Meredith Davis | Essays

The Cult of ASAP

I belong to an AIGA Education online discussion group. It's a place where those of us involved with teaching design can ask questions and share answers about things like assignments, reading lists and accreditation. There have been some spirited exchanges, but none as spirited and sustained as a recent discussion on this subject: What's your policy on late student work?

I watched with interest the back and forth on this issue: strict, lenient, zero tolerance, open-ended, everything in between, with contributions from educators all over the country. And, honestly, I was astounded. This is only one of many classroom management issues that faculty deal with. It wouldn't be high on my own list of national problems, but there you have it. If the exchange provided some useful models for addressing immediate concerns, then it served its purpose.
What I think is below the water level of this iceberg, however, is the larger issue of the culture we establish in design schools. Design faculty point with great pride to the long hours and last minute rushes of adrenalin that characterize student performance in design; you don't get that kind of output from an English major. New students arrive at school already acculturated in the lore of the design studio; late nights, grueling schedules of deliverables, and stiff competition. We reminisce about our own lost sleep as students or professionals and defend this culture by saying that it matches the demands of practice.

Well, unfortunately, it does.

The expectations that we put on students carry over into the workplace. Before long, many designers burn out by promising unrealistic turnaround on projects, working at levels that don't accommodate a balanced life, and closing down any time for reflection on the work they're doing and on the world around them. Some professions reasonably respond to crises; I recently had an appendectomy and my surgeon had just finished dinner at 11:00 when he was called back to the hospital to perform the operation. I'm thankful he was willing to work overtime. But I would hardly call a logo or website design an emergency. As a profession, we have taken the concept of "service" to levels more typically accorded to trades; if my basement is flooding, I want that plumber NOW!
I believe as educators, we need to consider how we introduce students to reflective practice. How we actually slow down and pace the physical execution of work in order to design smart. How we teach students to find the intellectual challenge within the assignment that will sustain them when, as professionals, they think they just can't face one more 4 x 9 brochure. How we teach them and their clients to value the research component of a project just as they do the billable hours in form-making on the computer. How we ask them to connect what they're doing in design to things people really care about.
As I attend design conferences and speak with faculty around the country, the constant lament I hear is that there is just too much to teach in a four-year degree program; that the addition of software, strategy, theory, history, and professional practice have overloaded an already full curriculum. Having taught and practiced for more than 30 years, however, I can confirm that students produce a lot more stuff with technology than they ever did through traditional comping and mechanical production methods. But what we ask them to do with all that extra comping time that the computer eliminated is to make more of the same. And the response to all those new requirements (history, theory, etc.) is "curriculum by accrual;" we add new content to an existing structure and pedagogy that we're just not willing to let go of or even challenge. No wonder we feel overwhelmed by the content demands of a design education and no wonder students feel like they're churning out proof of some fictional mastery.
We have to teach smart. We have to look at trends whose trajectories are likely to define practice for students across a fifty-year career. We have to challenge traditional paradigms of design education and invent new ones. We have to integrate content across courses and scaffold experiences so that students don't start over with every project or every course. Not all new content requires its own turf. And we have to value the reflective component of design as much as we do the active one. There are some great models for doing this and where they are successful, life is less frenetic; students are engaged in producing a body of work, in understanding big ideas that are at the core of the discipline and the practice. In other words, they behave like students, not trainees, and their output and mastery build across time, not in some last minute rush to the finish. 
This is not to say we need to disconnect from the demands of practice or that deadlines don't matter. Like it or not, there is an unforgiving world outside of school and changing the nature of practice is a long-term project. And I do believe that schools can model the successful kinds of existing practices in which we hope our students will be employed.  But a pattern of late work is usually a symptom of something else and you don't fix the problem by simply treating the symptom with policies. Now there's a discussion we could have!

