Episode 22: Navigating Mental Health as a Graphic Designer

Barney Abramson

Guest

00:00

When I do get really negative feedback or a lot of pushback, I try to. What I’ve learned is that a lot of the times people are just not great communicators, so they may not be the best at communicating their needs, their frustrations, their ideas. So that may come off as a negative comment or maybe a negative email as a negative comment or maybe a negative email. So trying to like reframe some of the things that you’re getting and putting it in context of the project, right the end of the day, it’s not about you, it’s about the project. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

00:37

Welcome to Earning by Design, a podcast dedicated to guiding graphic designers and creative freelancers towards building successful businesses from their passions. I’m your host, lauren Gonzalez. With over 14 years in the design industry, including both in-house, corporate and freelance design roles, I’m here to share insights and strategies to help you thrive in your design business. My journey was not without its challenges, including finding well-paying clients and struggling and managing an overwhelming workload for minimal return, but through perseverance and strategic planning, I was able to transform those obstacles into a six-figure design business that allows me to work from home, set my own hours and select projects that truly resonate with me. So, whether you’re embarking on your design career or you’re already an experienced designer, earning by Design is your companion to help you stay competitive in the fast-paced world of graphic design. All right, hello everyone. I’m super excited because today’s episode is about navigating mental health and graphic design and to discuss this topic, which is often very hard and not talked about as much as it should be. 

01:50

I’m really pleased to have Barney Abramson here. He’s the head of design at Southwest Gas Corporation. He’s a very experienced professional with over 20 years of industry experience, with a background encompassing graphic design, content production and creative direction across gaming, entertainment and energy sectors. He does a lot, he brings a big wealth of knowledge to his role and he leads a team of designers, freelancers, contractors and creative agencies and with that he ensures cohesive and brand-aligned messaging across all customer-facing graphic projects. Brand-aligned messaging across all customer-facing graphic projects. Beyond his professional responsibilities, he’s also dedicated to mentoring the next generation of designers, offering pro bono guidance through platforms like ADP List. And, because he’s not only running teams of designers but also mentoring them, he deals with the subject of mental health quite a bit in keeping designers stable and he has trainings on this subject as well. So with that, I am very excited to welcome Barney here to the podcast. Thank you so much for being here, barney. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

02:52

Thank you for having me. I’m so excited to be here today. I love talking about this topic, so I’m ready. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

03:00

Awesome, All right. Well, the first question I have for you is were there any pivotal moments or maybe personal experiences that made you realize the importance of mental health awareness in the professional world and professional life? 

Barney Abramson

Guest

03:28

happy, good, lucky individual um, maybe too happy for my own mental health. And, uh, when you know, I worked in the in the gaming industry for many years casino gaming, um, for over 15 years and it’s a very uh, a high-paced environment. It’s very exciting, a lot of activities and shows and uh, trade shows and events and I, as a, when I became a manager of a very large creative team, I recalled having to just dealing with the pressures of having more responsibility. It was nice being a designer and working on my own, keeping my head down and doing my work, but once I was responsible for a team product and some you know, some trade shows that my team would design for, the pressure really got to me and I didn’t really realize that I was becoming a. I remember being called the grumpy guy at home. You know, we typically for in the gaming industry we had a very big trade show called G2E and it was from July to like October. It was in preparation for this huge tray show and during that timeframe I was kind of like a grumpy guy at home and I didn’t realize that for many years. 

04:37

And then I started having issues with my stomach. You know stomach issues. I realized over time that I carry a lot of my stress in my stomach. I had all kinds of tests done and everything was always clear and then over time my blood pressure started affecting me Very high blood pressure. I got a medication, took a lot of tests and it all kind of boiled down to stress being stressed from work test and it all kind of boiled down to just stress being stressed from work, being overworked. 

