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10
07
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Wait. What Was the Question? A Series of Questions for Christopher Simmons

Written by in Profiles

Cover of the book "344 Questions"

Editor’s Note: For the Hilarious All Knowing Creative Persons Like Us, Stefan Bucher offers generous guidance in 344 Questions: The Creative Person’s Do-It-Yourself-Guide to Insight, Survival, and Artistic Fulfillment. In this series, the intrepid Bucher embarks to email addresses unknown to ask ze Experten the answers to The Most Difficult Creative Questions of Our Age.

{Contributed by Stefan G. Bucher, Seeker, Pundit, Designer, Creative Blitzkrieger of Los Angeles} Is the grass always greener on the other side? You know it is. Now that I’ve written [a whole book of Questions], I want answers — from you, and from my friends. For the next 12 weeks I’m going to pick my favorite questions from the book and ask the best designers around for their answers. My first victim is Christopher Simmons of MINE™ (a San Francisco design office), who is rightly famous for his “Everything is OK” inverse crime scene tape, as well as for a host of smart, beautifully conceived pieces for design savvy clients.

The time I take to answer this question I’ll never get back … Everything we do — create, love, mourn, worry, work, play, and so on — draws from a pool of nanoseconds into which no tributary flows. We can give away our time however we choose — just remember that you’re not going to get any of it back. — Christopher Simmons of MINE™ (a San Francisco design office)

Page from the book "344 Questions"

SB: Thank you for submitting to my questions, Christopher. Let’s talk about bandwidth. How do you deal with the limits on your time?

CS: Oh Jesus. These are the kinds of questions you’re going to ask me? I was hoping for something easier. To be honest I don’t think I handle my time very well. Professionally, I pack a lot into my days. In addition to designing and running our small design office I do a lot that takes me out of the studio. I teach twice a week. When I write I prefer to leave the office. Judging and speaking engagements take me away from ‘work’ as well. I’m fortunate to have a talented and fast working staff that can execute ideas (mine and their own) very quickly.

I also tend to arrive at ideas rather quickly myself. I think that’s a factor of having been at this for more than 15 years now. One thing I have always committed to is ending the workday on time. We start a little early (8:30) and wrap up at 5:30. That gives my staff more time with their family and friends in the evenings and me more time with my wife and 2 boys. That’s an artificial limitation of bandwidth, but by not working late or on weekends I think we have a better shot at keeping our lives in balance and keeping our work in perspective.

SB: Who is making demands on your time, and whose time do you demand?

CS: Wow, another time question. Ok. Most days it feels like everyone is making demands on my time. First there are all the people I’m already in a professional relationship with — clients, students, school administrators, vendors and other partners. Then there are prospective relationships — potential new clients, editors who want me to write something, writers like you who want to write about me or the studio, etc.

Then there are all the unexpected demands — students from other schools who are curious about CCA (where I teach) or who just want a critique of their work, designers who what to work here, visit or have their portfolio reviewed, etc. Then there are the sales calls and partnership inquiries and all the assorted noise that comes with running a business. We keep a lot of balls in the air and each one belongs to someone.

Whose time do I demand? I try not to demand anyone’s time, but I hope to command attention from the people who matter to us and to whom we matter. I’m staunchly against cell phones in the office. Work is our time to work together. I can’t stand when clients text during meetings for basically the same reason.

You can’t be in two places at once — not and really be there. Similarly you can’t divide your time simultaneously. If you’re wondering why I didn’t mention my family in either instance above it is because I don’t characterize that time as a being a demand.

SB: What parts of your life do you prioritize and why?

CS: I’m not the best at priorities. I tend to prioritize the thing I am doing or the place that I am. Sometimes I forget to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. I know people who work until 11 every night, come home and then go back to work at 7 the next day. I understand the passion for work, but to me the cost of that is too great and too many people get neglected along the way. So I like to think that I prioritize people, not tasks.

Priorities are also malleable. Sometimes your spouse or partner is your priority ad you make a point of setting aside a time to be together, go on a date, enjoy a meal, whatever. Sometimes work is a priority and you need to really invest all of yourself in whatever doing. Sometimes you have to be the priority and you take some time to read or exercise or take a class or just be by yourself. If you have kids I think it’s important that when they want your attention they have it.

My kids come into the studio and interrupt meetings all the time. Instead of shooing them away, I introduce them to our clients and we take a minute or two to talk or draw or whatever. I used to worry about being unprofessional, but I worry more about being inhuman.

SB: What do you own or produce that you can exchange for time, either your own or that of others?

CS: Fascinating question.  We’re on this earth for a finite amount of time. Time, therefore, isn’t something one can lend or exchange, just give away. The time I take to answer this question I’ll never get back. If I have a pack of gum and you buy it from me for a twenty five cents, now you have gum and I have a quarter. But if I invest 5 or ten minutes providing a thoughtful answer to the question you’ve offered, you don’t get that time added to your life. In fact, reading my response is actually going bring you a few seconds closer to that final moment. Everything we do — create, love, mourn, worry, work, play, and so on — draws from a pool of nanoseconds into which no tributary flows. We can give away our time however we choose — just remember that you’re not going to get any of it back. (Or hire an assistant.)

We’d love to hear what you think. How do you set your priorities and manage your bandwidth? Is it just a matter of strategic decisions? Or have you found helpful tricks or methods that help you in your day to day life?

 

  1. 10
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    4:07pm

    […] designers for answers to questions from my new book “344 Questions.” It’s not easy to follow Christopher Simmons’ excellent responses, but if anybody could it’s lettering phenom Jessica Hische, who last graced the pages of this blog […]

  2. 10
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    11:28am

    […] for answers to questions from my new book “344 Questions.” It’s not easy to follow Christopher Simmons’ excellent responses, but if anybody could it’s lettering phenom Jessica Hische, who last graced the pages of this […]