Posted in: Education

Comments [36]

This is a lengthy response, but how can I help it. You provide such a good argument, and address some real concerns. Prof. Davis, I am pleased to see you offer this editorial, knowing how much you've contributed to design education during your tenure. This 'reflective practice' or time spent examining the work could do wonders for designers. For one, it would reduce burnout. I know too many designers who left the discipline after 5-8 years of practice. These were award-winning individuals, who decided to make furniture instead. Or teach art at the high school / college level. Or design gardens. Those are noble endeavors, but they left design because of the long hours, stress, and rigors they submitted themselves to. It didn't have to be that way. Moreover, demonstrating that designers are 'thinking people too' instead of assembly line construction workers, will elevate the practice as a whole. Yes, this has been a topic for years, and the entire 'Design as Strategy' section from LC2 collected some fine criticisms. But this is expands beyond the walls of design, many other domains suffer from the bigger, better, faster, more demands. The overworked. The long hours. The overwhelmed. Doctors, bus drivers, cashiers, post-office workers, lawyers, designers, Wal-Mart greaters, teachers, movie directors, and students too, they all put so much pressure on themselves to succeed, and will work how ever long it takes to achieve the admiration they crave. As a culture, we're afraid to say no. Students rarely have this choice when we assign them long-term projects, or assignments that demand immediacy and late hours. But, if anything, we should teach them to manage those tasks under pressure, while educating them about how to choose between rewarding work. How to identify overwork. The first lecture I give beginning students during week 2 is the 'why I cut-off my thumb' lecture, about how as an undergraduate student, I went for 5 sleepless nights preparing my final materials for portfolio review, graduation, and entry into the work force. I put too much on my plate. I did not plan well. I was exhausted. And then I cut the tip of my thumb off with an x-acto blade. Since that time, I've slowed down, and I encourage my students to do the same. And for god's sake, get some sleep too.

A very interesting post-thank you Professor Meredith Davis.

Excellent article. Just as good as your presentation when you came to Arizona State Univ. last year.

Timing is everything!
Meredith, I would love to hear you speak at the AIGA Design Conference in October, but I will be teaching. Last June after school was over, I flew down to the HOW Design Conference in Atlanta, GA. Now you can download the videos of the conference at this website. HOW Design Conference
(Chip Kidd, Steff Geissbuhler, Kit Hinrichs, Armin Vit, Matthew Richmond & Thomas Romer from the Chopping Block and more are listed for download.)

Will the AIGA offer the conference videos for sale?
I think it would help all the Design educators out there if we were able to download the videos.

Thank you.
Carl W. Smith

> But I would hardly call a logo or website design an emergency.

In a rosy pink world, this article is great; but for any practicing designer, the reality is that this is a muddy brown world. And with the sentence above is where the article falters. Of course a logo or a web site are not emergencies, specially compared to a flood or surgery. But these design projects don't happen in a vacuum, a logo or web site design are responses to a larger imperative with financial and reputable repercussions to the client who may have to adhere to a strict timeline or budget or, even worse, an ROI - and if you've ever been waiting for an annual report to dry so that it can go to binding so that it can drop by the fiscal deadline, or face thousands of dollars in fines, then the intensity of a graphic design project is hard to ignore.

And the demands of the workplace - that trickle down to education - are not necessarily self-imposed or self-flagelation, they are the result of an unavoidable reality: we have many clients, with many projects, with usually overlapping schedules. Unless a designer can live off one client, with one project, with the most considered schedule, our existing professional dymanic is simply the way it goes. Anyone with any modicum of ambition will strive to do more, to do better, and you can't do this without sacrificing time, energy, and god forbid, "life".

So count me in in the camp of those that perpetuate this "problem". Get a 9-to-5 bank teller position if you want something less demanding.

Surely this is symptomatic of our culture in general. Armin guesses than bank tellers don't suffer from ASAPism; I wonder. Somewhere in the world I feel sure that there's a similar discussion raging among surgical residents, journalists, attorneys, or even emergency plumbers, that ends with "if you want something less demanding, go be a graphic designer or something."
Jonathan Hoefler

Thank you so much for posting this. It describes so many of my feelings as a student and worker in the business of design. I always thought that a certain aspect of art was missing from my work, and you've put it more precisely. That missing piece is reflection and consideration and value to research and the bigger picture. I am actively discouraged from thinking of those things, pressed only for the next .pdf file. Again, thanks for this post!

Jonathan, yes, we could argue about this in an Escherian loop full of irony. But I doubt we learn anything from that.

