Sunday Opinion: The No Idea Day

Everyone has days where nothing comes. I have plenty of them.  My tactic-the stall. If I don’t have an interesting idea, if the hair is not standing up on the back of my neck,  if things don’t seem to be working-I say so.  To my clients, that is. It’s tough to say “I have no idea (yet) what to do here”.  Much tougher for me, than for a client. I am better able to cope with a not-much-cooking day in others, than in myself.  Hedging helps out.  Its easier to say “I don’t know” if you tack on the end, “but I will find out for you”. 

My scientist Mom went back to work after raising her 3 kids-not in science, as she said too much had happened in the scientific world between 1950 and 1968 to catch up.  So she got a Master’s in Education, and taught high school biology until she retired.  Late in her career,  budget cuts dealt her 3 classes in chemistry.  She took to her bed, certain that these 17 year olds would figure out she she was no expert in chemistry.  I mean, she really took to her bed.  I had to go over to her house every day for 3 months, make her get up and dress, fix her coffee, and escort her to her car when it was time to go.  I made a point of being there at the end of the day too-why wouldn’t I?  Had she not done the same for me countless more days?  It was a good day when she finally understood that no 17 year old would ever come close to challenging her understanding of chemistry, much less her ability to teach it.  And that if she were ever asked something she didn’t know the answer to, she was eminently capable of any research required.  Not that this ever happened-it was her fear that threatened to knock her down.

I also subscribe to the notion that if a design is important, it’s not an emergency. If it is an emergency, then the design is just not that important. As a designer, I have to sort this out both for clients, and for myself. Some people truly do not need or want design, they want something else entirely. If I am lucky, I can figure out what that is. 

Being a designer is not that easy; it takes fortitude to relate to clients regularly, in a fresh way.  I have seen designers  ignore fresh, and berate their clients with their history, reputation and the like. This is lazy, and commerce oriented, although I do understand what it is to be swamped with work. Sometimes its good to just take a day; its an easy thing to recommend, and a very tough thing for me to do.  Yesterday I took 45 minutes to go and get a haircut-it was good fun.

Some clients ask the wrong questions, and reduce the impact of their issues, as they have trouble sorting out what truly means a lot to them. They have all kinds of pressures too, and sometimes their mind’s just not focused on it.  Some design exchanges that work can be attributed solely to timing.  We all are ready for things when we are ready-not before, or after. The evidence of an active imagination and a sure hand is not ephemeral-its just on holiday sometimes.  It can be such a relief to just take the day.


  1. I love your “Sunday Opinions” even when it is a No Idea Day! Perhaps it was a “musing day” which was delightful. Your blog is always delightful, in fact it was the first thing I read when we came home from our “road” trip. I was having dirt withdrawal.

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