A Plea to All Creatives: Stop Going to Work

BY Joe DuffyMon Oct 26, 2009 at 10:01 AM

published at fastcompany.com

We are living in interesting times. Never before have we been so connected. Our ability to interact is nearly unlimited. Technology is a most formidable tool, the driver, a catalyst in the laboratory of life.
Designers thrive on the information available to us through this newly heightened era of connectivity. That said, information is not enough. We need inspiration to continue to stretch and truly reach our creative potential. I don’t believe that inspiration is sufficiently served up in even the most compelling office environments, nor among the most creative cultures. So we need to get out of the office. Design how you’re going to work. Dial it into the rest of your life and vice versa. Be purposeful about what you do, where you are, where you really need to be in order to be happy and productive.

What makes you happy? When do you feel most inspired? What is it that generates new ideas and fruitful energy in your life? Find those things. Nurture them. Respect them. Being someplace, like in the office, for appearances sake is futile.

When I am happy, I am more creative and more productive.

When I am productive, I feel accomplished and happy. When I’m happy, I am most creative. It’s a good, not a vicious, cycle.

Fresh ideas come from fresh minds. Fresh minds need constant and new stimulus. Sometimes it’s about escape–seeing a performance or experiencing fine art. We’re lucky in Minneapolis, I can walk down the street and take in live theater at The Guthrie or hike over to The Walker and view their latest show of contemporary art.

It could be about forcing yourself to see anew, with an open mind, like spending time with kids and remembering how to look at creative problem-solving from a more innocent perspective (my granddaughter Mia taught me how to loosen up the grip on my paintbrush).


It may be about finding the beauty and design inspiration in the constantly changing and renewing cycles of nature–get out and ride a bike.

go outside

We live in a world where burnout is rampant. No wonder why, when we now have the ability to be connected, 24/7. We have to ask ourselves what we want to be connected to. There have always been workaholics but today we see many of those behaviors shunned by a new generation of people seeking greater balance in their lives. We now have the ability to blend what we do for a living, what we’re passionate about and every other facet of our lives into a much healthier/happier life, a designed life. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a bright new idea while sitting at a desk.

Now that we have the ability to dial up, to log in, to upload notes, and download drafts from almost anywhere, we also need to learn the power of powering off and shutting down to charge up, sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for a few weeks.

The business of design is about collaboration at its core. At times this is best accomplished face to face in an office setting. At times it will require working outside of normal office hours as we cross time zones and latitudes. It also will require the occasional all-nighter or the work-thru-weekend–it’s the rollercoaster way the business of design works. But these are all more palatable and have the potential to even be energizing if we realize the opportunities that being connected really affords us as creative business people. You shouldn’t try to achieve the normal 9-to-5 routine in an endeavor that is not conducive to it.

I look forward to going to the office now that I don’t consider it „going to work.“ For me it’s actually the more social aspect of creating design. Because I’m not going there out of habit or for the sake of appearances, it’s just another interesting facet of everyday life and it helps keep things in balance.

Balance = happy = creative = productive. Repeat.

[Feel the Music and Go Outside by Erin Hanson]

Read Joe Duffy’s blog Duffy Point of View
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Principal and chairman of Duffy & Partners, Joe Duffy is one of the most respected and sought after creative directors and thought leaders on branding and design in the world. Joe’s work includes brand and corporate identity development for some of the world’s most admired brands, from Aveda to Coca-Cola to Sony to Jack in the Box to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. His work is regularly featured in leading marketing and design publications and exhibited around the world. In 2004 he founded Duffy & Partners as a new kind of branding and creativity company, partnering with clients and other firms in all communication disciplines. Also in 2004, he received the Medal from the AIGA for a lifetime of achievement in the field of visual communications. His first book–Brand Apart–was released in July 2005 and in 2006, he was recognized as one of the „Fast 50“ most influential people in the future of business by Fast Company.


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