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Designer Guilty Pleasures

By on Nov 23, 2016 in Humor
Designer Guilty Pleasures

We all have guilty pleasures: that one movie that we love that we're ashamed to speak about (The Transformers: The Movie), the song we love but won't play in front of our family (Eddie Murphy: Party All the Time) or the TV show that you're a bit too embarrassed to play in front of friends (mine is Fastlane). What about designers? Do we have guilty pleasures like that? Of course we do.

And that's what I'm here to do: break all of these out into the open. Let our freak flags fly and show the world what we love, no shame involved. This is a judgement-free zone, folks. So let's dig into things.

And just to prove that there's no shame in my game, I'm going to do the whole thing using GIFs from the best show ever to star a future vampire, a graduate of Bayside High, and a former MTV VJ, Fastlane.


This might be one of those "Just me?" moments, but I have a real problem with candy, and it comes out typically when I'm designing. A few years ago, I was having these mammoth stomach problems (which turned out to be stress-related), and I thought it might be a gluten intolerance. So out went the white bread and everything else like that, but when my sweet tooth came into play, I wasn't sure what I could have. After digging around for a bit at a convenience store, I found an option.

(Forgive me for that non-Fastlane related content/)

Yeah, Reese's Pieces, of all things, have become my heroin. Now that may sound like an extreme comparison, but seriously, I have a problem. And there's no methadone clinic I can check into for this addiction, I just have to develop self control.

Willpower from FastlaneSave

What does this have to do with design? I know a lot of designers, and we all have a sweet tooth. Their level of dedication to eating crap varies, but they all have it. One of them used to keep cotton candy Jelly Belly jelly beans on their desk in a little bowl. Yeah, it's not the best for your health, for sure. But sometimes you just need a quick hit of sugar to push you past that last vector.

Using a Stock Image with a Watermark

Stock images don't have to be bad (clearly), but there are times when you have so many options in front of you that you're not quite sure which one is the right one to use. So in those situations, I sometimes, well, pick all of them.

Shocked look from FastlaneSave

To get a feel for what works in the design, I'll sometimes take a screenshot of a low-rez preview of a stock photo (watermark included, naturally) and dump it into my design. I mean, I know it's not permanent (I wouldn't steal from an artist like that), but it gives me a feel for how it would look as part of the project. If the photo works, then I'll buy it and dump it in, no biggie. But I certainly feel guilty for doing it, even though I know that it's just a placeholder. How much pleasure that gives me is debatable.

Using Common and "Bad" Fonts

As of right now, I've got a little over 5,100 fonts in my collection. And if you're like me, you probably use maybe 100 of them on a regular basis — possibly less. I'll freely admit that I have lots of fonts to choose from, but I tend to gravitate toward the ones that I like (and sometimes the ones I don't).

Anything Else? from FastlaneSave

So why is this? Well for me, it's one of those things where I'm paralyzed by choice. There are just so many good options that I can't pick just one. Instead, I dive back into my pile of favorite fonts and choose one that works. Is it perfect? Probably not, but it's something, and I'm willing to be that you do it too.

Art Supply Shopping

I was a Studio Art major my freshman year at the University of Arizona, and my obsession with art supplies has never stopped. I love tools like that; I've purchased Palomino Blackwing pencils for both the quality and the romanticism, and I continue to ooh and aah over mammoth collections of colored pencils.

Split hairs from FastlaneSave

But here's the thing: I don't draw. I'm not an artist in the sense that I use a tactile device to create a work of art. I push pixels (and vectors), so that's kinda it. I just like having these art supplies because ... well I'm not sure exactly why, but I want them. Don't judge me.


I understand that I don't exactly fit the demo, but I love Pinterest. It's great for a number of reasons, but when it comes to design, it's a mammoth resource for ideas and a place to keep them. Back when I ran a magazine, my designer and I had a secret board that we shared. When it came time to redesign the book, we pinned designs in other magazines that inspired us, then commented on each other's pins so that we could get an idea of what worked and what didn't. It was immensely valuable during that process, and I'm glad I had it at my disposal.

Look Up from FastlaneSave

And yet, it's still not something I talk about much. I'm not ashamed of it, but whenever I do bring it up in conversation, people look at me like I have a tiny version of Drake dancing on my head. Now that I think about it, that might be kinda cool.


