Kate Robbins

Remote Creativity

Working from home is essential for some designers, are you one of them?


In today's world, creatives can communicate with stakeholders and access all the tools they need to complete any project while being located practically anywhere in the world — so long as there's WiFi. Although the ability to work remotely exists so prevalently now, some professionals do their best work while surrounded by other people. They might be more creative with spontaneous collaboration right at their desks. Perhaps an environment that provides face time with their peers allows them the breaks they need to encourage ideation. Or maybe they simply can't stand being alone for 8 hours a day, staring at a computer screen, with no one to talk to but their pets. If this is you, please take the designer spot at an office full of awesome, enthusiastic, chatty people and have at it!



Although I can, have, and will work in such environments successfully, the flip side of the coin is my preference. Although I'm often described as a social butterfly outside of my workspace, I've found I create my best work when I'm not surrounded by people.

The first issue is the fat-finger-every-key-while-being-watched phenomenon which can greatly inhibit creative outcomes. When someone stands behind you and watches you Google something or type a short message, are you wildly successful at accomplishing the menial task, or do you fat finger every key and backspace like a crazy person who has never seen a keyboard before? For some people, there's anxiety that arises when eyes other than your own are anticipating your every mouse movement. This causes the brain to instantly forget anything and everything it's ever learned. Suddenly, you can't remember the shortcut keys to draw a rectangle in Sketch or activate the transform tool in Photoshop. Before you know it, your coworker is losing faith in your abilities as you unintentionally rotate the artboard in Photoshop or do absolutely nothing in Sketch while hitting Command + T over and over again. Fail.

Another important factor for creatives who are successful when working remotely, is remaining “in the zone” once they get there. Since creativity rarely arrives on demand, it's important to cultivate it's longevity whenever it does. Being pulled out of the zone by a chatty coworker or a developer for a non-urgent need can pull the designer's focus out of the creative zone it finally found, with no hope of immediately finding it's way back. This doesn't happen for every creative brain, but when it does, it can delay a project by quite a bit. It's one of the reasons some artists will shut themselves in a studio for hours on end and not talk to anyone while creating their art.

Additionally, when dealing with the lack of on-demand inspiration and inconsistent flow of creativity, being in the comfort of your own home office or studio can help spark ideation. Many artists surround their personal workspaces with designs and art they've either created or find beautiful and influential, which can remedy many creative blocks they encounter during the design process. Beyond visual art, music can be equally beneficial for some creatives. Being able turn up your tunes in your own personal workspace (and even sing along) can often be very helpful while designing — and I doubt any of my coworkers want to listen to me belt out some Foreigner, followed by Flo Rida, and then working my way over to a show tune or two. (I have relatively eclectic tastes.)

If you find yourself getting distracted in the office or getting bored working remotely, it's likely because your workspace isn't serving your individual creative energy. Try switching it up! Start monitoring your productiveness and the quality of your deliverables working from different locations, and see if anything changes. You just might discover creative success in and alternate surrounding.

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