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Do you produce better graphic design work under pressure? Part 2

A few weeks ago we published a post declaring that some designers (namely Lu) produce better work under pressure (see the post Do you produce better graphic design work under pressure Part 1). The post explained how Lu finds she can produce better design work to a deadline because she is more focussed. She is not distracted by the desire to “try something a little different” or the need to discover the worlds most perfect design. She felt that when designing under pressure, nothing is driving her apart from the objectives for the project and the messages that are to be communicated from the piece.

However, in part 2 of this blog article, I discuss why I think I create better work when there is a longer deadline and the pressure is off.

Creative block

One of the things I really hate about designing under pressure is when all of a sudden my inspiration dissapears and my mind goes blank. There is something about an deadline looming that simply causes my mind to block. I am sure everyone has, at one time, experienced this, sitting looking at your screen thinking ‘why can’t I think of anything?’. This can be a real worry when a deadline is approaching which causes more panic and in turn causes more mental block.

It’s for these reasons I much prefer having extra time to work on a project. It is important to be able to leave and return to a project in order to break that creative barrier (for more info read our blog post on Offline creative inspiration). 

Accidental design

You know how it goes, you are working on a design and you delete the wrong path point and you exclaim, “Hey that could work if I just moved that…” So many designs or design elements are developed through accident and if your deadline is not rushing towards you then these accidents can be explored. 

I’ll just try…

The urge to just try something (even though you know it will look silly) is something you sometimes just can’t fight and often when you are comparing these ideas to your planned design you realise how good your original is, but I find I sometimes have to go through this process to feel happy that I’ve exhausted all avenues. 

The morning after

You put your design to bed at some ridiculous time in the evening and you wake feeling refreshed and ready to start designing all over again. However, you take a look at your design and stand back in horror. This has happened to me a couple of times, thinking I was going down the right path (normally the result of lack of sleep and too much coffee!) and after taking a good break realising that my masterpiece wasn’t quite as good as I’d remembered. Having the time to put your design down and come back to it at a later date allows us not to get stuck in a rut and gives us breathing room to develop our ideas.


When under pressure I just can’t see straight, nothing seems to go right and all my ideas go out of the window. I waste time purely panicking and getting frustrated with myself, my mac, Lu and anyone that dares to look at me slightly funny! This means a lack of concentration and the result is far from perfect design work.


I find that when I am under pressure I spend less time on the most important part of the project, Research and Development. Research is so important to any project and I can’t imagine what it must be like to spend time developing a design only to discover it is similar to the clients competitors. Having plenty of time to spend throwing ideas around and checking out competitors before even hitting the design stage is imperative.


When I am forced to work under pressure and to tight deadlines I find I can produce good work that is inline with client objectives. Despite this, these fast paced projects seem to lack that extra magic that comes from toiling over a design for days, weeks or even months. The final pieces feel as though they are missing that extra special ‘something’ that can come about by letting our creative minds loose, free of phones, and deadlines.

So how do you feel about working under pressure? Do you agree with the previous post and produce better design work when working to a deadline or do you feel that time allows you to add that extra element that makes the design so unique?

Posted by Steve

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Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 12:40 pm
Posted In Freelancing | Tags: ,

4 Responses to “Do you produce better graphic design work under pressure? Part 2”

  • madbadcat says:

    the conundrum of being creative is that you can only produce creative by producing- in other words “JUST DO IT”. it does seem like sometimes we work better under pressure, mostly because we actually start working on something when the deadline is looming or the adrenaline is pumping because we feel guilty for procrastinating. i think the stress adds to the process. mostly because good design always happens in “THE ZONE” that mythical place where everything flows freely. stress becomes on of the things that can propel us into the zone.

  • Deadlines help force my hand at getting the work done and thus could probably be said to help me design better. However, if the deadline is ridiculously unrealistic then it certainly doesn’t help.

    Good, fast, or cheap, pick two.

  • lu says:

    Hi Madbadcat,

    You are right about the mythical “zone” whether you are under pressure or not you have to be in it before you can design anything. I agree that stress and pressure forces us into the zone, however does being under pressure effect us even when we are in this place?

    Hi James,

    I think that unrealistic deadlines are just that – unrealistic and the pressure in those circumstances rarely lead to outstanding design. I love the “Good, fast or cheap” saying it’s so true.

    Thank you for your comments


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