What do you do when you’re not designing?

The online design community has one similar trait between all of us: we all love design. So we talk about design, freelancing, business, etc. How about something different for a change? This post is a discussion thread for what you do when you’re not designing.

Design can be a very computer-oriented task, especially if you’re a graphic / web designer. For many months I didn’t manage my time too wisely, and realized that the time outside of the computer world (real life) was passing by. I would go to coffee shops, concerts, and party from time to time, but without decent body and mental stimulation, found it hella’ draining. I needed to do something else.

What do you do when you’re away from the computer?


Whether it’s design-related books or beatnik-inspired poetry, reading is something that brings people forward mentally. I generally read material that isn’t design related, as I spend many designing hours doing that.


Illustration helps brainstorming and often I’ll find overlaps between my illustration work and web design (like the header of this page for instance). I like seeing the two integrated.

Exercise / Eating

Exercising is key to not being lazy. Although I schedule time to go to the gym on my schedule, there’s never enough exercise, especially for designers. The Facebook offices feature exercise rooms and lots of break time, which is a great office addition.

Eating healthy and exercising go hand-in-hand, and it’s very easy to change the way you eat. Lentil sandwiches and hummus are both great snacks that are rich in protein for those long hours of designing without getting up.


Ah, puts the ‘life’ in ‘life’. No matter what faith suits you or if you don’t subscribe to a faith, meditation allows you to be more mindful, reduces stress and anxiety, and is scientifically proven to make you life longer. It will enhance your away-from-keyboard world greatly if practiced correctly. Pranayama is meditation focusing on the breath. Try closing your eyes, taking deep breaths and keep your focus on your breath. Try this for 10 minutes without allowing your head to jump to another subject (monkey mind). You’ll be surprised about how your brain acts as a TV, constantly broadcasting a subject into your head. Taming this and focusing on your breath will enhance your concentration on basically everything.

Video Games

They’re probably not the most constructive activity to saturate your mind with, but spending ½ an hour on games you can pick up and play for a short period of time like Chrono Trigger or Mario Kart is a good way of cleansing the mind. MMORPGs can drain a lot of your time if you’re not good at controlling yourself :).

Enjoying the outdoors & socializing

Whenever possible, socializing can lift spirits, especially for freelancers that work from home. Going to a coffee shop to work allows you to take breaks and have face-to-face discussions with people. The sun is people’s main source of Vitamin-D too. If you take a walk, you can observe different shapes in your environment and use them as fresh design ideas. Nick La has a great post about environment-inspired design.

So what do you enjoy when you aren’t designing?

Related posts:

  1. Designing a logo from scratch part 1: Creative Brainstorming
  2. 10 Ways to be a More Efficient Freelance Web Designer
  3. Designing a logo from scratch part 2: drawing and illustrating
  4. 5 tips to make a great mixtape

Robin Bastien
Howdy! I'd the head of Ocular Harmony. I spend most of my time designing, reading beatnick literature, and pounding sound waves of experimental pulsation into my brain's frontal lobes. Contact me if you have any questions!

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  1. Richie says:

    March 26, 2010

    Very good article, Robin. I personally find that reading books is a great way to relieve myself from the stress and whenever I don’t sit and ‘design’ stuff.

    I was actually interested in implementing the art of meditation and now that you have explained it, i shall definitely try it out.

    Computers can drain our energy and ideas if used beyond a reasonable amount, so its for our own good if we go out and socialize.

    Thanks for the tips.

  2. Robin Bastien says:

    March 26, 2010

    Thanks for the feedback Richie. Reading is the ultimate way to gain knowledge, that’s why I dig reading blog articles and reading books!

    Meditation is wonderful if you make it a daily practice, makes things feel much clearer!

  3. Phil Stringfellow says:

    March 26, 2010

    Very good article, and interesting.

    Reading books is a very big pastime of mine, and I draw a lot of inspiration from them. A good way of delving into another world, away from your own personal problems/distractions.

  4. alyssa Goch says:

    March 26, 2010

    haha eat… yeah that’s one. and go shopping!!! spring’s coming, so I’m hoping to get on my new Scott bike… and then I do homework all the other hours of my life.

  5. mike @ gallantmedia says:

    November 22, 2010

    Greetings All
    First off, wonderful place you all have here, keep it up.
    When i’m not designing I play guitar,drums,sing or head out into nature with my Nikon, and of course theres always going to concerts.