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7 Questions, 7 Designers – Day 3

posted by Matt Ward on Dec 20, 2009.

This is the third in a seven part interview series in which I put a number of design related questions to seven awesome designers including: Chris Spooner, Sneh Roy, Mike Smith, Jeff Finley, Brad Colbow, Grace Smith and Nick La. Come join the discussion!

Here we are on day three of the “7 Questions, 7 Designers” series, in which I throw out a different question each day and compile the answers from seven different designers. There are participants from all over the world, each offering a different and unique perspective on the realm of design.

Every designer approaches their work somewhat differently. So, today, we’re going to take a look at how our different designers spend/organize their days and workflows.

I’m always interested in peeking into other designers’ workflows. Can you give us a general synopsis of a normal day at the “office” (and I use the term lightly, since I know some of you work from home!)? What does your work space look like? Are you neat and organized, or more like me – frequently working amid various piles of paper?

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
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I generally have been getting up around 8am lately (I’d sleep in more but my girlfriend is my alarm clock) and get moving around. Around 9am I check emails and go over twitter and other various websites I read (music related, design related, political related, ect). Around noon I take a break for lunch (sometimes) and then start back up around 1pm. From that point on, it’s either writing articles, designing layouts or coding until the sun goes down. I take a break around 8-10pm in order to watch a couple tv shows with my girlfriend (depending on what day of the week it is) and then get back to work around midnight and stay there until 3-4 am. I have insomnia so I couldn’t sleep earlier than that even if I tried to.

My office is clean most of the time. It’s actually where my dining room would be – I removed the table since it’s just my girlfriend and I living here, there’s no need for it. It’s basically just a shelf and a small desk for the time being. Once spring hits though, I will be putting it into our spare bedroom upstairs and painting/decorating. By that time, I also hope to have a MAC!

Jeff Finley
Jeff Finley
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Go Media’s got a large open warehouse-style office space. However, just over a year ago, we were working out of our President’s 2 bedroom townhouse. We had desks crammed into the kitchen and shoulders where nearly rubbing together it got so tight. We had to make a move and get our own office space.

As far as a typical day, we work 10-6 and it usually starts with email and writing down a list of my important to-dos for the day. I have a lot going on, both design, email, arsenal, and gomediazine. So I’ve got to be on top of my priorities and make sure things get done.

My typical project usually requires illustration or drawing in some way, but here’s a short list of typical things I do during a week. Emails with potential clients, current clients, press, bloggers, fellow designers and “fans” who ask questions about how to do this or that… Design for bands or clothing labels… Arsenal product design like Vector Packs, textures, etc. GoMediaZine admin and management, the occasional blog post, or site maintenance. Arsenal management and marketing the occasional tech fix or site tweak. Planning and brainstorming marketing, new site builds, new products, new clients, and general “what else can we do that’s cool..”

Brad Colbow
Brad Colbow
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Have you ever seen those posts where designers show off how cool their offices are? Well lets just say my office will never be in one of those. I keep things pretty organized but I do have cords running everywhere and it’s a little cramped so things get cluttered fast.

My workflow changes from time to time. How I approach a site depends on a lot of things like the timeline, budget and what I think is going to get me and the client the best end product. If the project has a lot of interaction and the client doesn’t have a clear vision of how it will all fit together I’ll spend a lot of time working on wireframes first. If it’s a large site and an untested idea I might team up with someone and do some user research first. Recently on a site I skipped wireframing and tried putting together mood boards since the site was just a standard ecommerce layout. The content and flow of the site was straight forward but the look and feel was up in the air. The workflow and the tools you use come down to what your goals are and the best way to achieve them.

Grace Smith
Grace Smith
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I usually plan my tasks each evening (using TaskPaper) for the next day, this enables me to evaluate exactly what i need to accomplish and means i have a clear picture of how my day will look. I find it helps keep me focused and efficient.

A typical day means having breakfast and a read through my RSS Feeds (in Google Reader) and morning news at 8am. I also use this time to go through my emails so I’m ready to start work around 9. I work through my prioritised tasks until around 10.30 when i have a morning break (at least one cup of tea is involved in this!) I also use this time to return phone calls or contact clients. I work through to 1pm when i stop for lunch and then finish at 4.30pm. I usually leave the office for lunch and meet with friends/family as i feel it helps re-fuel my creative energy for the afternoon.

