A day in the life of a graphic designer: what the heck I do all day!

Whenever I hear someone refer to graphic designers as flighty, I have a good chuckle. Most of the creatives I know are the very opposite of flighty — they are pretty regimented. I do not wear pajamas to work nor do I show up late. I’m not even sure where this stereotype came from. I think creativity needs a safe place to thrive, and I create this place with a structured day.


Before I roll out of bed, I pull out my iPhone and read the New York Times and the Daily Beast. (I still call it reading the paper even though I haven’t had a physical paper in years.) Then I go through my Twitter feed, read graphic design articles, Fast Company, and US Weekly gossip, play at least 3 games of solitaire, and check Instagram — until I know what’s going on in my world, and the world at large. As the birds chirp, it’s now or never, because once I get to work, elephants could take flight and I wouldn’t know about it until dinnertime.


4-5 days a week, I play tennis or go to the gym in the wee hours of the morning. Outfit includes a black t-shirt, black leggings (or black tennis skirt), and fuchsia sneakers — the graphic designer in me has to have black with a pop of color.


After showering, I pull on my jeans (always) and a black t-shirt (always) and go into my kitchen to fix a tall glass of iced, home-brewed black tea with a thin, stainless steel straw (this graphic designers obsession). I have come to learn that I do not like thick straws, and — as pretty as they are — I do not like paper straws (they become mushy). I drink this every day, year ‘round. Well, except for my recent trip to Barcelona, where I discovered they have fruit iced tea, green iced tea, but not black iced tea. Not even at Barcelona Starbucks. I drank hot English breakfast tea — I can be flexible. When in Barcelona…


If I’m working from my New York office, I skip the move body portion of the routine and hop on an early train into the city at Luminary. If not, I step into my home office. Business time begins; I immediately turn on music or the TV as background noise, go into graphic designer work-mode, and employ these tools of the trade:

— EMAIL. Iced tea in hand, I look through email, make a list of my daily graphic design and accountability tasks, and follow up with people on my follow-up list.

— TIMER. My timer drives the rest of my day. Whether I’m designing or cleaning up a pile of papers I’ve amassed, I use my timer for motivation and efficiency. Timing things helps me rotate graphic design projects so everything is fresh. I follow use Llama Life to keep me on track, and it serves me well.

— BREAKS. I give myself a few breaks during the day. I sit outside on the patio by the pool, walk to the mailbox (I have a very long driveway) or make a personal phone call—and get back to work when the timer buzzes.

— LISTS AND LIMITATIONS. I write out my graphic design assignments, deadlines, ideas, limitations, and lists and create doodles in…

— VERY SPECIAL NOTEBOOKS. I always have a few notebooks with gridded paper on-hand for writing and sketching graphic designs. (My favorites are Quattro and Fabriano.) Recently the young comic (daughter #2, who is now a math and science teacher) doodled on the cover of my Quattro notebook. I gasped and said, “creativity goes INSIDE the notebook” — we laughed. It was a reaction that even surprised me because my youthful notebooks were covered in doodles. But, the notebook sat unused until I tore the cover off, thus removing the spoils of her whimsy.

PENS (black, of course). I never use pencils. If one shows up in my office, I toss it in the garbage. Pilot razor point felt-tipped pens win for sketching graphic designs; black ballpoint is my preference for writing.

— COMMUNITY.  A few times a day, I check into my Creatives Roundtable Slack group to ask and answer questions and share resources. I also check on LinkedIn and see who has been snooping at my profile, and I shoot them a note to connect.

— GOOGLE CALENDAR. Another good taskmaster, Google Calendar keeps me on track with alarms and reminders throughout the day. It pops up and annoys me; it really should have a snooze button.

—ADOBE Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. In that order! Even though I try to do every graphic design job in Adobe Illustrator, I must break down and use other parts of this creative suite of products to get my design jobs done right.

Throughout the workday, I look out my wall of windows to the world outside. I overlook my yard of ferns and deer, rain, and snow, the neighbors’ driveway as they come and go, the edge of my deck and pool, and the birds that fly into my window (it’s not that clean!). Somehow they fly away…and at 5 or 6 PM, when the day’s graphic design work is done—so do I.

See how a regimented graphic designer can help your business.

Pick my brain during a free consult while we both sip iced tea from skinny straws – I can make your coffee but have never had a cup, so I cannot guarantee the results. And if you need help with your marketing materials? Let’s talk!

2 thoughts on “A day in the life of a graphic designer: what the heck I do all day!

  1. I love the look-see into your day Nancy. Indeed, I don’t know either where the stereotype of flighty or flakey artists come from. Most of the artists I know are very intelligent and yes, often organized and structured. How else can we keep our clients on track and meet their deadlines! 🙂

  2. “Relatable and insightful! This post gives a fantastic glimpse into the dynamic world of a graphic designer. From brainstorming to tackling creative challenges, it resonates with the daily grind of those in the field. A great read for fellow designers and anyone curious about the behind-the-scenes of visual storytelling. Kudos for sharing the realities and rewards of this vibrant profession!”

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