Lunchtime Design Challenge

The goal to acquire new and meaningful skills outside of the daily requirements of one’s current job is a common one—and one that is often very frustrating because it can be hard to find the time and method to effectively act on it, let alone, accomplish it.

Back in 2013, I found myself at a job that I generally liked and was appreciative of, but, due to the limitations of my job description and the company’s brand guidelines, it lacked the type of creative opportunities that would grow and expand my skills in design. It was clear that my job wasn’t going to do these things for me, so I went about finding a solution myself and ended up creating the Lunchtime Design Challenge.

The LDC was very strategic in its time allotment and goal structure. The “challenge” was straightforward: create a fictitious company/organization and design a logo for them in an hour or less (i.e. over the lunch hour).

2013 - Four Saplings Nursery

2013 - Four Saplings Nursery

2013 - Relentless OEB

2013 - Relentless OEB

2013 - Needle Jump

2013 - Needle Jump

By design, the LDC was meant to lessen and/or remove two key barriers that have hindered me and countless others from successfully accomplishing their goals. The first being the “dauntingness” of starting and the second being the paralysis of perfectionism. By identifying these barriers to my goal and strategically scheduling focused time to do it, I was then able to:

  • Reduce the negativity of my self-talk about how “daunting” it would be to start working towards my goal. (Read: “Shut up, daunted self. I can do this!”)
     
  • Experience quick, consistent, and tangible satisfaction in actually finishing work, growing useful, and marketable skills, and, at that time, building the start of a design portfolio. (Read: “Look, skeptical self! You’re doing it! And fast! Lets do more!”)
     
  • Learn how to have healthier and more forgiving expectations about my work (Read: “Hey, critical self! So what if it’s not perfectly centered. I had to move on. I only had an hour.”)
     
  • Begin to be excited by and thrive on creative constraints (Read: “Welcome to the wonderful world of design, excited self!”)

Now full disclosure, I didn’t arrive at the LDC right away. It was not some cerebral bolt of lightning. There was plenty of time spent being overtly jealous of others on Instagram and having impassioned pity parties for myself. In spite of those downer moments though, I kept brainstorming solutions, being open to ways they might appear, and over time it began to pay off.

2017 - Thin Line*

2017 - Thin Line*

2017 - The Honest Archer*

2017 - The Honest Archer*

2017 - W.A.U.F.C.A.T.T.*

2017 - W.A.U.F.C.A.T.T.*

The Lunchtime Design Challenge became my answer to a particular time of career struggle and creative dissatisfaction in my life, but its principles are not novel and apply to fields and circumstances that extend far beyond pixels, vectors, and Adobe Illustrator. It is but one example of how dividing up one’s daunting macro goals into manageable micro ones makes movement towards actual accomplishment more enjoyable and attainable.

*2017 designs, though not technically done at lunchtime, were all still completed in under an hour.

Ethan Cook

Minneapolis, MN