens where possible in this hour
  • Do not even think about Adobe in the WDP

Tip 4: Proactive breaks

Sometimes when your working on all pistons, your head can only think of nice shapes, colours and compositions you couldn’t think of anything worse than sitting and doing nothing with only a sandwich as company—I’m referring to lunch hour here.

I found myself in my current job sitting and being bored just staring into the void of a packet of crisps, so now I draw people, their hats and shapes with felt tips and cuts of paper. If you can’t rest and only want to keep going, then do so; but make sure it’s totally bat poop crazy for me, yeah?

Tip 5: Sit and do bugger all

Apposed to the previous tip, sometimes you just need to not do any work or anything full stop. It’s not wrong to want to do nothing every now and them. Sit down, stare at the wall and enjoy doing nothing more than carving the seat of the chair.

I’m even hoping that reading this could be part of your break from work, your choice to not do work and pleasure yourself (not like that) with the mildly amateurish words I present to you here. Failing that, see below your nice distracting imagery.

Design, where is your empathy?

Have you ever noticed that in any high density area, women are seen to queue endlessly for the toilet as men happily skip past into the ever revolving door of penis-only water closets?

It’s because architecture has been dominated and developed by men for as long as it’s existed, who through equality give the same amount of space for both genders bathrooms, ignoring that fact that one user requires more space than the other, in its majority. The equality of the two spaces creates an inequality for women dependant on their needs, whereas they should instead have equity on the peeing space required.

Design as it stands – and as it always has – is male dominated which gives it little room for female empathy; even if it is a rather inclusive industry. If only I had to reference the toilet analogy to make my case, it proves horribly sharp that our most permanent and sizeable design output – public architecture – have a distinct lack of empathy for women; or rather anyone non-male.

It’s a enormous pointing hand, illuminating a bright sign of ignorance that a public space incentivised for use by all is created without thought for the needs of all its users. It is correct that men and women hold of the same amount of possible space for releasing pent up excrement, but any women who’s found herself queueing upon a full bladder could tell you that equal space is not equal representation.

Clearly design hasn’t as much care for females as it does males, but what if you do not assign to a binary gender? – then standard public architecture doesn’t so much hinder you, but ignore you completely. Kate Moross is one said person who does not align with being male or female, but is also a prolific designer, now running and directing Studio Moross.

Kate has been outspoken about working to create empathy and power for those that find themselves in the trenches of design apathy—in an interview with It’s Nice That Kate describes her working situation as “I’m constantly battling peoples and businesses who don’t have a third or fourth or fifth box for when you sign up for something and have to enter your gender.” which is a situation I can’t image many designers would often consider, never mind the masses of male creatives that have never been confronted with the issue of not being able to find their gender on any given form.

Clearly, for Captain Moross making these small changes such as including the fifth gender box are a personal battle being fought for the masses of the hegemonically ignored, explaining in said interview “That’s something of a small battle I’m fighting every day”This may seem like a non-issue for many, but I can imagine that for the people it concerns it’s a courageous, empathetic fight.

It’s hard for me to understand the relevance of it, being that I fall into the category of your ‘average designer’ in many, many ways; but I know if I tried to do something as simple as sign a form and it didn’t allow for my full address that would drive me nuts, never mind trying to describe my identity from a selection of two inaccurate drop-downs.

mid-post pretty GIF

Just as peoples gender can be thrown onto the pile of ignored needs, so can disabilities. Though we see around us – in developed nations at least – building being developed and adapted to allow access to those operating wheelchairs and other mobility devices, we see the same thoughtfulness completely lost for those without obvious physical disabilities.

Though it may seem a far-fetched point, the cities and spaces we live in can be minefields for people with disabilities, one such being those on the autistic spectrum and the over-stimuli they face day to day. We as designers spend all our days making the most visually exciting, eye-grabbing material for our clients but when they put them up on billboards, here, there and everywhere it makes life difficult for those who find them offensive. Though the problem lies with the imagery designed, it’s the companies and councils planning and designing their cities in a hodge-podge fashion of capitalistic sprawl that makes lives for those with who suffer, a confusing, stress inducing experience.


If you look at the title, you’ll see me telling design that it needs more empathy but design is not a single person, blue in the face guilty of it’s injustices; it is in fact an entity build upon a community of people. People need more empathy. People need more empathy, in their design.

I too have lead you down a path of ignorance, I am not the great source of empathy that I may seem. I thought not of the people with dyslexia when I made huge bright yellow posters and I disregarded the needs of the people with poor sight when I refused to add alt tags to my posts, in an effort to save myself time. The empathy we need is the empathy to consider the users and decoders of the work we create, not just the client that it is being created for.

The fact is it’s much easier to point the finger than solve the problem, rather unsurprisingly. But should you be aware that something you are creating would be accessed and used by anyone in particular, give the women some more space to pee, understand that not everyone defines their sexuality as easily as an online clothes retailer and if all else fails, see our governments resources available on designing for accessibility.

Disclaimer: I am no expert of disabilities or women, if I’m miles off the mark with my observations please tell me, or lock me in the stocks and throw tomatoes at my ignorant noggin—either will do.

The privilege of success

In fiction success comes to those who work hard for it. In reality success comes to those who can afford to work hard for it; that is the privilege.