Oh boy, this is a big one for me. And yes, I know that too much caffeine is a bad thing, but I have a hard time getting past it. So let's get into it.

How about that from FastlaneSave

It started with coffee. I'd have some in the morning to get things going, but I hated having coffee breath, and since my office at the time stocked us up with free Red Bull, I made the switch. And now, that's what I do.

I think you do from FastlaneSave

Does it make me more creative? I dunno, but I do feel the need for it on a regular basis. I should probably cut back, but for now, it is what it is.

I wish it was enough from FastlaneSave

Streaming Video

A year or two ago, I had a friend who was a designer at a magazine, and she would always watch movies while she designed.

I have women friends from FastlaneSave

I didn't understand it; I needed focus while I was writing, so I'd either put on music without lyrics, or just some noise-cancelling headphones. How could she get anything accomplished with a movie or TV show running on the screen?

Lost look from FastlaneSave

Now, I get it. Last night I was laying out a design while Arrow was playing in the background, and it was no big deal. It's not that it takes my focus away from my work, but there's something about having that noise on in the background that helps my creativity. Only for design, mind you; I'm still screwed if I write with YouTube or Netflix on in the background. But design? Fuhgetaboutit.

Image Trace

Look, I feel like this one gets a bad rap, but that's probably just because of what I do. I won't get heavy into plugging my other gig, but the premise here is that I work with vector files on a regular basis, and most of my clients have JPEGs or PNGs to work with. That means that I've got to find a way to turn them into vectors, so sometimes I use Image Trace (sometimes known as Live Trace) in Illustrator. I mean, it's not authentic, but it works.

Steve McQueen from FastlaneSave

Now I know that sometimes the best option is to pull out the pen tool and do it myself, but man, Image Trace is just so much quicker. And yet, people seem to talk smack about the process, because, I dunno, it's cheating? OK, I suppose it's because if you try it on more complicated images, then sure, it's not awesome. And, the smaller the original image, the worse it's going to be. But if you've just got to sort out something simple, I don't see anything bad about it. Well, OK, I suppose it's a guilty pleasure.

Haters Gonna Hate

We, as a species, are not perfect. And we, as designers, are far from the best specimens on the planet. Guilty pleasures? Sure, we've got some, definitely. But who cares? I say it's time for us to proudly proclaim our defects. Who gives a crap who judges us, right?

Now if you'll excuse me, I think my wife is calling me.

Whipped dog 1 from FastlaneSave
Whipped dog 2 from FastlaneSave

Time to go binge Fastlane.

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  1. sarakaiyala

    OMG I can totally relate to this post! The art supplies....ahhh...this is me too! I also have an obsession with design books. Yes, I read them, but not that often...I want a massive collection that will likely just....sit there. :)

  2. unkskitty

    CANDY!! At my work it started with one bag of peanut m&ms one quarter several years ago... and we seldom go a quarter without them. We call them "Quarter Crack!"

  3. StudioLouvain

    I'm a photographer, so pretty pictures... Pinterest... I just can't get enough and it's all inspiration for work and I'm learning from what other photographers have done - right? Riiiiiiggghhhtt. hhhmmmm... total addiction

  4. ninjaimage

    Streaming videos and especially home reno videos while I retouch my photos....
    I can actually relate to all guilty pleasures in this post.

  5. andimaginary

    For me it's the art supplies and ridiculously big amount of Moleskin and Leuchtturm notebooks... sometimes I buy the next notebook before finishing the one I already have. Then I do a doodling marathon just so that I can fill the old one and start the new. :D

  6. shiftingmoods

    My guilt pleasures include: art supplies, scrapbooking stuff, blank notebooks w/graph paper pages, graphic design books, Pinterest boards (301 color palettes), and magazine clippings. I just started collecting stamps...not in any book yet, but I love looking at the pretty designs :)

  7. christinegofron

    Most of these are so true...however the placeholder stock image one? That's just common sense. Why would one buy a bunch of images only to find they don't work? Most stock image services provide that very thing now. I download the previews, see what works and make the purchase when I'm happy with it. I feel zero guilt about that.

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