05:13

And I had to really make a big decision to kind of leave that industry in order to be able to kind of manage my mental health and bring my stress levels down. And I have to say that ever since I’ve done that, I’ve been a completely different person at home. I feel like at home I’m more present with my kids and my wife and I also have things outside of work where before work really I was. My identity was through my work and the kind of work that I did, and I feel like I’m more than that now. I’m a father, I’m a friend and all these other things that you know. At the time I really didn’t see. So definitely my personal experience with stress and burnout it’s something that I talk about a lot of my workshop, because I do see a lot of designers go through that on a day-to-day basis. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

05:56

Yeah, I totally get that. I think that every one of us carries stress in different ways and we don’t realize the impact it can have. So my, my son actually gets when he gets super stressed he gets stomach problems too. So I’m sorry it’s. It’s a hard place to handle that it really is. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

06:17

Yeah, it really is. And I mean I even went through surgery because I thought I had a hernia or something, Cause I just couldn’t explain where some of the stress or some of the discomfort was coming from. And when I really started doing a journal which is another thing that I do recommend for folks that are dealing with any sort of like either mental health or stress is starting to journal so that you can find patterns over time. And I remember that through journaling, June, July, was where the stress started, and then by October, it was, you know, at the highest level, and then I was like, oh my God, it’s work. And that’s when I realized okay, I’m gonna have to, I’m gonna have to do something different. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

06:56

So I love that you had that bravery to be able to recognize it and then do something about it, instead of just a lot of people just get get stuck in, whatever the job they’re in, and they don’t recognize. You know, I should do something. I am in control here. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

07:10

Absolutely, and I mean I do have to give credit to my wife. She’s a marriage and family therapist, so having a therapist at home really helps, you know. It helped me in many ways to really understand what I was going through and then also find the resources. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

07:26

God, I love that. That’s so. You’re a lucky, lucky man. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

07:31

I’m lucky. Yes, I am very lucky. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

07:33

Yeah, Awesome. Well, I’m going to we’re going to be pulling out some of that therapy knowledge from you for designers too. Some more of it. So how do you feel a designer should balance the demands of constantly having to be creative with still maintaining that wellbeing and that sense of self? Like you said, you found these things outside of work. Like how, how do you, what is the best advice for that? To to not get that stress level, Um, in ways of dealing with it if it’s a job they can’t leave, or pivoting. I’d love to hear your take on that. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

08:11

Absolutely so. Being a designer is both a gift and a curse. When designers see problems, they want to fix them and I think that that comes with our minds are always working through things. So we have the demand, the demands of work and you know particular project that you might be working on, but you know we are not very good at leaving that at work. Sometimes we we carry that. You know those, like you know. Again, being a designer you’re, or a creative person, you’re always thinking about. You know how to fix things. 

08:46

So the way that I recommend balancing both the stresses of work and life and having that work life balance, it’s really by finding happiness outside of your profession. And that doesn’t mean it doesn’t mean not doing or not doing doing creative things outside of work. What I mean is that and I think I’ll, I guess I’ll give a personal story once I realized that I was becoming where, once I realized that work was really the kind of determining my identity and I wanted to break away from that, I started doing hobbies outside of work. So I took on, I remember I started golfing, I started doing photography, which I I love photography, and I felt that it was it kind of was using a different part of my brain and you know, for photography you have to be outside, right, you have to go somewhere. So these. So I started hiking and doing photography and fishing. So I just really tried to find happiness outside of work. 

09:44

I’ve also had a lot of designers come to me. You know whether they reported to me or we met through other ways, asking me the same things. You know telling me how can I find? You know, my job is not making me happy and I’m like you know your job is not always there to be happy. Yes, there’s a small percentage of people that are lucky to find both a profession that pays you and also makes you happy, but that’s not for everyone. So you do have to find happiness outside of work. That would be the first thing that I would say. Find a hobby, an activity, a meetup group, something that brings you happiness, so that you can balance both what you’re doing at work. And maybe now that you’re balance both, you know what you’re doing at work and maybe now that you’re doing this hobby or activity, now you’re forgetting some of the stressors that you’re having at work. 

10:32

Another advice that I give frequently is to find a community right. Find a community. I would recommend a community within the creative profession, but it doesn’t have to be. But, yeah, for sure, finding a community gives you an environment with people that are probably dealing with the same things you’re dealing with, so you can both talk about your experiences. Reading about what other folks are going through can help you not feel alone in your stress and in the things that you’re going through. 

