As I’ve been exploring the philosophy of Stoicism, I’ve discovered and adapted a few things that I’m trying to incorporate into formulating my design philosophy. The following is a work in progress and I welcome all commentary.


The duty of a designer is to design and deliver the best solution for any given problem. Beyond that, a designer’s duty is also to evaluate the requests of clients objectively and take an educational role when necessary. It’s important that a designer not blindly follow client demands and requests—take time to reflect upon requests and try to determine the end goal. Often, clients may feel they need a certain “thing”, but not really know why or what other more feasible options may be available.

Detachment from Desires

A designer works to solve a problem not to satisfy desires of the ego, impress peers or receive praise. The only desires that should impact the course if a project are those of the client and, if applicable, the user.

Style has its place in the process but it’s important to not let it cloud the solution in the early stages. The design is for the client, not the designer. Learn to let go of personal desires for the project and listen to the client. By actively listening and engaging with the client the core problems will be uncovered; from which the solution will emerge.

Dichotomy of Control

Dichotomy of control is the concept that things fall into one of two areas, those which are in your control and those which are not.

Discovering how much control and influence you actually have in any given project or decision can be difficult. As a designer, the job is partially to advise, consult and educate the client; to a limit. Often stakeholders outside the designer’s circle of control are calling the shots. The designer should recognize their place within the process and not worry or stress about things their can’t control.

A designer has control over their opinions, judgements and effort. Strive to do your best work and accept that forces outside your control may impact final decisions.

Negative Visualisation

Appreciate current work by periodically imagining life without work and bills going unpaid. Current, perhaps annoying, projects could be much worse. Image ways projects could be more frustrating and thankful they’re not.

Borrowing from a Stoic meditation; in the morning take a few quiet moments to think about the work day ahead of you. Imagine working on the projects you have planned, and consider ways those plans may get disrupted. By mentally preparing yourself for possible disruptions, when you they do arise—and they most definitely will—you will be more prepared to deal with them and be less annoyed.

It’s important to remember why you are practicing design. If you’re anything like me you are doing this because you love it. When a project frustrates or annoys you something that is positive in your mind is poisoned by negativity. Cherish the work and the elements you have control over, letting go of the rest.

Clients from hell

Often in agency settings client selection is outside the designers circle of control. When dealing with annoying clients or projects try the following strategies:

  • Cosmic Scale. Remind yourself of the cosmic scale of things. The portion of your lifetime that this project or interaction with the client occupies is insignificant and not worthy of stress.
  • Control. You can’t change the history leading up the irrational request or annoying behaviour of a client, nor can you change the fact that it has happened. You only have control over the effort you put into shaping the client’s behaviour in the future.
  • Negative Visualization. Imagine having no work at all and being unable to pay your bills or support your family; be grateful for the work you have.