Stories for designers: Tried and tested quotes

I feel like you could write several books on the topic of why people love quotes so much. I personally put it down to how easy and quick they are to read and the premise of profound knowledge tucked away in a single sentence.

I’ve found throughout my creative working life that people tend to have their own catchphrases, sometimes silly and sometimes poignant. On top of these people tend to have their favourite quotes they like to share repeatedly.

You know, like when you have a friend who has suffered a setback you might very well say; “Success isn’t a straight line” so they know that one negative isn’t the end. Quotes to inspire or quotes to nurture. We fucking love ‘em.

I love them too so I thought it would be fun (and potentially useful) to recount some of my favourites and how I’ve found them beneficial.


In no particular order…

“The best revenge is just to do better” a.k.a Let’s do this.

This one hails from a popular tv show. I’ve found myself reaching for this one a few times (kinda like a UX pattern)  before it dawned on me exactly where I first heard it. Has a friend had a falling out, or perhaps someone was dealt a raw deal in a professional capacity. Then I might pull out this butt-kicker-of-a-quote.

To me this quote says that you must strive to be better and do better purely for your own enjoyment. It’s a call to action to excel, and says that effort you put into building yourself is never lost. Compete with yourself. Be better than your past self. Yes. Bitch. Work.

“The best revenge is just to do better”. This quote can refocus someone who is stuck in a negative mood, and can set their mind on being better.


“Trust the process” a.k.a Just keep swimming.

This is one I’ve dropped a lot. Especially in my recent role. The wisdom is just that. Whatever tried and tested processes you abide by, whatever practices experience or trial and error have led you to; trust them. Workplaces can be very tough and busy places (especially working as a creative I’ve found). So even though you want to get results right now it doesn’t always work like that.

I found that when trying to make something good there can be a lot of shit. A lot of ‘not quite’ and some awkward silence during project check ins. Silence where someone doesn’t love it, nor do they hate it., can’t quite see the whole picture yet. Trust the process was my little mantra against this fear of not delivering immediately (because who does that really?).

Is your process to start sketching ideas out? Do you approach every problem as if it were a newspaper comic strip? Do you lock yourself away and mind map? Whatever your process is, trust it. Allow it to evolve but trust it. Give your process time to deliver results.

I view problems (creative or otherwise) as a block of stone. You need to keep chipping away long enough for it to take perfect shape. #trusttheprocess

 It's a speech mark. 

It's a speech mark. 

“A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules” a.k.a You better work.

This was the first quote I encountered that really resonated with me as a ‘daily grind’ style of quote. It’s a little clunky and old school. And the use of the word spasmodic (good heavens, is that even safe for work?) can throw you off a little.

I love this quote because it sums up ideas of reaching greatness when you clock in your 10,000 hours of practice on a subject. It sums up success as something earned and not found. It suggests success is found in the act of showing up and the act of frequency and not a result of luck.

That’s why I love it. I love to create daily. Love each new feature I learn or new shortcut discovered. This quote is like a rallying call to just begin doing what you say you want to do. Each dream is a thousand steps away and each step is a day spent following that dream.

Bonus quote:  “If you want to make a masterpiece, you have to be willing to create a little garbage along the way.”

Make garbage. Make all the garbage you can and you’ll have a tower of great work sat beside it.

Bonus quote: “What you do each day matters more than what you do once in a while” - Gretchin Rubin

Same vein. This cute quote is from Gretchen Rubin. Put simply where you place your energy daily is going to net better results and clearly shows your intentions. If you only mobilise yourself to do a certain activity once a month is it really what you want to do?

I love all three of those above quotes. If I wanted to keep someone's spirits up or inspire them to aim high, I might share one of these quotes along with specific ideas or personal experiences on how to make some gains towards their goal.

In essence; work work work work work work...


“Experience creates blind spots” a.k.a Check your ego at the door.

Interesting one. A reminder to be always be humble. A reminder to check your blindspots. As soon as you learn something, assumptions set in, doors open sure, but other doors close. I find the idea that experience fogs your judgement interesting. You’ve got to be really aware that there are still many things you don’t know, many things you have not or cannot experience in the same way as others.

I think this is a quote I keep to myself. It reminds me to try (as all we can do is try our best) to keep an eye out for the value and wisdom others hold no matter how early they are on their journey or how different we are. I wouldn’t really offer this quote to somebody else…”You’re wrong about that...I guess experience does create blind spots”. It’s kinda sassy like that. This is a quote that’s more of a personal mantra.


“Work for money, design for love” a.k.a Do you do it for love?

This quote is actually a title of a book by David Airey. I haven’t read this book. Perhaps it’s not even a quote. But it’s short and snappy. Makes for a good mantra.

To me this sums up the realisation that if you want to make someone hate (a strong word to be fair) what they do, then pay them to do it. If you get paid for your art or creative talent (or ANY talent), you’re going to encounter situations that are sucky. Money...dealing with clients...promoting yourself...whatever it is that pisses you off you don’t encounter that when you create for creation's sake.

For me, this quote says that whatever job I’m doing, no matter how great it is at times it’s going to make me fall out with design. The best way to counter that is find an outlet that is personal, unbridled, just for fun. I haven’t read the book so can’t comment on the contents, this is just my personal feeling. If you want to stay sane, you got to work for money and create for love.


“You can do anything, but you can’t do everything” a.k.a Take a chill pill.

I think this is the last sane word to the insane. It’s a lesson I don’t think I’ll learn. You can set your heart on anything. If you think hard enough, get sound advice and grind, you can grab the steering wheel and propel your life in any direction.

But you can’t have it all. No ma’am.

 The less you do, the more you can do. If you never see family. You can do a little more. If you barely maintain friendships, you can do more still. If you care nothing for your health you can do even more. Then you’re left with just your work, or your creativity or whatever you want more of.

 You can’t do everything, but you can do anything. You got to choose.

 For myself. It’s going to be pretty hard to be an excellent designer & illustrator, an amazing photographer and fantastic writer. Whilst maintaining some really close friendships, kicking back with the occasional film and getting plenty of gaming in all the while hiking up anything in sight. It’s probably going to be impossible actually.

 I haven’t learn this lesson yet. But in life things often take a little longer than you think; you get distracted, need to look after yourself, need time to rest and recuperate and sometimes just need time to get lost in a book or tv show. On any given week or month, don’t plan to much or you’ll burn yourself out. I’m trying to respect the limits a little more and be real about what can be accomplished.


Conclusion a.k.a The end.

 6 of my favourite quotes. I hope you’ll agree there are a few bangers in there. I think quotes are kind of useless until you find a personal connection or associated value. When you do that I think you’re more likely to take action on something, which is the important part.

 I suppose that’s the purpose of quotes anyway. The wisdom is meant to inspire a change either in thought or behaviour.

 What’s your favourite or most useful quotes? Would be cool to hear but most importantly think about it for you!

Hope you’re having a dope week.