Having fun with design is an important part of both work and play. Here's how being a bit silly helps improve my skills.
What’s the saying? All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? Yet sometimes I find that I’m fighting just to keep up with work, and it’s all I ever do. Lately, I’ve tried to lighten up and have been having fun with design.
Work is important. After all, fronting up every day and getting things done is what pays my bills. But just focusing on work, without any light-heartedness, can be really damaging; not only to designers, but to entire teams.
It’s gets more complicated when working on a large or important project. When you’re passionate and care deeply about the outcome, or if there are harsh consequences and penalties for not achieving excellence, the pressure can remove a lot of the joy.
No one is questioning the necessity of having fun while working, but implementing it is another issue. Just how do you bring the silly when the stakes are so high?
Having fun in design
There are a number of ways that joy can be brought back into a design project. And even if the consequences of failure are dire, there’s always room somewhere for a little silly.
Bringing light into the project
One of the ways that I like to try having fun with design is to create fun designs! This is probably the most obvious way of bringing joy back to a project. If there are no rigid rules, or the result is not going to bring a major impact, live a little! Create options that are funny or out of the box.
When making proposals, I always try to have one option that doesn’t follow the conventional rules. Something I’ve designed just because it makes me happy and kinda fits the brief. Even if it’s not the idea that becomes fully developed, I’ve started the process on a light note, and lifted the mood of a otherwise stern and serious project.
Have fun with non-essentials
The most common way I’ve found of having fun with design is to put a twist on the project for mock-ups. Be careful with this, because if the client doesn’t find the joke funny it could seriously hurt the relationship. At work, I like making sample pages of very “generic” products when we test new layouts or versions.
I also like to do this with logos. When I make logos for product ranges, I try to leave the text dynamic (editable) for as long as possible. This makes my job easier when there are multiple names in a range, because I don’t have to try and match the design, I can just type and have it populate correctly. But this also means that I have several files that appear to be branded correctly, that are really just a silly word, or a play on the product name.
A dedicated place for having fun with design
Lets face it, I’m not that lucky all the time. Sometimes there are projects that just need to get done, or they’re so complicated that creating hilarious dummy content might get missed and go to print. When it’s not worth the risk, I turn to my own creative spaces for fun.
I love sharing my carefree creativity. That’s part of the joy of making something for fun. Currently, I have two major outlets for silliness and experimentation. When I want to play with web designs or make a dumb web page, shelleyphant.com is the place to do it. You can even go through and look at the layouts I’ve made.
The other is my daily micro-blog at thedailypursuit.com.au. It’s kinda like my portfolio, if I didn’t care what went into it. And that’s part of the fun. Nothing there is polished. It’s literally just a place to making things to try and improve my skills.
Why so serious?
Yes. There’s a time and place for knuckling down and getting shit done. But I don’t want to be dull like Jack. And when I feel that my designs are starting to look overworked, taking a breather and having fun with design is often the thing I need to kick start better work.