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Rekindling Your Passion For Web Design

I love being a web designer and I’m incredibly thankful that I decided to join this industry many years ago. Still, despite my love of this profession, there have been a number of times during my career when my passion has waned and I’ve found myself simply going through the motions instead of fully applying myself to my work. This scenario is likely familiar to many of my fellow web designers. It is called burnout.

Burnout is a very real challenge that we face as web professionals. The same processes that help us complete projects successfully can also contribute to us falling into a routine and hitting autopilot on our work. Sometimes, an overload of work can force you to fall into a routine and become a production line in order to meet deadlines. Other times, a lack of variety and excitement can lead to apathy with burnout not far behind.

Whenever I have started to experience burnout in my career, thankfully I have recognized the situation and been able to work to resolve the problem. In this article, I will share some of what I have found helpful in rekindling my passion for web design.

Talk To Your Peers Link

If anyone can understand your feelings of burnout, it is fellow web professionals. They have likely experienced something very similar and they may be able to give you advice on how to handle the situation. Sometimes, simply talking to others is the catalyst you need to break out of a funk and get excited about your work again.

Attending a web conference is one of the best ways to meet and interact with other web professionals. Listening to presentations from some of our industry’s best and brightest, and then being able to discuss that content with fellow attendees at lunch or at an after-conference party, always gets my creative energies flowing. I have never returned to the office after a conference and not been full of fresh ideas and excited to get back to work! Of course, conferences do not happen all the time, nor are they inexpensive to attend.

An incredible amount of sharing, learning and networking can happen at a conference.1
An incredible amount of sharing, learning and networking can happen at a conference. (Image credit2)

If you cannot go to a conference for one reason or another, then local meet-ups are another way you can connect with your peers. If there are no groups that meet currently in your area (you can check a site like meetup.com3 to find some events near you) then consider organizing a new group by reaching out to some other designers or agencies, choosing a time and place to meet, and starting a meet-up group yourself.

Take A Break Link

There’s a reason why companies give their employees vacation time – because time away from the office is an important part of maintaining a healthy work/life balance. This point is something I covered in a previous article I wrote here on Smashing Magazine about fostering healthy non-professional relationships4. Still, while vacations are indeed important, sometimes one week away from work is not enough.

I remember speaking with a web designer I had collaborated with on a few projects about a sabbatical that he took a while back. He had felt himself burning out and decided that he wanted to take six months totally away from his job. Now, few of us can just walk away from our work for half a year, but he planned it out and made preparations so that he could make it happen. He looked hard at his budget and made some changes so he could save some money and give himself a cushion that would allow him to go without any income during his time off. He admitted to me that it was difficult, but workable, and he did take that time off after about a year of working and saving.

During his sabbatical, he surfed, he read books (not ones about web design), took a cooking class, and, above all, he stayed away from work. No checking emails or calling into the office. He truly took time away, and he said that it was wonderful – not only the time during this sabbatical, but also the moment when he returned to work. He was full of new ideas, refreshed and invigorated. He also reported to me that he had a new outlook on his work and on potential burnout. Having taken the steps to make his sabbatical happen, he now knew that should he ever hit that wall of burnout again, he could find a way to take some significant time off to get back on track.

If you are experiencing burnout, be sure to use your vacation time effectively. If that time is not enough, consider taking a more significant break. It may not be easy to manage, but with some proper planning, you can find a way to make it work.

Teach Others Link

About six years ago, I began teaching website design and front-end development at my state university. When I took the position, I thought that it would be a refreshing change of pace that would allow me to share my knowledge and experience in a whole new way. The reality of what I got out of the experience far exceeded my expectations going in.

For me, teaching helped me remember the energy I had when I first started in this industry. It’s easy to let the weight of project deadlines, client problems, and the day-to-day challenges of the job drown the sense of enthusiasm and excitement you had when you were working on websites in the early days of your career. I see that energy in my students and it is infectious. You can’t help but have it seep back into your work as well!

Trends in the industry are constantly changing. By teaching, you can continuously learn and catch up with these new trends.5
Trends in the industry are constantly changing. By teaching, you can continuously learn and catch up with these new trends. (Image credit6)

If you cannot find a position teaching at a school, you can still be a mentor to new web professionals. Consider adding an internship program at your company and allow those web designers just entering the industry to benefit from your years of experience, while you benefit from their enthusiasm for their newly chosen profession!