I really enjoyed reading this article. I would like to have been taught by someone like you at college. I've just graduated and am now working as a book designer at an illustrated publishers here in the UK. The more experienced designers that I work with are great at helping me continue to learn on the job, but one of the things that I struggle with is that so much of what I do tends to be done in a rush. I don't generally get the time to research, experiment and reflect that, actually, did form a major part of the way I was encouraged to approach projects at college. So I suppose my experience is that in the real world people tend to want things fast, and the key seems to be to go in earlier, to stay late, or just to get faster myself. Because if I have an idea in my head, I have to get it out there quickly enough, and make it good enough for people to say 'okay'. If not, then whatever default thing I did first tends to get accepted. It must be alright, because people seem quite happy with it. But I think, I could have done something so much BETTER, if I'd had the chance. And I'm starting to wonder how much of the design I see around isn't some carefully considered response, but something that was flung together expediently to meet a deadline.
Kate Slotover

I have two proposals (one small, one huge), one design guide, and a couple of stationery pieces due tomorrow. Two more proposals due later this week, among a ton of other work...

Yet I had to take a couple of minutes to stop and read your piece (and now leave a comment).

Like others who have commented, I think this is something that's going on with the world in general. Many other profesions that don't deal with life, death or plumbing seem to put as much pressure on people (have you had the chance to meet people in the field of public relations?). And so it seems to me that it is a "modern times" problem. But what it really is, I think, is an "information age" problem. As we make the world we live in a faster, more efficient and even quicker-changing machine, we —as organic beings that need pause and reflexion by nature— lag behind.

Of course, I don't think we should "slow down the world", but instead learn to not take promptness so seriously in each and every aspect of the human experience.

Anyway, I must get back to work, lest I miss my self-imposed unrealistic deadlines. Thank you for a good article and helping spark an even better discussion.

Armin - Been there, done that (including Fortune 500 annual reports for many years). And I have to tell you, teaching and research are no less demanding. But the point I'm trying to make is that I don't think these behaviors are sustainable, either in practice or in education. There are enormous challenges facing the design profession; unprecedented complexity in the scale of problems that requires new work in interdisciplinary teams; rapid technological change under which users are more and more invested in the construction of messages and artifacts; and the need for new knowledge/research to support design decisions in a climate of greater accountability. All problems that require more than just doing a good job. If we worry only about getting the next project out the door, we'll find ourselves in a reconfigured world for which few are prepared. And if we tell our best and brightest that there's little room for thinking about the larger context of what they do, we will have made a poor argument for the value of design.
meredith davis

Meredith has put forth a proposal that seeks to undermine normative attitudes towards unacceptable labour traits. It is not designed to assist those already entrenched in the law of economic doctrine, but those who are yet to come (e.g. students). It is long term strategy, created to counter the destruction of the private and public boundary-between 'home' and work. This erosion has been greatly exasperated by the turn towards an information economy.

No longer is work constrained by material concerns-the factory has transformed from the physical space to the relational space. We produce information-'0's and 1's'-that is instantly codified, infinitely repeatable, copyable, and transferrable across the globe in a matter of moments. Ownership (read domination) is enforced through recourse to intellectual property rights (© etc.). The boss has all but disappeared and we are lead to believe we are free, albeit governed by the dictate of market forces.

But in the old system it was possible to demand higher pay, better health conditions, sick pay etc and the possibility of a union strike was a real counter balancing force to the pursuit of wealth. When we are reduced to a professional title, working longer hours than we desire, when family and children suffer as a result of our absence, when are health fails us due to unrelenting pressure, when we're so isolated and fragmented that we're unable to form unions-how will we resist the onslaught of ever increasing demands? Meredith has suggested a route that could form part of a wider strategy-and for that, this post is most welcomed, but above all needed.

> If we worry only about getting the next project out the door, we'll find ourselves in a reconfigured world for which few are prepared. And if we tell our best and brightest that there's little room for thinking about the larger context of what they do

Meredith, I guess I just fail to see how getting a project out the door trumps thinking about the larger context of what we do. I don't think it's black or white. One informs the other.

And it's the best practitioners AND students that can sustain the demands of the profession while thinking/feeling/understanding design and people.

I am both a dedicated design educator and the co-owner of a small-to-midsize design practice that has to, on occasion, get a Fortune 500 company annual report out the door. I can somewhat sympathize with Armin's viewpoint — what practitioner has not rolled their eyes when the fresh-eyed grad overly waxes poetic about the proposed intent of their work rather than just doing the work itself? Nonetheless, I'm with Meredith 100%.