11:06

So, definitely, finding a community is a great way to have that work-life balance. Linkedin is a great place to find groups. I actually have a creative group called Creative Central that I encourage everyone to join, but that’s another thing. So, definitely, finding hobbies and things you can do outside of work, finding a community that can support you, whether it be in design or outside of kind of the creative profession. The other thing that I think helps is, you know, really involving yourself in things outside of work but that are also related to your profession, like attending conferences, attending media groups and things of that nature. Again, that kind of ties back to the community part of it. But I think that that’s a great way to have some work life balance. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

11:56

Those are great points. I think that the the fact of the hobby as well it’s it’s so underrated. Of the hobby, um, as well it’s it’s so underrated. And I I know that when I first started my design business, I first of all in-house, I was completely consumed. I really had nothing else, um but but, but. Then out, when I started my own business, I thought I had to be working all the time like 24 7. I thought I had to do that in order to. 

12:25

I was a business owner. I had to like have this whole burden and make it hard. But when I realized that that was actually completely taking a toll on my happiness and my life, I had to step back and I think that the hobbies that I chose were like you were saying outside I love hiking and running and painting and things that just are not even digital related, like get out of the digital world and go join um do real physical things or see things. I love that tip, so thank you Excellent. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

12:56

Absolutely, and also, like you know, physical activities. That’s why you know I liked the photography, because the photography led to hiking, which then led to doing a lot of outdoor activities. I also became a runner and I ran several half marathons and I felt like the constant training for a marathon or half marathon really gave me something else to focus on, right, so I wasn’t always focusing on problems that I was having at work or stress from work. My mind was somewhere else and I think that really helped. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

13:30

That’s great, and the fact that you had a goal, something that was a goal that wasn’t tied to money, you know, it was something that just was for you and for your own accomplishment that’s a great thing to have as well. Yeah. 

13:43

Yeah, agreed a great thing to have as well. Awesome, yeah, agreed, cool. So now here’s the interesting one that’s a little along the same topic but a little different. So a designer, we face rejections all the time from clients or, if you’re in-house, from bosses. And how do you recommend that designers do not take that criticism personally, like when I, as an example? Just you know, you get, you submit something to a client and you are so excited about it and then the client just doesn’t like it, maybe doesn’t give great feedback, and you want to just write back a nasty email, right then, um, but you’d stand back and you take time, usually best about 24 hours. Um, but yeah, what would you say to deal with that criticism? And not um, explode internally and take it in yourself? 

Barney Abramson

Guest

14:33

Absolutely so. The the. The one thing that I wish I had known as a young designer, uh, was not to take criticism personal. Um, that was the first thing I I I wish I had known that a long time ago. The other thing that I that I wish I had known early on was, you know, it was the ability to take criticism as an opportunity to learn right. 

14:59

So, as a designer, you know, a lot of the times we’re kind of really handed a problem and then we’re expected to kind of fix it, make it look nice and then present it, and that just comes with criticism. It’s really part of the business, it’s part of what we do. We are in the business of being criticized, of getting criticized. So I think, understanding that and anticipating the criticism, anticipating that, hey, I created something and someone’s going to look at it and they’re going to give me their opinion and it might not be favorable so I now take criticism as an opportunity to learn. When I do get really negative feedback or a lot of pushback, I try to. What I’ve learned is that a lot of the times people are just not great communicators, so they may not be the best at communicating their needs, their frustrations, their ideas, so that may come off as a negative comment or maybe a negative email. So trying to like reframe some of the things that you’re getting and putting it in context of the project, right. The end of the day, it’s not about you, it’s about the project. Now, if it is about you, that’s a separate issue. Maybe you have to go to HR and talk about that. But when it comes to creativity and solving problems, yes, you have to separate the personal from the business. Take criticism as an opportunity to learn. 

16:27

I also, you know, I am a big advocate of designers and creative professionals becoming good communicators. Because if you’re a good communicator, then you can kind of read between the lines and then you can maybe rephrase or maybe reply to that email in a more professional way and say, hey, I heard what you said. Let me rephrase it to see if I’m understanding what it is that you need from me. So being a good communicator is really going to help you. I almost call it like shadow boxing, right? So someone kind of throws you a punch and then you kind of you know you duck and weave and then you throw them a punch, right? So if you’re better at punching back with your words and your writing. It’s going to really help you to communicate better and you’re going to have almost a bit of a shield because you’re now using that to communicate. 