Take On A Passion Project Link

Few of us in the web industry truly get to choose the projects that we work on. If you work for an agency, you have to work on the projects that the agency closes and which are assigned to you. If you are an in-house resource, you work on the projects that your company needs completed. Even if you run your own company, you still have bills to pay and, sometimes, you take the projects that you have to – and it is not always the work that you’d like to be doing.

My first job in the web industry was working for a company that made websites for small real estate companies. That is all we did. Day in and day out, I worked on real estate sites. As you can imagine, it became pretty monotonous pretty quickly.

Around this same time, I began playing in a band7 with some long-time friends of mine. Since I knew how to build websites, I became the band’s “webmaster” by default. The work that I was able to do for the band’s site, a project that I was obviously personally invested in and passionate about, gave me an outlet for my creativity that my normal work didn’t provide me at that time. It kept me passionate and interested in my profession.

Do Some Good Link

While projects you have a personal attachment to can absolutely help rekindle your passion for web design, so can working on projects that help make a real, positive difference in people’s lives. Putting your skills to use in the service of a non-profit organization is a wonderful way to do this.

Think about the charitable organizations in your area that could use some web design assistance. While large, well-established (and well-funded) charities likely have marketing teams and budgets, smaller organizations, like animal shelters or church groups, probably do not. Those are groups where your work can really make a difference and where you can apply your passion for your profession to affect positive change in your community.

Try to avoid routine work and find new perspectives every now and then. Try not to think of the obvious things, but instead think of the things beyond them.8
Try to avoid routine work and find new perspectives every now and then. Try not to think of the obvious things, but instead think of the things beyond them. (Image credit9)

Embark On A New Challenge Link

A number of years ago, I was working for a company that produced touchscreen kiosk systems. I liked the people I worked with and the work that I was doing, but after close to six years on the job, I had to admit that I was not doing my best work. Projects had become routine and I was just returning to comfortable solutions that had worked for me in the past, instead of trying to innovate and grow. I needed a change, and I realized that the only way I could achieve that change was by leaving the company.

This was not an easy decision. As I said, I liked the job and had been there for some time, but it was the right decision. As I thought about it, I was indeed scared, but I was also excited. That excitement was something I had not felt in some time. It felt great and it made me realize I was on the right path.

In the end, I joined a new company that provided me with a wealth of new challenges, including the opportunity to grow and continue to challenge myself in the future. Making this type of change in your career may not be easy – it certainly wasn’t for me – but if you want to rekindle your passion for your work, this kind of drastic change may be exactly what you need.

Is Passion Necessary? Link

So far, we’ve spent this entire article looking at ways you can bring passion back into your web design work, but we should also ask the question: is passion actually necessary in your work?

The answer to this is an individual one. You need to decide for yourself whether or not passion is an important part of your career needs. For some people, passion simply isn’t that important. I think about my parents, two people who had long and successful careers as a health inspector and a medical transcriptionist. They both enjoyed their jobs and they worked hard, but they certainly weren’t passionate about what they did. They didn’t spend nights and weekends reading up on the latest developments in their field or honing their craft. They liked their jobs, but that is as far as it went, and that was fine for them. For myself, however, that is not what I want out of my career.

Ask yourself whether passion is really necessary in your work. Be honest.10
Ask yourself whether passion is really necessary in your work. Be honest. (Image credit11)

For me, passion is, indeed, important. If you feel the same, but have seen that passion slipping lately, hopefully the ideas presented in this article will help you rekindle your excitement for your work.

How Do Your Keep The Passion In Your Work? Link

How about you? Do find passion for your work an important part of your career? If so, what have you found to be helpful in keeping that passion for your job intact? Share your methods and ideas in the comments section below.

(il, og)

Footnotes Link

  1. 1 https://www.flickr.com/photos/marcthiele/14442484671/in/album-72157644792424680/
  2. 2 https://www.flickr.com/photos/marcthiele/14442484671/in/album-72157644792424680/
  3. 3 http://www.meetup.com/
  4. 4 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2014/05/05/fostering-healthy-non-professional-relationships/
  5. 5 https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/5538035618
  6. 6 https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/5538035618
  7. 7 https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2015/03/06/how-being-in-a-band-taught-me-to-be-a-better-web-designer/
  8. 8 http://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/8250688924/
  9. 9 http://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/8250688924/
  10. 10 https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4862920379/
  11. 11 https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4862920379/
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Jeremy Girard was born with six toes on each foot. The extra toes were removed before he was a year old, robbing him of any super-powers and ending his crime-fighting career before it even began. Unable to battle the forces of evil, he instead works as the Director of Marketing and Head of Web Design/Development for the Providence, Rhode Island based Envision Technology Advisors. He also teaches website design and front-end development at the University of Rhode Island. His portfolio and blog, at Pumpkin-King.com, is where he writes about all things Web design.