Lately, I've felt that too often designers (and thus the design blogs) enage in snake-eating-its-own-tail, myopic discussions. I personally think we need MORE posts like Meredith's. Posts that encourage some reflection that goes beyond what we think of Barnbrook's new monograph or the latest brand makeover. (Though I would like to note that Design Observer, out of the many blogs I read, seems to avoid this pitfall the most.)

I've always felt the purpose of higher education, regardless of its focus, is not to produce skilled, head-down employees. But to teach students a methodology that allows them to keep learning after school, and then be critical of the world around them and self-reflective about the choices they make, no matter how large or small these choices might be. This has nothing to do with how hard someone works, how they handle that looming deadline, the amount of projects they juggle, or the size of their ambitions and the lengths they will go to achieving them. It's simply about stopping to look beyond these concerns every so often — to better our practices and to better design, surely, but to also better ourselves, and (dare I say) better this world.

Eric Heiman

Thanks for bringing this up Meredith.
I am a designer and teacher presently taking time out to work on a new approach to foundation strategy. I am also, like 25 percent of any population and 60 percent of creative people, an introvert. I need time to reflect in order to remain "sane" and creative. One solution to the ASAP problem is to take on less work; of course, that means reduced cash flow. Perhaps the creative crowd needs to find a meditative way to recharge it's self during the day. Another way, is to simplify the design process it's self; make it easier to produce better results in less time. That I believe is a foundation issue. Third, as others have mentioned, the technology chase started in the neolithic and now at a break neck pace, is indeed a cause for real concern as nothing and no one has any control of the pace technology. It is a runaway train with a full head of steam on open track. The human - technology interface seems to be one of increasing robotic behavior on the part of humans. One approach to this problem has been to send kids to school 12 hours a day until they are "one with" their systems. Lightning fast humans; sort of a "Borg" thing. Not something to look forward to.

Aedh, its vital we do not confuse technological possibilities with social concerns-we deny our political agency when we do so. Technology is controlled by a number of regulations that precede its capability. E.g. Clearly its possible to drive the wrong way down a one-way road, but doing so runs counter to the legislative predicate. The driver of a car is required to follow a highway code not a technological one. Thus, it is not a matter of technology defining the outcome, but a network of legal, social, and normative requirements.
These binding mechanisms are in place to limit amoral questions turning into immoral answers. The fact our lives appear so fraught and uncontrollable is not down to the speed of technology, but the utilisation of those procedures by market considerations. The only entity gaining, from the increased work load, loss of personal time etc., is the economic technology we call capital. That mechanism now regulates much of our world, and one way of retrieving control is by implementing strategic programs-such as the one suggested by Meredith. In short-we should define the limits, that define us.

Designers, ask yourselves, how long are you prepared to stand around for?

Having taught and practiced for more than 30 years, however, I can confirm that students produce a lot more stuff with technology than they ever did through traditional comping and mechanical production methods.

Slower processes for students 30 years ago must have meant slower processes in the work world, right? I often try to imagine my life without the current technology, but having the same absurd deadlines that I somehow manage to meet daily (often at the cost of good design).

This must mean one of two things: either 30 years ago designers were constantly missing deadlines - or - 30 years ago, deadlines were dramatically less absurd.

I'm going to make an educated guess here and say that clients must have been giving designers proportionally more time to complete projects. Design hasn't become more of an emergency. Clients have just realized that with new technologies, they can demand more out of us, in a lot less time. And it doesn't help that anyone with Photoshop on their computer thinks they can do exactly what we do in half the time.

I don't see this problem going away until our clients somehow learn to respect what we do. Wouldn't that be fabulous?

Jenny, certainly respect can be earned, but we should ask ourselves, at what cost?

30 years ago many of the 'clients' of graphic designers were either local, or at least national (international companies had specific methods for communicating to differing identities). The technological/social/economic/cultural transformation known as globalisation has reorganised many of those relationships. Certain aspects of that procedure have disrupted the ability for the fractured underclass (in this post we're referring to designers, but the story is far more widespread) to organise their lives. We are governed less and less by particular historical/cultural structures and are having our very commonality seized from us. Time is becoming standardised, and we are told to we need to be on call/available all the time.

