I know that this is not your usual design question everyone posts about on here, but I'm going to ask anyways!

I am currently on my final year of design school/university and have chosen to write a report on how designers go about balancing/integrating their work-life ethics and how much “effort” is “enough”. Because I am a student, I have no past experience in the industry and I presume that being a professional in the design world is a tough thing.

I would like to know:

  • How many hours a designer typically works per day/a typical routine.

  • How much do designers think about their current projects they are working on and does this affect relationships with family, spouses, friends in any way? (Good and bad)

  • How much overtime work do you think you are doing and would you personally consider overtime work as a good thing?

It would be great if you can reply to my question with your thoughts on the work-life balance/integration as personal as possible.

  • 3
    there's no typical answer, it will depend on location / industry / specific area of design / etc.
    – Luciano
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 8:11
  • Guys don't close this question!! :) There's a good answer here (not referring to mine) and we can probably expect more good answers, just give it some time.
    – Lucian
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 18:00
  • Reopened because it had a few reopen votes and got bumped on the main page. I'm seeing this as asking people with experience to describe their work-life balance in the field.
    – curious
    Commented Dec 29, 2019 at 16:41

4 Answers 4


This depends on the type of income and schedule a designer needs to have:

  • employed designers will work as much as the boss says they should work. 8 hours a day generally, like any other job, but that depends on the location and type of projects involved. the boss decides if there's any overtime and the employed designer will probably need to execute
  • freelance designers will work as much as they need to work. being their own bosses they can decide to work 8, 10, 12 hours a day. or just 2 hours. or take random days off. they can work one weekend on an urgent delivery, then take monday to wednesday off and go hiking. alot more flexible situation as freelancers decide their own overtime. however, this type of situation means your income goes up and down and is rarely steady, being the opposite of a salary
  • there is also the full-time freelancer type, that either chooses to take alot of overtime work, or has full-time contracts that require them to be available all day (remote employment)
  • 2
    I have to agree with this - employed, expect "normal" hours, Freelance expect complete randomness - Also as a freelance a good chunk of your time is spent doing sales/marketing/accounting etc etc etc. Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 8:59
  • 2
    I'm working freelance but usually spend 12-24 months at the same place, working 8h per day as part of a dev team
    – filip
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 14:27

This question might be somewhat subjective, but I hope it doesn't get closed because it is very relevant. Especially for upcoming designers.

I work 8 hours a day. I am employed, but at a cooperative design studio / print shop, so I'm also a co-owner which of course gives me some extra (unpaid) work (and worries).

Sometimes a tight deadline or the opportunity to gain a new client forces me to work 10-12 hours a day and sometimes there is low activity and I can take some time off. But the average is about 8 hours a day.

I must admit that the job does affect my personal life. If I have a really difficult task waiting next day, I can't help thinking about it all evening.

I try not to take the work home with me, but sometimes it can be a relief to do it because it feels better to just keep working instead of sitting doing nothing, worrying about how to get the work done the next day. This is not recommended though! If you only live in "InDesign mode" you forget to look at the world around you and get inspiration from art and life itself.

Besides working on projects for clients I tend to spend 1-4 hours every evening exploring different aspects of graphic design. Looking at other peoples work, trying out ideas I get during the day, learning about the applications and checking out new alternatives, studying art history, geometry, typography, math, color profiles, drawing, photography, printing methods, marketing etc. Answering questions on Stack Exchange. It is endless!

Those extra hours are sadly unpaid and if you think it seems unfair it might not be the right job for you. You have to be a bit nerdy and have a personal drive to keep yourself updated, seek inspiration and have fun doing it. Otherwise the job might seem too hard.

Graphic design is (in my opinion and where I live - Denmark) greatly underpaid, compared to the value it adds to the customers product and it is an ongoing struggle to convince the customer to pay the true price for what they get.

  • If that average work hours turn to 10-12 hours daily with only one day off for weekend, is that a problem or just a typical overwork (it is unpaid)?
    – Vikas
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 12:06
  • @Vikas, hard to answer. Different from country to country. I can only say that here in Denmark most people work 37½ hours per week. A little more is normal but the 60-72 hours per week you talk about would be outrageous here unless you have your own company.
    – Wolff
    Commented Sep 24, 2020 at 16:30

The good part about graphic design is that you can typically find all sorts of different types of work to fit your needs.

I won't bother adding stuff that's already been provided by other answers. One interesting job case that stands out from the lot is working as a news broadcast graphic designer.

  • Depending on the day's events, you could go from twiddling your thumbs and creating/managing assets for later hypothetical use, to having your phone blowing up and work piling up faster than you could output it. Unlike many places with open floor plans, this workplace provided each designer with an office and a sliding door they could close for when things got too crazy and you couldn't be distracted.
  • Overtime was generously paid but difficult to predict. For example, if someone famous got suddenly critically ill, you might have to stay and create assets to broadcast their passing (which sometimes ended up not getting used). Schedules tended to change and you could be in anytime from 4am to midnight, typically in increments of 8 to 10 hours shifts.
  • Because of the really high input-output rate, it was the only job I've encountered where I didn't bring anything home after my day. Every new day started with a clean slate. In a way, this is awesome for peace of mind. In another, it's not great for a long-term portfolio (if you want to go back to the normal graphic design world) because you don't put a ton of time and thought into each piece.

One weird quirk that came with the job was a completely skewed sense of time. Being asked for something ASAP in the news broadcast world (seconds) vs. the typical design world (hours) is wildly different.

  • This sounds like the emergency room :)
    – Lucian
    Commented Dec 29, 2019 at 18:02
  • @Lucian It sort of is! Stitch stuff up real quick so that it's able to live and good to go! lol...
    – curious
    Commented Dec 29, 2019 at 18:14

I am not yet a designer, sort of still studying at my own pace. But I have done designs already, mostly for family and friends. When I'm designing something, be it for pay or not, I tend to think about it all the time.

I have a job wich is not in the design business, and whenever there is a free moment or I'm doing something that doesn't require brain activity, my head will go to my current design work.

My siblings tell me I'm impossible to talk to, because all I talk about is this design or that web or technique. :) (I mean this in a good way)

A designer is a kind of artist, if you're passionate about your work, you will think about it a lot.

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