  1. 1

    Luke Pettway

    May 22, 2015 2:32 pm

    I found that teaching others made me love web development that much more. It started off as sharing links with the design team about tips and tricks for website design and progressed towards teaching the other devs about SASS and git. There is something really fun about helping someone to learn something that you struggled with, and when it finally clicks for them it is thrilling.

    Another thing that helps me stay passionate about web dev is working on volunteer projects especially when they are outside of your comfort zone. This gives you a chance to really dive into something new and totally unique to the organization you are helping.

    There are a lot of small groups out there that rescue dogs and cats but their websites are TERRIBLE! Being able to help put together a better looking site has the huge reward of knowing that whenever an animal gets adopted, there is a chance that your work helped make that happen.

    11
  2. 2

    Great article! Especially as a woman in this business for +15 years, it takes an extra set of challenges to still keep the passion for the job, while being questioned on your skills and talent. Luckily, I have a lot of great projects going on and the luxury of saying no to projects that don’t appeal to me.

    3
  3. 3

    Currently I’m really frustrated with my job.
    Design has always been something fascinating for me and I always knew that I wanted to do it for a living.
    And yet I currently lack any motivation and inspiration when I work on projects.
    I often end up staring at my screen/paper and wish for the project to be done already so I don’t have to bother with it anymore. Not sure if I’m burnt out or anything but I wish I’d have that motivation back that I used to have. I get all excited when I get to work on new projects but soon after I already regret it.

    When I work on personal projects or collabs with fellow designers it’s all back to normal, I enjoy playing with designs, learning new things and simply feeling proud of the final product.
    But why can’t I have this feeling when it’s for an actual client?
    This saddens me and makes me wonder if I should’ve just stuck with webdesign and design in general just being a hobby rather than a job.

    This was a really nice article and an uplifting read.
    Maybe it’ll help me to get all back into my old motivation.
    Thank you for your thoughts and tipps on this topic!

    6
    • 4

      Jeremy Girard

      May 22, 2015 3:24 pm

      It sounds like you need to determine what it is about working for a client, rather than on a personal project, that drains you of any enthusiasm for the work. Is it the kind of clients you are working for or perhaps the constraints that you have to work under for those projects? At the same time, think about what you love about working with other designers or on your own projects and see what you can do to bring more of that into your client work. Hopefully this exercise, and the tips presented in this article, will help you get some of that fire back! Good luck!

      7
    • 5

      Vincent Visser

      May 26, 2015 11:03 am

      I would say that if you find your passion comes back when you work on personal projects then you need to look at if those projects can actually become your job.

      No point in going to work if you don’t enjoy it. I know people have bad days and sometimes weeks where it is crazy busy but if you not enjoying what you doing now then the only person who can change this is you.

      Maybe look for a new job where you will have that spark of design bought back into you. Sometimes a new company with new people and processes can work in your favour.

      1
    • 6

      You are not alone. I would go through the same thing and was always surprised that I managed to produce great solutions without my heart into my craft as it once was. I think a number of factors contribute to this and in my experience, it was mostly the result of a career in a profession where criticism wears you down. Technology also wore me down. The landscape changed so much month to month and I struggled to keep up. At least in my case that was a huge factor. And on the other end of it, you are right. A job vs a hobby is a major difference. Hobbies are fun, a new adventure or a relaxation while jobs produce stress. Jobs can also be a great thing, but for many people web design/development starts as a hobby and turns into a job, and it’s completely normal to feel depleted. In my case I started at point A and ended up as a Creative Director for a brand. I still design but it doesn’t consume me. Searching for work drained me, clients drained me and I drained myself as a web designer. My advice to you would be to transition into a new job where you are using a different skill set while still capitalizing on your knowledge of web. It sounds like you need a new adventure. All the best!