17:18

But let me be honest, though it’s not easy. It’s not easy dealing with criticism. It’s not easy. The things that we do really do come from our minds and our being right. It’s like you’re designing something that maybe no one has ever seen before. You’re taking a risk. Every time you design something, you are taking a risk and it can be very vulnerable place to be. 

17:43

Definitely, experience helps. Over time. These things don’t seem so personal to you, but in the beginning they can be very tough. So, just learning that you know that you know expecting the criticism and then taking it as an opportunity to learn to you know build on your craft. It also helps you to you know when you’re getting criticism repeatedly, maybe you have to now change your approach. So, again, taking it as a learning opportunity over time, designers, you’ll be working. Your process might change over time, and I think that criticism and feedback is what changes that process Now I mean, it doesn’t really bother me now, it kind of rolls right over me, but in the past it used to be very tough, so I could see where it’s a hard thing to deal with. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

18:39

Yeah, but that’s great advice about the communication aspect. That’s what I feel a lot of myself. I didn’t want to really even talk to clients when I started my business. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

18:48

Right. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

18:49

And it was something that I would just hide and shy away from be behind my email, my computer and everything that I would just hide and shy away from be behind my email, my computer and everything. But now I realize that you know I have to be there and it’s not and I love the point that you made about it not being about you, it’s about the project and, I think, the reframing, that point. Whereas, how can they like, especially if a client says I just don’t like it? You can always go back with that punch of like. Well, let’s look at the target audience, let’s look at the project and its goals and everything and see what is not fitting to this. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

19:23

Right. 

19:24

Yeah, so that’s that’s great, and that’s why I think having a process helps as a creative. If you’re finding yourself where you’re having this challenges over and over, Build a process for yourself, right. So when you’re intaking a project, maybe you require a brief or you require a meeting Maybe it’s Zoom or it’s a face-to-face meeting so that you can build rapport with that client or internal client that you may have if you work in-house, so that you’re building rapport, so that you’re talking to this person, so that you’re building rapport, so that you’re talking to this person. And then you know having a questionnaire, having a brief, all these things you know having a feedback loop where maybe you’re checking in at different stages of the design process so that you can avoid getting that negative feedback Again. All these things you learn them with time. You can learn them the hard way, but you can prepare now. You can start that process now, building out your process, so that you can avoid uncomfortable conversations down the road. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

20:18

Absolutely. And one more thing I wanted to add about the aligns with the process is that when, in a submission, what I found that helps clients to understand my choices is really backing it up with the reasoning behind it, based on who they want to attract, because I do a lot of product design, packaging and branding for consumers, so that’s like something that can be really helpful is, well, I’ve studied the demographic. I looked at what they’re attracted to. Why did I choose these colors? What are you trying to show? That process, not just the design itself. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

20:54

Yeah Right right, right, yeah. And so absolutely One thing that again going back to becoming a better communicator. When you’re presenting your work, how are you doing that? Are you sending an email? Are you creating mockups? Are you doing a presentation? Are you taking an opportunity to present it in person or through a Zoom call Right. These steps are going to help you sell your idea, sell your project right and maybe avoid some of that negative feedback. So, again, building a process is gonna help you avoid a lot of stressful moments in the future. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

21:36

Beautifully said, awesome. And what are some of the most common mental health challenges that you’ve seen in designers and what advice do you have for overcoming those? 

Barney Abramson

Guest

21:47

Maybe, we’ve touched on some of them, but there are so many, and I actually have done a poll on LinkedIn, which I it’s a poll that I do like every six months or so where, like, I ask, like, what is the number one stressor that graphic designers face? And every single time, like 60% of the votes go to imposter syndrome. So I’ll start with that one. I’ll start with that one. Imposter syndrome is something that I’ve experienced personally and a lot of my mentees and designers that I’ve worked with in the past experience as well. Again, when we design, designing can be very personal. Someone’s giving you a brief and now you have to come up with an idea from your mind. Right, you have to create something, and then that again comes with criticism. It comes with critiques and you know, maybe they don’t like what you’re doing. Over time, some of this negative feedback can really take a toll on your mental health and on your productivity, and that’s kind of where imposter syndrome kind of starts setting in. It also happens when you you know, believe it or not when you get promoted. 

