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When should a Graphic Designer stop designing?

As a graphic designer, it’s very difficult to know when to stop designing. I know whenever we have a free minute to ourselves after a long day at work we immediately move on to our personal design projects. Or if there are no personal projects on the go we read design magazines and books or explore the internet for graphic design blogs or portfolios gaining valuable inspiration for the next project. Essentially, we eat, sleep and breath design. But when is it the right time to say, ‘No, I am going to stop designing and do something else’?

A good recent example came when I finished a restoration project on my pride and joy… my VW camper van. It has spent the last 5 weeks at the body shop being completely dismantled, rubbed down, primed up and re-sprayed from british racing green (with a white and maroon roof) to a much more appealing harvest moon beige.

Our VW Camper Van

Our VW Camper Van

Our VW Camper Van

So after spending some time buying all new shiny VW badges, getting the cool white wall tyres put on and literally spending a whole weekend washing, waxing and polishing the van, I stood back and looked at it and thought ‘is it too plain?’. I like the simple look but is this too simple? Am I missing out on an opportunity to create something really eye catching and different?

How about you? Do you find it hard to stop yourself from designing anything you can find? Does your spare room have vector graphics plastered all over it? Does the house number on your front door feature some ultra cool typography? Or are you able to step away from the design world and enjoy non design related hobbies?

So now to my dilemma, should I carry my love for design into the one non design related hobby I have and spend hours coming up with an awesome design for my VW camper van or is it time to stop designing?

What do you think? Should I leave it plain and simple? Or design some artwork to be plastered all over the van?

I would love to know your thoughts.

Posted by Steve

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Posted on Monday, June 30th, 2008 at 10:58 am
Posted In Graphic Design, Personal Projects | Tags: ,

9 Responses to “When should a Graphic Designer stop designing?”

  • I’d say stop. There’s a purity about the van just as it is… having said that you could always add something super minimalist.

  • Steve says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for your comment. I tend to agree, minimal is good. Maybe we could do something small on the back of the van?

    Thanks for the idea.


  • Now that’s funny, you think when you were doing up your van that you ‘weren’t designing’.

    Are you sure?

    It seems to me that when you repainted it, choose tyres, badges and such like, that you were already ‘designing it’and had opted for the minimalist look.

    Now like a typical designer you are questioning your ‘design concept’

    See, you couldn’t escape design, even for a minute 😉

  • Steve says:

    Hi Amanda,

    Good point. I guess I always assumed that the ‘design’ of the van would come as a design on the paintwork, but as you say, the design is every aspect from the white wall tyres to the cool vintage 76 aerial ball.

    And yes, as you say, I am now questioning my choices just as I would with a design project for a client!


  • Ivan Payne MA (Rca) says:

    Faced with a similar conundrum meself Steve. Our ’79 type 25 is in line for her graphics too.
    Having been a signwriter for the past 18 years – and not a ‘designer’ (all humans are designers), the practicalities of a project like this would involve a material knowledge and a context. Softly,softly I would say – it’s cheaper to make a mistake, and there’s less bloody vinyl to remove!. She’s(?) an 89 aint she, so could go either way – contemporary or retro, though sod knows what enduring iconography could be associated with the late 80’s (floro, arggghh!). To be truly of its time then digital print is a bit too modern. It’s your choice and cash!

  • Steve says:

    Hi Ivan,

    Thanks for your comment. She is a 1990 Autosleeper Trident. I agree it is hard to think of something that would suit the era it is from. I think you are right tha softly softly is the best way to go. As James said above, maybe something quite minimalist?

  • Matt says:

    Hi Steve, get some graphics on it, looks rubbish plain white. Go for something cool. Nobody remembers a plain white bus!


  • Jill says:

    Hopefully I’m not too late…!

    Design the interior, splash out on coloured fabrics and soft furnishings and all the stuff that can be replaced easily and inexpensively when/if you change your mind/taste.

    I like your van…it’s lush.

    I have the conundrum of new motorbike or camper van. I want both, but don’t have the space to have both, nor the cash. :-(

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