      2
  4. 7

    I really enjoy what you said in your last statement about how web development needs to be more then just a job but a passion. I agree, that sometimes it is good to take time off and get away from the stresses of work, however some of us are always under the burden of life finances and our future to keep our work away from us for a entire week.

    2
    • 8

      Jeremy Girard

      May 22, 2015 3:33 pm

      There will always be bills to pay and financial concerns to meet, but working non-stop with no time away from the job to recharge is a recipe for disaster. This does not mean you need to spend a ton of money on an expensive vacation, it just means you need to maintain a balance that includes working hard, but also getting out of the office and enjoying life. Think about it this way, a week away from the office may cost you some money, but how much more will it cost you if you burnout and lose work altogether because your passion is gone?

      4
  5. 9

    James Brooks

    May 22, 2015 3:55 pm

    I did a talk last November on dealing with depression as a developer (it applies to everyone though). The video is available here https://james-brooks.uk/staffs-web-meetup-video/

    2
  6. 10

    This is good.

    I started working with the web out of passion, but it just turned into work. It’s tough to bring the passion working for someone else and having no say in what jobs you take, what work you do. Conferences weren’t an option, so there was no recharging. Just draining. I wanted to pursue passion projects but never could find the energy or time after grinding out a full day work and having to take care of my family.

    I burned out. If I’m being honest, I burned out years ago. Some times the only way is to get out, and that’s why I’m finally Embarking on a New Challenge. Finishing one final Hell-project then something totally different.

    2
    • 11

      Jeremy Girard

      May 22, 2015 6:18 pm

      Best of luck on whatever adventure lies ahead for you next.

      1
  7. 12

    thank you for sharing your thoughts about this! I have also worked +15 years in the web design&developing in an agency and have had even long periods when enthousiasm has been gone workwise. For few years now i’ve stopped following nearly all social media channels, newspapers, tv and news on my free time. I have concentrated on _living_ my life, not just spending it… This has helped me to refresh myself In health & mind. This change has not taken anything away from me – quite the opposite. Still i use some channels at times, but they don’t define me or my skills.

    6
    • 13

      I am a 2014 DeVry Graduate with a B.S. Degree in Multimedia Design and Development (A.A.S in Web Graphic Design). I kinda lost my passion when my online portfolio had gotten corrupted and I lost access to it. All the while trying to recreate one and trying to find a web design job has been futile. I am new to this field after changing my career as a communications technician (10 yrs. Active Military, 8 yrs civilian).

      0
  8. 14

    I am going through a tuff phase, being a freelancer hunt for work never ends, now lake of motivation and (worst part) lake of leads is making me very fearful, my clients love me work, my clients clients love my work, my prices are very fair or I’ll say low.. But phases like this when I have less work or no leads to work on is very frustrating, it effects my creativity and ability to make good decisions.
    I always love more work, working like crazy but when I couldn’t figure out how to attract more clients makes me lame.

    As I see most of designers are doing very well here so not sure if I am as good as them, but I would like to hear word from you on my situation, am I burnout or out of fire?

    Should keep working as freelance or kepp advertising as a freelancer or should become a company?

    God help me.

    2
    • 15

      Jeremy Girard

      May 23, 2015 3:13 pm

      It sounds like you love your work, but the pains of finding new projects is what is getting you down.

      Finding work is often a challenge and it can be particularly draining. One thought, have you connected with other web professionals in your area through meetups or industry events? That is a great way to expand your network and maybe get some overflow work from other agencies or freelancers who may be busier than you are.

      0
  9. 16

    It is tough to get motivated sometimes. Web design in particular can drain you because web design is always changing, always in a swirl. Because of that, not only do you have to do web design, you have to keep up with the design advances. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself way behind the times. Not so with logo, or print design. Web designers, therefore, ought to charge double and triple for web related projects.

    If you are totally unmotivated, sometimes a triple-shot Americano can help (temporarily). Gotta do what you gotta do.

    1
  10. 17

    Burnout happens to all kinds of professionals and sometimes I also feel it the same way and I take a break to come out from it. As far as from my experience, taking a break can go a long way in refreshing oneself. And most of the professionals find themselves refreshed once after a break.

    0
  11. 18

    I really and truly need a serious kickstart to motivate myself to get my train of thought in designing going again. Having a non related job just to get by and pay my student loans do not motivate me enough to continue being creative. Any sugestions?