The result of this corrosive effect is a weakening of the very commonality necessary to defeat it-increasingly our colleagues become our competitors, our friends our enemy, in the perceived battle for survival. This problem of atomisation and negation of shared values is not design specific, but affects us all-that includes the client.

Meredith and others have proposed ways out of this, but they need our support. Let's stop painting ourselves into a corner, and demand more from our lives.

I'm a nc central grad but took two type courses at state so I'm aware of the culture there. They run a tight ship and meredith knows of what she speaks. Design's a labor of love but there's always room for change. Bank telling seems pretty stressful to me...I'll stick with design.
rich babiarz


Lovely piece.
Alan Manley

While completing a client's 4 x 9 brochure on time may not be as critically urgent as an appendectomy, there are certainly lots of clients out there who think it is! They might even have a point--distributing their brochure on a particular schedule may well have important implications for the success of their business. It's just really not life and death, is it? The seriousness with which many clients take schedules is probably something students do need to get a sense of in design school. And that's probably a good reason for design educators to require deadlines. But, the culture of all-nighters and last-minute work in both school and professional practice is simply not very healthy. I graduated Philadelphia College of Art in 1982, and I specifically remember the instructors there counseling us to get some sleep, because we couldn't do our best work under states of exhaustation. Even so, there were still plenty of students who took great pride in the number of all nighters they had "pulled."

Of course, you make your make your bed and you lie in it. If we take on projects that have too short a deadline, then we're going to be stuck with it. Stuck with pulling all nighters and doing last minute work that might not be up to par. I think the real challenge is to educate clients: "No, I'm sorry, it is not possible to meet that deadline, the project simply requires more time. Here's why and here's a reasonable, doable schedule for your project." Maybe sensible scheduling is a skill students should learn in design school! I suppose design instructors could foster this skill by not overloading students, and not demanding unreasonable deadlines.
Rob Henning

Thanks for the very thoughtful piece, Meredith! The design experience as a last minute flurry of creativity and all-nighters should be the exception, not the rule -- like the emergency surgery. The design education experience as a stressful, confidence crushing, right-of-passage should be eliminated. The fact is design expertise can bring clarity, understanding, excitement, and momentum to a project with a normal level of professional effort.

Educators who argue that there is too much to teach are thinking about education in a very old-fashioned way. I did some research supported by the NSF about bringing concepts of design to an undergraduate engineering curriculum. Engineering faculty had the same concern -- there is too much to teach -- we can't add design, too! Yet, I repeatedly heard in my interviews with students and professionals that during their engineering studies, there was often a moment of clarity or insight that one professor provided that made the rest of the class easy to learn. Engineering curricula could eliminate quite a bit of existing content and make room for a different kind of teaching -- one that ties concepts back to the real world and professional practice.

Educators should focus on making these kinds of connections with students. It seems to involve posing interesting questions, introducing concepts, and exploring real world examples. The disconnected and highly abstracted nature of engineering education has made it unlearnable.

This semester I am reinventing our graduate foundation course in product design. I use to teach it as a mini-product design degree with a lot of content and project work each week -- stuff it in! In the new format, we spend time with product design concepts and examples in the morning, exploring them deeply, connecting students questions and experiences with them. In the afternoon, we spend our time learning how to embody ideas visually and tangibly. I am eliminating the weekly stress that comes from night-before project work crunch. I've seen no evidence that this improves their ability to practice design professionally, while I have seen it wear them down physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

I have no multi-week design problems planned for them -- they simply don't have the perspective or skills to succeed. Yet, my hypothesis and goal is that at the end of this course they will understand the range of concepts involved in product design, be able to assess and have better design ideas for any given design situation, and have the drawing and prototyping skills to embody new ideas. This is a foundation that will serve them well and allow them to begin their own design projects in the next year.
Chris Conley

As someone else mentioned, most of us being creatives, are introverts. Traditionally introverts are not given to confrontation or speaking out of turn. What some of you are proposing on the other hand is assertiveness which flies in the face of introversion. Therefore you get the situation wherein client demands a job be done in an unreasonable timeline, what you get is designer not standing up for him/herself and agreeing and cursing the client the entire way. An instant passive-aggressive relationship forms and no one is happy. It's simple. Learn to say no and double the time you think it will take because you rarely if ever factor in client bumbling or even your own.

