How can you make sure you enjoy working in design?

Last week the DBA’s John Scarrott gave some advice on how to raise spirits at your consultancy during gloomy January. Here designers share their own advice.


“To paraphrase my mum, circa 1980: ‘You don’t know how lucky you are. Think of those poor people in [insert name of beleaguered country here].’ We really don’t know how lucky we are, us designers in our ivory Modernist towers. We could be working on the bins. Or up a crane. Or in the ad industry. 

But, after 20 years in this lark (SFX: creak of weary elbows), just feeling lucky doesn’t cut it for me. It’s vital to stay buoyant, as John rightly points out. I can’t speak for everyone, but this is how Baxter and Bailey strives to keep enjoying the job:

• Keep the practice ambitiously small.
Work in sectors you know and enjoy.

• Be open to sectors you don’t know so well (but might enjoy).

• Don’t do business with baddies.

• Design for good: it feels good.

• Be principled (but choose your battles).

• Fold your enthusiasms into your practice.

• Share your workplace with fun, clever people who do amazing things that you can’t (hello With Associates).

• Know when to stop and go home.”

Matt Baxter, Creative Director, Baxter and Bailey


“The unrelenting pursuit of a magic formula is such a huge waste of energy and emotion. The trick (if there is one) is to find what works for you and pursue that. And when it stops working, because we grow and our expectations change, do something else. The truth is, we can’t all enjoy our jobs all of the time. Sometimes things are wonderful: embrace, celebrate and learn from those times. Sometimes they are tough: learn from those times too. I’ve had the same job for 24 years, I’ve enjoyed it most days. There is no trick; just work hard, stay true to your ethics and values, and be constantly striving to be better at what you do.”

Michael Smith, founding director, Cog Design


“My very simple rule of thumb to keep enjoying my job is getting the balance right between the pleasure and purpose. If you are in deficit on the purpose side and need new business focus on building a new specialism to market – or if you are awash with cash take on some pro bono work. If there is a deficit on the pleasure side it’s time to brainstorm in a new amazing environment or book a fun day of team-building.”

Liz Dunning, partner, Dunning Penney Jones


“The people I work with make it impossible for me NOT to enjoy my job. I surround myself with the best team, work for the best clients and find the hard days aren’t so hard. Sticking to our principles and nurturing relationships ensures the work feels more rewarding, when we can truly see the benefit of our work over the long term. Taking ourselves out of the studio for learning and fun is vital too. And communicating a shared purpose, as John says, is essential. But most important of all is not to take it all too seriously.”

Heidi Lightfoot, creative director, founder, Together Design

Latest articles