If you look through your cynical goggles you’ll likely understand that it’s much easier to see people succeeding when their balance has never been read with a minus sign upon it. It’s not money that can make you successful, but it’s certainly a catalyst for any hard working person—the privilege of a lesser-debt existence is a large slice of the privilege of success.

On the topic of success it’s hard to write objectively when I too have felt the warm embrace of privilege, aiding me in my studies. I would call my success an achievement of my own, but I should be an idiot to think that the path I took would be allowed to be taken by any person. I would be mercilessly ignorant if I pretended not to see that many peoples success (or therefore lack of) was merely just to do with the quality of work that they had the ability to produce.

I was privileged to have support. Financial support, emotional support and educational support. Financially, I had the ability to speak to my parents and ask them to give the minimum I needed to focus on my education and not have to take a term-time job, otherwise taking time away from my education; this isn’t an option many have and is an option I gritted my teeth to ask of them, but my privilege was that this option was not just a possibility but also available.

Emotionally, I had taken a huge undertaking that was supported by all who I care for and all who care for me, a network of support that all didn’t know existed, that most didn’t have and few actually had. I had a hard working partner living with me and a supportive family that weren’t using their stigma of an arts education against me—something that wasn’t as common as you’d hope when encountering adults, parented by adults. It’s surprising how juvenile beings of forty plus earth years can be.

Money, clearly is a privilege but in the world of employment there is no greater foot up than being white, never-mind also being male. Neither of these are factors that I or my extended family could control, but none-the-less it certainly could influence my life and my success. To spend your existence feeling guilty for your race and for your gender is futile but to pretend to not see the privilege—you may as well gorge your eyes out for gross stupidity.

For someone like myself who has encountered such great privilege, there is both a knowledge that just as people find much less than myself; there are others who swim in vast amounts more. I find myself not feeling guilty for the opportunities I’ve had for I do not take them for granted, I understand the weight they hold and the rarity of their existence—to be ignorant of this is to be content with the injustice of privilege.

I unknowingly sat on a great hill of mounted privileges, being white, male and of financial comfortability. None of these things directly gave me a job over any of the others, but they certainly did not hinder my chances. The privilege I have is that almost all variables for success, were open and allowed me to do so. To have success is a privilege and privilege does not guarantee success—there is only failure when you disregard the privilege you have.

In the general scale, locally I held a large quantity of ‘Formula P’ but, on a global scale any person who studied with me held a cornucopia of Formula P compared to the rest of the world. I am the stereotypical designer by race and by gender, allowing for great privilege but to even be able to read this internet-based text means that your veins run with fluid ounces of Formula P compared to the blood flow of a large preparation of this earth. You lucky bugger.

It’s not what you know

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know—possibly the most common term thrown around in any given design industry. But surely, you can’t just make it by being Facebook friends with David Carson.

For anyone who’s made a great failure of their dream, they’ll have uttered that it mattered not what they knew but merely who they in-fact did not know; but can success be defined solely on the community that any given person floats in?

It’s worth noting that your connections are vital, they are your source of projects, source of entertainment and your socialising—but I doubt great design fails to be great if Debra Sussman never shook your hand. If your work is strong enough, it’s what you know that will develop who you know. That said, if you know nobody and show nobody great design may as well be a tree falling in the woods.

They certainly heard this one fall

So here’s my conundrum. I believe that who you know is very important, but not the singular reason for any success. I too have seen my knowledge of a person beat out the knowledge of the subject held by others. This is because any person who hires you for work, is a human, and humans exist through interaction—friendliness, trust and communication are the basic principles of a good client relationship and a good human relationship.

Even if we are to take the analogy of ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ as objectively true; it still does not exclusively denote that your social circle defines your success. If in a career, it’s highly likely that who you know is built upon meeting people through what you know, your talents and interests inform the people you do or do not connect with. If all work came directly from a blind choice of person over knowledge, you’d still make that selection because you are known to the person because of the knowledge of any given discourse that caused you to meet.

To claim that any triumph should come from who you know is both a defeatist and a well-educated statement, because you discount the circumstance that defined the meeting between any given two people that may or may not heighten their success together. It is not a false statement, for it can prove true – as it often does – but it also is not objectively truthful.

So as a juvenile attempt to confuse you, here is my algorithm of social knowledge and technically knowledge, feel free to never use this to define whether your success or failure was of what you knew or who you knew.

If the work you are doing is for someone you’ve worked with before, then it’s both who and what you knew; though if the work is for someone you’ve never worked with before but know personally, then it’s who you knew—this is variable dependant on whether they have given the work to you dependant on previous examples of your work, then it becomes a matter of what you knew. This too can be debunked if the work is given to you blind from the recommendation of another, in this case it is neither truly who you know or what you know, but in-fact a passive knowledge of both. I now realise this isn’t as confusing as I once prescribed.

The truthful nature of the statement also relies on the stance from which it is said. For a put out student, struggling to make their way into the industry could exclaim this and it would prove untruthful but poignant through frustration, weighted by a naive understanding of social pyramids. For an art director to say the same statement, from their experience it may prove true for their situation – just as it was false for the student – but not factual overall, because their knowledge of the ‘who’ came from any persons knowledge of the ‘what’.

If you want to believe that it’s not what you know, but who you know then know that you are not such as mad as to cast stones in hope of catching fish, but you are also disregarding how any person can come to know who they know, or what they know.
It’s neither truthful nor a lie, it’s merely an observation of an end point of an extensive process professed with great pessimism. Obviously.