Ask any graphic designer where they spend the majority of their time, and I guarantee you they’ll say “in front of a computer.” So much of our work is computer based, and in the fast-paced world of advertising it can seem easier to just skip over the physical prep work and go straight to the screen. But getting away from your computer can have huge benefits—and feel like a mini-vacation within your workday.It can help you break up your routine, feel more energized and alert during the day, and be more creative and passionate about your work. So if you’re feeling a little computer numb, here are three tips you can use to cut the cord for a little less screen and a little more sketch.
1. Make Your No. 2 Pencil Your Number 1
We tend to forget this, but graphic design was done completely by hand for centuries. Spending some time sketching before jumping onto the computer is a great way to cut down on screen time, but it also can do a ton for your productivity. Sketching allows for rapid content development and a wider variety of concepts. When we go straight to digital at the beginning of a project, our ideas tend to get overly developed in only one direction, rather than staying more surface level and branching out in numerous creative approaches. Why not try kicking it old school once in a while and pay homage to your craft’s history with some good old-fashioned sketching.
2. Stay a Cut Above the Rest
Back in college an X-ACTO knife was my own personal Excalibur and always seemed to be covered in a thin layer of spray adhesive. But as a professional, I seem to spend a lot less time in the spray booth. And that’s a shame, because working with your hands, getting away from your desk and moving around can make such a huge difference in your day. I always feel more awake and alert after doing some physical work. Not to mention that the repetitive process of trimming or folding can be a great mental break. Or better yet, allow your mind to wander and think more creatively and fluidly. So as odd as it may sound for someone with a desk job, make an effort to work in some manual labor! Something needs trimming? One hundred brochures need folding? Presentation boards need mounting? Sign me up!
3. Keep an Eye on Your Screen Time
Overexposure to the computer can actually damage parts of your brain responsible for executive functions like planning and organizing, increase impulsiveness and moodiness, and decrease your attention span. And computers aren’t the only threat for designers here; what you might not know is that prolonged time focusing on color can also have side effects. I got my wake-up call in college when a color theory professor told me to frequently take a minute to stare at a white wall while doing my homework. Her reasoning? If you don’t give your eyes time to rest and reset, you can actually start to go temporarily color blind. Obviously this is not desirable for a graphic designer. So whether you’re a designer or not, my advice is to take regular, short breaks throughout the day. Even if you have to set a reminder for every hour or so, get up, stretch, walk around, and give those eyes a break. Taking these short but frequent mini breaks can drastically cut down on eye strain, tension, and muscle fatigue. And for us color-discerning Pantone nerds, try focusing your eyes on the farthest point in your office for a minute or so throughout the day.
It’s easy to sink into your desk chair and watch the minutes tick by in the corner of your computer screen. But if you commit yourself to mixing up your routine with some sketching, being open to some manual labor, and remembering to take a break, you will notice a dramatic difference in your day. Incorporating these tips into my daily routine has helped me feel more creative and more energized. It makes my work better and makes me feel more passionate about doing it. I absolutely love my job and what I do, and being excited to go to work is a great goal for any profession.