Back in the days, I was expected to finish briefs that were delivered on Friday afternoon for Monday AM. I received no respect, and no thanks. When I finally said no, stuck to it, and kept saying no to working weekends, or ridiculous hours... No, I didn't lose my job, it actually turned into a more friendly working atmosphere and the directors started to 'ask' instead of 'expect' and became 'thankful'. Basically: if you act like a bitch, you'll be treated as one.

N Miller

Adam Greenfield in his 2006 'Everyware: the dawning age of ubiquitous computing' has a great anecdote about how developers handle this same issue and some of the problems and reasons behind the 'cult of ASAP' from outside of graphic design proper.

He explains, firstly, the so-called "Iron Triangle" Constraint in the story of a response he got from a "stereotypically crusty engineer" to his request that said engineer build a conduit between "a Web site's shopping cart and its warehouse inventory control system".

The old engineer scrawled a quick triangle on the whiteboard, hastily labeled the vertices FAST, GOOD and CHEAP, and said "Pick any two."

Greenfield then goes on to explain how "the more complex the product or service at hand, the more likely it will have a misguided process of 'value engineering'", which, though it has its roots in legitimate desires to get rid of redundancies and over-design, is "disastrous when applied to IT development and other types of more complex problems"--problems that are only getting more and more complex in "orders of magnitude from achieving acceptable quality in a Web site, let alone a full-blown desktop application".

Anyway, it's interesting to see the same problem manifested (and lamented) in other design disciplines (in this case, design of pervasive information systems); it's also, I think, important to think about it from more than just a point of view from the next brochure or Web site project to knock on one's door.

The issue is larger than that; and it has serious implications as the projects we graphic designers are commissioned to create also have become more and more complex.

Recently I have thought a lot about my recent education and those that student designers are working through currently.

I have sort of given up on any school effectively being able to educate a designer I could hire and now have turned my attention to how I can affect their education and mold a better designer after I hire them. I know that doesn't sound revolutionary, but i'm honestly interested in educating them and giving them the proper and actual work experience. Not just throwing them to the fire completely.

Armin does make a good point, but I agree with Meredith our educational processes need revisiting. The building on top of prior lessons is just presumed to happen by the majority of staff out there. When its not its blamed on students being lazy or uninterested.

Not so design related, but I remember having a German teacher in tenth grade who worked wonders with our class. The previous year was a joke, where students were just taking over the classroom, because the teacher could neither engage or control the class.

The next year my teacher not only showed interest(rather than aloof annoyance), but inspired people to want to learn. To gain respect he stood at the door before each class and said hello and greeted every student as they walked in. Long story shorter nearly 80% of the class had carried an A average the entire quarter and it was because he married interest in his students with content. This helped me sustain enough interest that I went to Germany to study a few years later.

Design education is not just a part-time job serving at the local pub. In my opinion, practitioners need to use the same analytical skills we are saying students needs to self edit and decide where they are effective and where they are not. At this point, the only rules in the classroom should be about content and type. The rest regarding proper education practices should be forgotten and reinvented for this generation and for future.

When i get my opportunity I know I will.


I'm all for giving students more time to reflect, but here's something radical that I do in my classroom: start class on time. By not waiting the usual 10-15 minutes into the hour to get class started, I suggest to students that everyone's time is valuable, including their own.

If I could gather together all the time I have wasted waiting for classes or workplace meetings to begin, I would have time enough for a second career—and much reflection.
Ellen Lupton

Nice article but I must take exception (I must! I must!) to this: Design faculty point with great pride to the long hours and last minute rushes of adrenalin that characterize student performance in design; you don't get that kind of output from an English major.

Um. Having been both an English major and then a Chemical Engineering major, I have to say: Tcha. Long hours? Check! Last minute rushes of adrenalin in order to produce a miracle [excellent looking paper, actually succesful experiments, etc]? Check!

What you wrote describes college in general, not just design classes.


I believe as educators, we need to consider how we introduce students to reflective practice.

