We designers may look like we’re playing, but we’re hard at work

Design Bridge’s Anna Hamill looks at why playtime is essential for designers who want to keep their creativity flowing.

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My first week back at work this year was a week-long inspiration workshop that got myself and eight other people away from our desks and out, absorbing the city.

We went to galleries, a local London distillery, a dance performance at Sadler’s Wells and a storytelling gig at Rich Mix. We wandered around Lumiere London and admired the installations that magically lit the streets of the city. We took a (very cold!!) speedboat up the Thames. We got our hands dirty painting, and even crafting ideas out of food. We had a sound therapist come into the office and treat us to a meditative ‘sound bath’.

We talked about ideas instead of executions. And we had fun – a word that I often fail to use when I describe January.

A week of hard work

This might have looked like playtime, but it was actually a week of hard work that did three things:

  • Pushed us out of our comfort zones;
  • Forced us to think about a number of conceptual ideas in a deeper and more original way; and
  • Completely gelled us as a team.

Three things we never would have accomplished whilst sitting at a desk. Three things that are absolutely vital to creating work that will resonate with people around the world in a truly compelling way.

This is something we often do in a much smaller scale at the start of a project (a day or a few hours instead of a week), just to make sure we’re not defaulting to the easy answer. And we often get asked whether or not it’s necessary.

Restocking creative stores

The thing about working in a creative industry is we tend to pour our heart and soul into projects in a way that’s very personal, and different to what other professions require.

To keep ourselves from being generic, superficial or predictable – things nobody wants to see when it comes time for the first creative presentation – we need to get out and restock our creative stores. Disrupt our routines, and experience the world and the dizzying speed with which it moves. Learn from the great artists who have shaped culture, and from those people who are so cutting edge they will always remain on the cusp of society.

As people continue to expect more genuine, innovative brands and experiences, we need to become more genuine and innovative in how we approach work, and how we use our time. Don’t spend an hour searching for the perfect image – spend fifteen minutes taking it instead. Don’t just default to the fifty-page research report; supplement it by talking to an actual person about a category or brand. Use Google to find out what’s going on – and then go instead of reading about it. Think like an entrepreneur, live like a tourist, get away from your desk, and have fun along the way.

Charles Eames famously said, ‘Take your pleasure seriously’. What better way to kick-off a new year?


Anna Hamill is senior brand strategist at Design Bridge.

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