@studiocatherine Not in the slightest! Our printers just require a little extra time.
Should design be a slowly considered, thoughtful craft, taken with due care and attention, not something to be rushed and fussed over 12 hours before a deadline?
I love the work I do and wouldn’t want to do anything else. At times, it doesn’t even feel like a job, but when I sit down to think about it, graphic design is still exactly that: a job. It involves hard work and frequent long hours. Sitting in front of a computer screen for 14 hours a day does not make for a healthy lifestyle. A creatively driven career is great, but being expected to switch it on at 9pm every night of the week for the last week, less so. I have been working in design for around five years, give or take, and in this time have worked at a range of studios. For the most part, my career has been a positive and vibrant experience, but I have come across a worrying trend; a culture of late nights and long hours that is openly encouraged. I would even go so far to say that a macho culture has arisen, unexpected in the creative field. To me, there is nothing creative or satisfying about trying to see who can stay awake the longest after a 24-hour stint.
Recently, a film by designer and social activist Carlos Tovar Samanez was brought to my attention. In it, he points out that with the introduction of automation and computerisation, productivity has more than doubled over the past 20 years. This should have led to the development of more jobs; instead we see a global rise in unemployment and an uneven distribution of wealth. This affects the poorest first, with those working in manual jobs losing out the most. It may seem that those in skilled and higher paid jobs are safe, but with average working hours increasing year after year, especially in the US and Europe, those deemed lucky enough to have a job are stretched to the limit. Samanez’s answer is a four-hour day. If an employee can produce as much in four hours as they used to in eight and still get paid the same, then why not work shorter shift patterns, which will ultimately open up more jobs? This got me thinking about the work ethic of certain elements in the design community. Mainly the ease with which designers can slip into a routine of overworking and late nights. We’re a passionate bunch, but is overtime really a prerequisite to the job? Or is it a result of poor management, over demanding clients or the fault of the studios themselves?
With the global trend for increased working hours, it’s only natural that there is a spiral effect on our industry. But the culture seems to have existed for a while, so what’s the cause? There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer. Client demands are often high, which means that the only way to deliver a brief on time is to put in the extra hours. It is also easy to become so entwined in a project that for a couple of weeks it takes over a large proportion of the designer’s time. These times are when the extra hours don’t seem to matter. Passion for the task takes over and, until the job is done to your own and the studio’s exacting standards, it becomes hard to tear oneself from the screen. Personally, I have nothing against this; I love the challenge it presents and while I do not feel it necessary to work 24 hours in a day, it is sometimes the only way to get the job done. When late nights become too frequent, however, and you find yourself working increasingly longer hours each and every day, it is very easy for it to become routine.
I recently had a discussion with someone about this subject, as it was mentioned that, after working for a number of months at a top studio, his only comment was, “I’ve got my dream job, and I hate it!” I find it distressing to hear about designers who finally get a job at their dream agency only to have it soured by unrealistic expectations, and I hope never to be in a similar position. It’s hard to tell whether this is due to the culture of the studio, poor management or down to the demands of the client. Whichever way, employers owe a certain degree of care to their staff. Burnout is worryingly common among designers. What’s worse is it seems to have become slightly taboo to discuss this with your colleagues, let alone with your bosses.
I propose that a culture of late nights may actually be detrimental to the creative process. Working designers too hard is akin to asking them to be creative on tap or perform on demand. Perhaps by being more efficient, within an average eight-hour day, we can remove the need for excessive overtime. Studios and clients need to know that designers are not machines that design at the push of a button, but people with families and friends who, while they love their jobs and feel lucky to work in such an exciting and creative industry, must learn when to call it a day.
I’m sure there are some of you who will disagree. Design is after all more than just a career choice. It’s a way of life and some may say ‘a calling’. I’m not sure what camp I sit in, as I understand the call for extra hours when the need is there and the passion exists, but I fail to see why certain studios insist on an after-hours culture.
Maybe Carlos Tovar Samanez is onto something about a four-hour day. Globalisation has led to brands constantly demanding the next big thing, and they want it yesterday morning. As a result, demands from clients are only ever going to increase, along with the output required from the designer and, ultimately, the studio. I feel as creatives we have a duty to lead by example, rather than pander to the demands of these big brands. Wanting a work/life balance doesn’t mean a designer doesn’t love their job. A four-hour day may not be an entirely realistic proposal, but there is a point about how productive we can be when working within the confines of an irregular working pattern. I am not looking for some great cultural change within studios, just an awareness that designers are capable of great things in a shorter amount of time. Encourage efficiency and healthy competition, but make designers feel appreciated, so they can continue to love the job they do, and most of all go and enjoy the sunshine once in a while.
This article originally appeared on Design Assembly.
From desktop magazine.