graphic designer meme

4 Tips on Coping with Boring Design Projects

Eli Freelancing, Tips Leave a Comment

“So, what do you do for a living?”
“I’m a graphic designer. I design things.”
“Wow, you’re in the creative industry! That sounds so fun! Your life must be awesome. I’d love to do creative things everyday.”
“… *smiles* ”

You’ve probably had that conversation at some point in your life as a designer. Heck, you’ve probably had that conversation with yourself when you decided you will be a graphic designer.

But the reality is, unless you’re already an established designer, not all creative projects that come your way will be exciting. Now, don’t be discouraged, being a good designer is more than just working on the cool stuff. Along the way you’ll pick up a couple of projects that will fire up the creative in you. But when you don’t get those jobs and until you can’t pick the projects you want to work on, you’ll just have to saddle up, be appreciative for the work, and design on.

Luckily, a lot of us know how that feels, and in this post, I’ll share 4 tips to help you transform a seemingly boring job into a fun one — or at least a tolerable one.

1. Have a Deeper Knowing of the Job

taking down notes while on laptopOne client’s business (of which you’re the contracted designer) may be of no interest to you. And that’s okay. Sometimes even your clients are not interested in their own product or service. But your clients understand that it’s not about providing an interesting product or service, but rather meeting a need or alleviating a pain that consumers are willing to pay for.

And this is where you can draw a deeper understanding of what you will be designing for. Ask yourself, who needs these things? How will this be helpful to its users? Why does this matter to them when it seems so trivial to me?

Ask yourself that, or better — ask your client about it. Find out what which part of the project makes them excited. Your conversation doesn’t have to be restricted in the design aspect alone. Just make them talk about the job and listen for insights. It may be very boring to you, but the idea is to see the project the way they see it.

Then go online, look for websites on similar niches where you can understand more about the job.

I had once been contracted as a designer for a company who designs and sells electronic dog collars. And I remember having the same feeling of being bored about the task. It just didn’t get me excited. I’m not a dog-lover and I don’t have a dog. In fact, I was feeling against it because I thought using e-collars were cruel to the dogs.

But I needed the extra income, so I accepted the job anyway. To help myself with the task, I went online to Amazon and looked at all the electronic dog collars for sale. Then I checked out all the reviews provided by consumers. That’s when my perspective about the product changed. A lot of the consumers actually resorted to using e-collars to help their pets become better and safer. Otherwise, their pets would have just continued running around outside until a truck runs over them.

With a renewed perspective and an understanding of the consumers’ pain points, I was able to design more effectively for the company. I am now also more knowledgable about an object I previously didn’t care about.

2. Take It as a Creative Challenge

working with macbook This bit here is more of a mental exercise, laced with a little self-gain-motive for incentive. The truth is, a simple shift in mindset can make a huge difference. And if you can take a boring project and use it to your advantage, then why not, right?

Freelance is all about returning clients. Ask yourself, when you’re done with this boring project, will your client return to you? Or will he refer you to another potential client?

How about, “When I’m done with this project, can I add this to my portfolio and increase my value? Or will it be just another project I’ll slip under the rug and hope nobody finds out I designed it?”

Instead of having the mentality of simply getting the project over with, try to practice seeing it as something that would add to your value. It’s easier said than done, but with practice and discipline, it is doable. That’s why I recommend look at it as a vehicle for self-gain, so it would be easier to practice. Because if you do a good job, not only do you get something from it, but your client will too. Win-win, right?

3. Create Some Design Elements from Scratch

drawing on whiteboardNow at first, this may sound counter-productive. Why create a design element from scratch when you can simply download it off the internet? That’s true, and I agree. That’s why you only pick the easy (but fun) ones and work on those. This is basically just you pouncing on an opportunity to be creative in a boring project. There’s always bits and pieces in there. And what’s more creative than creating something out of nothing?

Give it a try, you’ll find yourself having a bit of fun constructing those design elements yourself. Most designers who don’t have a subscription to stock websites may have already discovered this simple joy. That’s how it actually happened for me. I was designing an infographic for a client, and the client nor I didn’t have the budget to purchase stock vectors. So I ended up going to Shutterstock, looked for the vectors I would’ve downloaded if I had the budget, and started recreating those from scratch. I didn’t copy it exactly, of course, only used them as reference and guide. I ended up having fun and also learned a cool new style along the way.

4. Divert Your Attention by Listening to a Podcast or Audiobook

headphonesWhen doing design work, we usually listen to our favorite playlists or albums. In this case though, when faced with boring design work, I recommend listening to helpful podcasts or audiobooks instead. Why? Because they keep you mentally engaged more than any music could. You listen to discussions and stories, and they keep your attention engaged, which is the complete opposite of being bored where you are mentally detached or uninterested. If something else holds your attention, you’ll be too preoccupied to start feeling bored, right?

But wouldn’t that get in the way of you getting work done? Not really, no. It really isn’t too different with you working in a coffee shop where people are buzzing around — you hear them, but they’re not that obtrusive. That’s why I suggest listening to podcasts or audiobooks that help you grow as a professional because they don’t get in your way, rather they edify you. Give it a try. I have recently made an article on designer podcasts you can listen to while you work. You can start with those.

Conclusion: Remember That You are a Professional

A bit of reminder as we conclude: remember that this is something you do for a living. It would be awesome when you get to a point where projects come in from every direction and you can just pick which ones you’d like to work on. But until you get to that point, be professional and aim to live up to the expectation and provide your clients their money’s worth.

Even professionals and agencies get these types of jobs every now and then, but what separates them from the average designer is that they deliver on a particular standard every time. Follow this attitude and maintain your own standard. Clients will appreciate you and potentially get you more clients. It’s a compounding process which will eventually lead you to getting more and more jobs until you can actually start choosing which ones you’d like to work on. It’s possible! But until then, don’t let those boring design projects take you a steps back.


How about you guys? Had any similar experiences of boring projects in mind? If so, how did you deal with it, and how did it turn out? Share with us some of your experiences and let’s add to the tips included in this post!