For better or for worse, in graphic design (as in ink-on-paper) the "machine" has simply eaten the "reflection" mentioned by Prof. Davis. The instant results offered by the computer have, ironically and efficiently, eliminated any constructive down time. For today's student, the screen and the physical paper are equivalent. Ink on paper allows for reflection, RGB pixels do not. Understanding that the computer is NOT just a tool is the first step, and in this graphic design may indeed be very different from say, English literature.
Pino Trogu

Thank you for this lively discussion, Meredith. As a designer who has learned the hard way about the effects on my sanity and my home life through working insane hours, I appreciate you bringing this topic to light and looking out for our next generations of designers. I am now working in-house for a company that values people (and their time), and I see how it's possible to do great design for great products within normal working hours. When your company places importance on people, time, and personal growth, you thrive. Design studios have the ability to turn down work for any number of reasons, so make time management one of them. If your clients demand insane schedules, educate them on the realities of their desires—or find new clients. The choice lies in the hands of the people who sign on with the clients.

Thank you for this lively discussion, Meredith. As a designer who has learned the hard way about the effects on my sanity and my home life through working insane hours, I appreciate you bringing this topic to light and looking out for our next generations of designers. I am now working in-house for a company that values people (and their time), and I see how it's possible to do great design for great products within normal working hours. When your company places importance on people, time, and personal growth, you thrive. Design studios have the ability to turn down work for any number of reasons, so make time management one of them. If your clients demand insane schedules, educate them on the realities of their desires—or find new clients. The choice lies in the hands of the people who sign on with the clients.

Meredith, I would love to hear more about this concept of "reflective practice." You said there are "some great models for doing this," and I'd love to know what they are and where I can find out more about them. Can you please let me know more of what you are thinking? Thanks!

In all the discussion about time management it comes down to business, which is not taught in design school.Pricing has a wondrous effect on deadlines and overnighters.Example: as a young designer working for a design shop indebted to Procter & Gamble,we were given the lowly job of designing Prell Shampoo coupons.Yesterday was the deadline for the "Finished art" given to me
after getting the job from an Art Director who
kept me cooling my heels for over 3hrs.Upon return to the office to do the work my Creative Director quickly called the Art Directo and gave the hourly cost for such quick turnaround,we were given a week to deliver the work.Deadlines are important but many times there is wiggle room which business sense seems to find.
dennis staples

Magnificent commentary Meredith, thank you.

Albeit I agree Design Education should embed a reality about it's industry into the curriculum, "the industry" has its equal part to play, on this quest for the perfect student-designer transition.

Over the past 2 months, I have awoken to many emails from one of the most creative design talents I have come across in the past 4 years. Her email's are not that of an excited graduate however, but that of a crushed one; the pressure taken to achieve (at speed) and compete (against the competition) have completely destroyed her belief in design. As a "Design Thinker", she feels at bottom of the pile and shoved in the corner, made to feel a "failure" for not being (or wanting to be) another Mac Wizz-Kid. This upsets me further, as it seems ever consistent with many young creatives I speak with.

Whilst studying, we stay up all night (all week in many cases), to achieve the best idea(s); why? because that is what we are taught to do. We are educated that design solutions come from thorough research and plenty of reflective time and patience, and are ultimately taught to be idea centric. The problem top graduates have then when they hit the industry, is finding out the industry is looking for plenty of technical operators.

Design is a love, it has to be - if you fall out of love, you remain bitter. In its entirety, this ever continues to validate my over enthusiastic passion for design. Design is not perfect, and if we continue to teach our students that perfectionism is the only solution, we are quite simply looking toward a future design industry - entirely created by technology and not by imagination.
Kate Andrews

Talk about stirring up a hornet's nest!
There is a place for us all - the reflective people and the pressure lovers. But each of us needs to identify where we fit best and then keep looking until we find the environment that suits us. Easier said than done? Possibly. Worth it? Yes - job satisfaction improves when you are doing what you love in an environment you love.
And yes, I have worked in environments that don't suit me. I have worked as a bank teller (and several other things too). And I have also forgotten to keep the home / work balance.
No matter what type of designer you are, take care of yourself!!!!

Dirt cheap computers, free software, oodles of smart, desperate people who have been rationalized out of this or that professional career (or never broke into one), and a culture that devalues the intellectual aspect of design, and regards Flash as "new creative", have made design a cheap commodity indeed, and a cottage industry that pays little more than Walmart or Macdonalds, for probably most practitioners. It really has become a rat race.

How many 'respectable' design shops hire contractors at shamefully low wages, to 'stay competitive'?

It seems that professional organizations are powerless and irrelevant in this industry...
David Smith

Jobs | December 11