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Do you produce better graphic design work under pressure? – Part 1

As you may or may not know, Eightyone Design is made up of two designers, myself (Lucinda – or Lu) and my partner Steve. A recent project (which had an extremely tight deadline) caused us to have a (heated) discussion as to whether we produce better design work under pressure or to a distant deadline. This brought up two very different opinions on the subject so we decided to post our very different points of view.

This is the first of a two part blog post in which I explore the idea of not only working more effectively under pressure but also producing better quality work when working to deadlines. The second part of this blog post will be published in a few weeks and will see Steve delve into the arguably blissful world of no deadlines or pressure (to make sure you do not miss out on the second part of ‘Do you produce better graphic design work under pressure?’ be sure to subscribe to receive free updates from the Eightyone Design Blog by email or via RSS).

Part 1

I have to admit I quite enjoy working to a deadline. There is a certain buzz about having a great long list of items to complete before the day is out. For me there isn’t a better feeling than leaving the office knowing I’ve done a good days work. I believe that the quality of my design work is considerably better when working under pressure and here are a few reasons why…

Clear Objectives

Before starting work on a design (whether I’m pushed for time or not) I ensure the objectives for the project are pinned up in my direct view ensuring I stay on the correct design path without trailing off. However, when I do have extra time to spend on a design I find myself saying, “I wonder what it would look like if…”. Most of the time this leads me off on a creative tangent that results in the creation of something that’s not quite in line with my objectives. When I don’t have time to creatively wander off I stick to my design brief and therefore create a piece which hits the creative nail on the head.


Deadlines are a great way of drawing a line under a project. We, as designers, are perfectionists. We have all experienced the ‘stared at it for too long’ syndrome in which no matter how many amendments, tweaks and finishing touches are added, we are still not happy with the end result. Having a deadline can cut out this endless attempt at perfection ensuring that all the elements in the design are there for a reason and haven’t been altered in an attempt to reach that fruitless goal of perfection. 

Communication Lock Down

There’s nothing worse than really getting into a project and being called away just as you feel like you are getting somewhere, thus loosing your mojo and having to try and get it back again. At the end of the day, we are running a business and as such have to answer phone calls, reply to emails and attend meetings. I find this constant interruption really does affect my design process. Hence why, when I am under pressure, the phone gets put to answer machine, email and Safari are closed down and even itunes is switched off ensuring my focus is entirely devoted to what I am creating. Again this allows me to stay on track and not get influenced by the frustrating phone call I’ve had from a supplier or whimsical music which has unearthed itself from my music shuffle. 


Overall I believe I do produce better design work to a deadline because I am more focussed. I am not distracted by my desire to “try something a little different” or my need to discover the worlds most perfect design (or simply by the telephone ringing every half hour). Nothing is driving me apart from the objectives for the project and the messages that are to be communicated from the piece. This may sound harsh and it  sounds like I am taking the fun out of design, but I feel that this level of concentration allows me to develop much better design work. 

The final note I shall leave you on is nothing to do with the quality of work you produce but the fact that you are trying to run a business. It cannot be cost effective to spend a great deal of time on a project all in the name of art. You will find yourself working long hours for less than minimum wage. Pressure and deadlines forces you to create a design on time and on budget allowing you to make a profit. 

Do you find yourself working better under pressure? Do you agree (or disagree) that working under pressure allows you to create a more focussed end product?

Posted by Lu

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Posted on Thursday, October 30th, 2008 at 8:08 pm
Posted In Freelancing, Graphic Design | Tags: ,

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