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How do I manage stress in a Design school?

Congratulations! You’re in a design school. We get a lot of work, loads of brainstorming sessions, a mandatory creative block every semester, and other life issues… Sometimes, it gets too overwhelming. Don’t worry, it’s the story of every other design college, be it architecture, interior design, fashion design… you name it. The biggest enemy you’ll meet here is stress.
If you’re looking for tips on stress management, you’re at the right place. Behold my journey of battling stress and some wild college experiences! Let’s go!

Design is a subjective thing

We all have terrible days: it has occurred to me that I have a great idea and the teacher mocks me, calling it a foolish notion. I used to think I was a lousy designer until I met an instructor who admired my work.

a woman sitting in front of a laptop computer

At that time, I understood that every person has a unique design sense and style. We are all different human beings, our design solutions are bound to be different. Many times, teachers don’t understand this. I have met teachers so imposing that the ultimate design outcome wasn’t even of my personal style. Here, it is our duty to close the gap between our disparate design thinking and choose a solution acceptable to both parties.

If you struggle to find your own design style, check out How to Identify Your Personal Design Style.

Designing for clients, however, will be a bit different. You must realize that they fail to do it themselves, so they pay you to design for them. As a result, you should prioritize their design aesthetic over yours.

It does not mean agreeing to their incompetent ideas but listening and prioritizing their design choices. Remember that you are helping them design, rather than designing it for them.

The perfect design does not exist

Initially, it used to break my heart when teachers pointed out mistakes in a design that I thought was perfect. Design teachers are in fact the best critics out there, highlighting design problems that you can’t even think of. Mostly, it’s good. It makes our designs functionally, aesthetically, and practically better. Sometimes, it gets too overwhelming because no matter how hard we try, something always pulls off.

design decoration decor pattern 3561661
background abstract wallpaper 7262213

Cite a situation or a thing that does not have any demerit. Can you? Everything has its pros and cons. The idea behind design thinking is to solve a problem that’s near perfect. Since the definition of “perfect” is different for every individual, we need to identify the needs, requirements and wants of our clients. Theoretically, that’s the perfect design. Practically, is it even possible? Can you fulfill all the wants of your client? We are taught to sell our designs. It means that we highlight the merits of it and hide the demerits. Don’t stress yourself out for perfectionism. It’s unattainable. You can’t satisfy everything.

If you can’t do it today, you might excel at it a year later

Another thing that really pissed me off was my “friends” making fun of me. I had people mocking me to my face because I didn’t know certain software or wasn’t able to make beautiful sheets. I really didn’t know Photoshop back in my second year and to date, I’m still learning. Back then it was really difficult for me to follow the YouTube tutorials because I didn’t even know basic shortcuts and keys.

Tips to cope with the anxiety of not knowing things

People these days are insensitive and very quick to pull you down if they get to know your weaknesses. At that time, I realized that everyone lives in their own timeline and everyone learns at their own pace. Some learn really quickly, some take time and some are just better at marketing whatever little they know. Don’t pay attention to people who try to bring you down or insult you before others.

  • Challenge yourself- Be consistent enough to upskill yourself. Have a routine and practice it daily.
  • Do the work- You won’t gain knowledge without giving in the proper effort to learn.
  • Test yourself- At regular intervals, try doing things on your own without watching tutorials
  • Be motivated- Understand that good things take time. You can’t level up in one day.
  • Take help- Reach out to people willing to help. Ask questions and clear your doubts.
Architectural Design Sheet
Architectural Design Sheet
Architectural Design Sheet

There are my 6th-semester design sheets and this was the start of things for me to get better. Back then, I knew nothing about rendering plans or site plans in Photoshop, nor did I know how to use Illustrator. You can see a very basic illustrator render. Here, I focused on mastering the layout and I think I did justice to it. We usually get very little time for making our sheets and these were designed and printed in three hours!

Axonometric Design Diagram

These are the kind of diagrams I make today using Photoshop, Illustrator, and AutoCAD. A year ago, I would have never imagined doing something like this. Today, I find it easy to do and I don’t need to follow any kind of tutorial for it. However, there is still a long way to go. There are many things I don’t know and I make a lot of mistakes.

Managing stress while designing in teams

Another important life skill I learned is to work in groups. It’s easy to make PowerPoint presentations together in groups. We just divide the topics and present what we worked on. The real struggle is to design together in a group. Everyone has their own ideas and design style. People tend to come up with different solutions to the same problem, often contradictory and others don’t even see a problem!

Managing stress while designing in teams

I have had a lot of fights with my teammates due to this. I even lost friends to these arguments. Some even turned into my enemies and started bitching about me to other people. I even lost someone very near and dear to me, whom I had never imagined losing. Looking back, I find it really silly to argue over a project that’ll probably last three months and lose someone who’s been there for years. However, we humans learn from making mistakes. Later I realised that it takes maturity from each and every end to work in groups.

Tips for Working in Teams

  • We need to respect each and everyone’s ideas. Understand that what sounds childish to you might be a great idea for your teammate.
  • Sometimes it’s good to compromise. Make sure that everyone in the team feels heard.
  • We need to place ourselves at an equal level, don’t undermine someone, and don’t feel inferior to someone.
  • Different people are good at different things. Examine everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and divide work accordingly.
  • Avoid conflicts as far as possible. However, it is good to be assertive and stand up for yourself when you think you’re right. In such cases, be calm and clearly communicate your idea.

Stress Management as Design Students

There are times when no matter how mature we are or how better we manage our stress, we lose it! The heart starts to race with the ticking time and our hands become shaky. At that time, sit up straight and breathe. Breathe out your stress. Nothing is really as important as losing yourself to it.

Tips for better stress management

  • Time Management- Learn to manage your time. If you wait for the eleventh hour to complete your work, stress is inevitable. The earlier you learn to manage your time, the better your life gets.
  • Prioritize Sleep- It is scientifically proven that individuals who sleep well at night perform better in life. If you’re staying up late doing work, it’ll cause stress. Avoid such situations.
  • Prioritize Mental Heath- Many times, we’re going through difficult phases in our life. At such times, it’s important to be compassionate and understanding towards oneself and not push ourselves to the edge. Check out How to manage breakup and design together.
  • Prioritize Physical and Emotional Health- Eat well and exercise regularly. Learn to regulate and manage your emotions instead of developing unhealthy coping ways.
  • Set realistic expectations- You can’t complete a 25-slide presentation in one night. Even if you’re, is it really healthy?
how to manage stress in design schools

Concluding it all, my journey of college hasn’t been a cakewalk. It has been a big bag of memories and also life lessons, the most important one learned was managing stress. I went from having anxiety during design presentations to being confident in the design jury. Honestly, if I hadn’t faced problems, I would have never reached here. Don’t shy away from problems, they exist to make you resilient. Best of luck!

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