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Image 55 Ways to Happiness: Advice for designers

Lecture Description

As designers, what can we do to be happy? How can we avoid mistakes in design practice that lead to being unhappy? This lecture offers practical tips for design professionals and students looking for advice on navigating grumpy clients, crazy bosses, and the practice we know as Design.

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Lecture: 55 Ways to Happiness. Advice for designers

By William Bardel   (see biography)
(Presented in March 2010 at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia)

Why should we talk about happiness?

-This seems a curious thing to talk about, doesn't it? The reason to talk about happiness is we are in a challenging time for design. Designers of all sorts seem to take a real hit in a recession. Good jobs are scarce out there, and clients are reluctant to pay us to do good work. So how do we keep our head up in this mess and stay happy? Offered here are 55 practical tips for designers, especially to those just entering the field. This isn’t a hold-your-hand session. It is advice of what I think works –tips and lessons to weather the ups and downs.

Our basic needs to make us happy

So what is happiness and where do we find it? Happiness can be hard to define, given the individual nature of it for each of us. We can however come up with a basic –if not simplistic– list of needs related to our design work that when fulfilled, tend to make us as designers happy:

Need: Empowerment/Freedom
We derive happiness from a sense of control over our situation. This is particularly important for us in the creative industry where we value creative license and self-direction.
Need: Meaning
We derive happiness in doing something that feels significant as a social contribution. We designers are problem solvers at heart, looking for ways to enrich people's lives through our work.
Need: Progression
We derive happiness in a sense of accomplishment over time. Developing ideas and skills is important to us.
Need: Security/Stability
We derive happiness in the prospect of not losing our shirts in doing what we do. It is hard to be happy when you're worrying about your financial stability on day-by-day basis.

Personal character traits that fulfill our basic happiness needs

Our personal character traits and behavior to situations can have a large impact on our happiness. This is not to say that our capacity for happinesss is set in stone, but that if we focus on our character traits and behavior, we can seek to modify them in ways that are more beneficial to being happy. With this in mind, I think there are at least five key traits that designers can cultivate to help them fulfill these needs and build happiness. These five are:


We are going to use these traits as a framework to organize 55 ideas of how to find and stay happy. Take the ones you agree with, and discard the ones you don’t.

The 55 start here: First up, Courage --