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"If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play."

"If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play." - John Cleese

This could not be more true in the design field.

Throughout the years of managing three different design studios in Bahrain, I discovered the most effective way to get your designers’ creative juices flowing is to give them space to play. In essence; let them do whatever they need to do to get the creative switch flipped on.

Yes, it is possible to browse the internet, listen to music, gossip and design all at the same time. I had a Website Developer who used to play Guildwars during working hours and I was fine with it. The only reason I let him do it was because he always delivered on time, followed my brief and his work quality was superb. He never disappointed. Creative Directors and Studio Managers are not babysitters; a designer knows what their duties are and what is expected of them.

I had a graphic designer who would leave the office, take a small walk to the coffee shop next door, order his coffee, drink it there and come back. He did this twice a week. No permission needed as I knew this was the way he “played”. I never kept an eye on the clock either; I knew he knew what was expected of him. This particular designer also always impressed me and the clients.

There was a 3D designer I worked with for two years. Never in those two years did he come to work on time. He would always be two or three hours late. But, he would continue working two, three or four hours after the rest of us had all left the office. Frequently I received his emails with presentations around 2.00 am.

I also worked with a graphic designer who would take a 30 min nap every single day after lunch. He used to sleep at his desk. That’s when I opened up the “brainstorm room” and let him take his naps there. Yes it is unorthodox, but who am I to judge? Imagine the look on my clients’ faces when they walked into the studio and saw one of our designers sleeping on the job. I always found it entertaining to explain why I had no issues with it.

My point is, designers must be allowed to do whatever they want within the framework of the work ethic and that each and every project is delivered in tiptop shape and on time, every time. If a designer begins to abuse this freedom, then tweak it. Do not allow it to happen again. If it does, then strip him/her of the play time privilege.

In all honesty, I had to tweak this freedom only twice in the 7 years of managing design studios. In my experience you’ll not find many designers willing or intent on abusing their ‘play time’ as it is vital to their creativity. I always made it very, very, clear that abusers would not be tolerated in the studio and everyone knew from the start that if the design quality went down, then a one-on-one chat would indeed be needed.

To wrap things up, here is my closing statement:

Thieve on promoting positive emotions in the studio. To achieve this you need to allow designers to feel free and at home. If they do, then that’s when the levels of creativity peak. Obviously in this kind of environment designers feel appreciated and respected. Always keep in mind happy designers generate amazing positive energy and outstanding artworks!

Now who wouldn’t want that in their work environment?


Disagree with my technique? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss.


Mirna Almaz

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