    0
    • 19

      Jeremy Girard

      May 25, 2015 1:41 pm

      You can’t give up if you want to be successful in this profession. Having to work a job in an unrelated field in order to pay bills may be hard and it will certainly take away from the time you can spend honing your web design craft, but persistence pays off.

      I can remember a point early in my career where I was laid off from my first job as a professional web designer. The company was working for was purchased by a large mortgage corporation and they didn’t know what to do with us or the product we had created, so they laid us all off. This was only a few months after the 9/11 attacks in the US and the economy was very shaky and jobs were hard to come by. Despite the fact that I had been a Lead Web Designer at a company, I couldn’t find anything and I eventually took a job pushing shopping carts in the parking lot of a Home Depot store. It was a low point and a humbling experience, but I stuck it out and kept looking for jobs and working on my web design skills. After a few months, I found a part time position and a few months after that it turned into full time, which allowed me to leave my cart-pushing job. That position is one I stayed at for nearly 7 years, eventually becoming the Creative Director for the company.

      Life is not always easy, but as a web designer, you have skills that are in demand and valuable, you simply need to find the right opportunity at the right time. The only way you can do this is by being persistent and never giving up. I wish you all the best in your search and hope articles like this one will help you along the way.

      3
  12. 20

    Ricardo Zea

    May 25, 2015 3:45 am

    Burnout has a twin sister: Frustration.

    It comes in many forms. Some of those in my case are: knowing that I’m good at what I do but there’s no chance to get into the web design/dev companies I’d love to work at here in my city. Or having coworkers that have no aspirations or will to learn new things, doing them well or accept someone has a bit more experience in different areas of web design from which they can learn to be better professionals.

    I always question myself and think that I must be doing something wrong. But on the other side, I think I’m not: I’m writing a book (Mastering RWD with HTML5 and CSS3), I’m participating in different ways with the web design/dev community. I keep myself up to date and apply what I preach.

    It’s confusing TBH.

    That’s why I try to mitigate such frustrations by, as the article recommends, going to local web design and developer meetups, participating in local workshops and small conferences, etc.

    Regarding the question: Is Passion Necessary? My answer is: You bet your ass it is. The problem with passion is that others may see you as ‘too intense’. But at the end of the day, who cares what they think, what’s important is that one is doing his/her best to be as good a possible while trying to share that knowledge as well.

    Thing is, I never lose hope :]

    1
    • 21

      Jeremy Girard

      May 25, 2015 1:42 pm

      It sounds like you are on the right path and have the perfect mindset!

      0
  13. 22

    Klevis Miho

    May 25, 2015 12:03 pm

    Teaching others is definitely a great approach on how to stay passionate.
    Other things I do to stay productive and passionate are doing things which are not relevant to my job. I actually play in a band for fun, play only classical guitar with myself, do paragliding, blog, jog, hangout with friends etc.

    0
  14. 23

    Raju Barman

    May 25, 2015 8:31 pm

    Thanks, Jeremy Girard… Excellent article!

    0
  15. 24

    Erica Lebrun

    June 1, 2015 1:58 am

    I do believe in this field you need to be passionate. I’m not sure that my passion is limited to web design but to more tied to learning itself. I’ve always been an avid learner, never satisfied to stay stagnant, and that has been a huge asset in this field. The web has changed so much since I embarked on my career fifteen years ago. You can’t just blindly bide your time waiting for retirement working in web development. I love working on the web because there is so much happening here. It still continues to change the way we interact and live our lives every day. It’s that bigger picture that keeps me passionate, even if I’m just a tiny part of it.

    0
  16. 25

    Aaron Jones

    June 7, 2015 12:36 pm

    Inspiration plays a major role in design and experimenting with ideas is the best way to come up with great designs. Having an open mind in design leads to a boost in your passion for web design. For example, bestwebdesign.uk is an experiment on clean design, colour mixing, content presentation and conversion rate optimisation.

    0
  17. 26

    I think it’s a given that passion in anything you do is ideal. After years in any field most people will find themselves going through the motions at some point or another. What helps is to feel like you are a part of a community. Being a web designer, specifically a freelancer is even harder as you don’t have the benefit of a community like most other office jobs. I would suggest, instead of taking a break or giving up, join a community-led cloud platform that empowers our specific community – graphic and web designers. Feeling like a part of something bigger is always a driver for passion.

    1

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