I finish earlier than most because i like to take 20/30 minutes to plan my next day, prepare invoices and generally tie up any loose ends from the day’s work. My work throughout the day is usually a combination of design and development work (in Photoshop/Coda/Mamp etc) mixed with communications, for example in Skype and Basecamp. This is a typical day but of course every day is different, as i do consulting work i may be out of the office for most of the day or there may be client meetings scheduled throughout the day but it serves as general overview of my day to day routine.

In the evening i would spend time on my own blog, writing posts and brainstorming for future posts/series. Of course, I would also be on Twitter as it’s an amazing resource for creatives and I have some great tweeps who I chat with. I try to keep both the evenings and weekends free of any work related activities and use my time on personal projects instead as I find it’s important to set work boundaries and keep a good work/life balance.

I like to have an organised, neat workspace although at times near the end of the week it may not always look like that!

Nick La
Nick La
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To be honest, I don’t have an office nor even a desk at home. I don’t like to work at home or the office. I particularly like to work outside such as tea/coffee shops (eg. Starbucks). I get inspiration and ideas by working in different environment and seeing fresh people. Read this article to find out why I like to work outside of my home. At home, I’m using my dinning table as my desk. I do everything with my 17″ MacBook, so I can live without a desk.

Am I a neat person? It depends. When I’m focusing on a project, my desk is usually very messy and piled with papers and notes. I clean them up when I’m done or necessary.

Chris Spooner
Chris Spooner
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As someone who works from home I have a small office setup in a designated room of the house. My work space comprises of a glass corner desk, on which sits my MacBook and Cinema Display. I also use a Wacom Bamboo tablet, which was great to test the waters, but I’m now considering moving up to the Intuos3 model.

Check out my workspace

A typical day involves a short commute upstairs after breakfast. Then I’ll work on a mix of client and personal blog related projects. Right now I’m clearing my schedule for some upcoming changes to my personal sites. I’ll check emails just once or twice a day, which really helps boost productivity. I’ll also spend quick moments throughout the day to check TweetDeck for new and interesting design links and topics.

Sneh Roy
Sneh Roy
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I’m always interested in peeking into other designers’ workflows. Can you give us a general synopsis of a normal day at the ‚office‚ (and I use the term lightly, since I know some of you work from home!)? What does your work space look like? Are you neat and organized, or more like me ‚ frequently working amid various piles of paper?

  1. Finally wake up at 6:45am after having woken up 2-3 times in the course of the night by the boys. Freshen up and head straight to the computer for email, twitter and website up-time.
  2. Fuel up on coffee and switch to mom mode. Pack lunch, check twitter, reply to emails, send kids to school.
  3. Cram 6 hours of work in 2 hours while the still-at-home-little-one naps.
  4. Spend the day working in the yard, checking twitter, cooking, replying to emails, prepping and photographing dishes for the food blog, feeding hungry boys, chatting online with client about project, taking the bus to school and back, retweeting interesting stuff on twitter, building lego trucks, thinking about the new logo concept, sketching that noodle and carrot cartoons I have been developing for a children’s book series, building a train track, sending more emails, tweeting, mentally formulating my next blog post.
  5. Once it is 6:00pm my official work day begins when Nick takes the boys off my hands. Till 11:00pm I work on client projects, my blogs and websites.

I have a big desk that houses my two computers, my sketch books, a lamp that I never switch on, an army of notes and post-its, my tiny 2002 6x4inch Wacom tablet, some strange lego contraption my son gifts me on most mornings, food and design magazines, my color index book, my iPhone and ipod, lots of pencils and erasers. It is not a disaster zone as I seem to have plenty of space to throw open a few books and start sketching or writing and I organize everything neatly every few days. But it stays neat and organized for all of 15 minutes. I do like the the comfort zone of a tiny bit of clutter and asymmetry.

There are definitely some interesting ideas here. I’m really interested in Nick’s idea of working outside of the house! What about the rest of you? Do you have similar days to any of our designers? Or similar work flows? Drop a comment to let us know. Also, be sure to check back over the next four days for more awesome insights from these seven great minds!

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Also from Echo Enduring Media:

An Unfolding Tale

About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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Dec 20, 2009

Mike says:

I have a 7-5 design job that I go to during the week. I have a nice big desk and good lighting.

When I work at home I have a small, uncomfortable desk, the lighting sucks, and my chair is comfy, but completely unadjustable. Luckily I have a nice big 24″ iMac to work on.

Nick La mentions working on a 17″ laptop! I don’t think I could work on something that small for very long, I would go insane. Sometimes my 24″ seems small!

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