22:57

When I became a manager, I thought this is everything I always wanted. I always wanted to have a team. But then now, like, am I going to be able to do a good job. Why would they listen to me? You know? Do I deserve to be here? It’s funny because in my last profession, when I worked in gaming, I always felt like someone just gave me a shot, like, hey, barney, we feel bad for you, so we’re just going to give you a shot, and then I just did a good job for so many years and it just kept promoting me because I was again someone which is kind of giving me a handout. I really did have that mentality for many, many years and it held me back. It really did so. 

23:36

Imposter syndrome it’s something that we all deal with. I think that you know ways of getting around that. For me personally was educating myself about myself. Really it was doing self-discovery. So I’ve read a lot of books about self-discovery. Psycho-cybernetics is a book by Maxwell Maltz. 

23:58

I believe that really helped me just really transform my mind and really it helped me understand that a lot of the insecurities that I had were my own personal insecurities that I was attaching to my job. Right, I had never seen, no one had ever told me I was doing bad or that I did a bad job. I was always getting kind of positive feedback from my managers, my creative directors and even my team. I was always getting an award or something for things that I did. So one thing that I say, when you’re experiencing imposter syndrome, it’s like look for the proof. What is the proof that shows you that you’re doing that? You’re doing bad at your job or that you’re being a bad designer? You know, like, look at the proof, make a list of like the pros and cons or the good and the bad things that you’ve experienced, of that you’ve had, and I think that really helps. Um also, um, so, again, I think, self-discovery I can’t talk about this enough Reading for me. I think there’s other ways to kind of do self-discovery, whether it is meditation, affirmations and things of that nature, but learning about yourself. You know, therapies are another great place to learn about yourself, but I feel like a lot of the times we are putting our own personal feelings into our jobs, into our profession, into a project, and that might be where the imposter syndrome comes from. 

25:22

Another thing that designers deal with didn’t score very high, but definitely a creative block. That’s something that we experience a lot. For that what I tend to do. Me personally, I like to travel and when I travel, for some reason, my mind. Just it just expands. Whether you’re hiking whether you’re, I like fishing so I’ll take a fishing trip, a hiking trip, and it just really helps me get in touch with nature. Sometimes when you see nature and you see all these imperfections in nature, you’re like wait a minute, maybe I’m taking this too serious, too seriously. And when I come back to the computer now my brain is thinking differently. So it helps me kind of open different channels of my creativity that maybe I wasn’t really in touch with before. So that’s kind of how I work with creative block Definitely. 

26:15

Again going back to community, going back to your supportive community, talking to them about you know your project or what, why you’re, why you know why you’re getting stuck on something. 

26:27

So that’s another thing. And then the last thing it was you know this whole thing about anxiety over projects. You know we all deal with. You know we work in a fast-paced environment, we have deadlines, we have difficult employees, difficult bosses, you know which can create a lot of anxiety. So again, finding that work-life balance, having activities outside of work, exercising, finding things, that kind of release that stress so that you can be more productive at work, and then also setting boundaries. You know I’m huge about boundaries. I think that you know, obviously there’s a balance when it comes to boundaries, especially if you’re working in-house and you have, you know, a director, manager or something like that. But having boundaries are really going to help you keep a distance from you know, from your work and your personal, you know, your personal space, I guess. So those are the three, the three things that I hear the most and that’s how I would deal with them. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

27:27

Those are excellent tips and I’ve seen all of those in myself and in others. So, um, beautiful, uh, I I always love to go back and listen to the tips and hear them newly, because there’s a lot that you’ve provided. So I’m I’m really excited about that and for other designers to hear this and take away. You know some sometimes you know it doesn’t need to be super complicated. Like I, I’m fortunate to live in Washington, um, in Washington state, where there is nature all around me and trees, and I’m fortunate to live in Washington, in Washington state, where there is nature all around me and trees. And I was in Florida for a brief time and I craved that nature and it just it made me feel better about things and life and projects. So I love that tip. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

28:12

The place that I travel to the most is Sedona in Arizona. Oh, I love that tip. The place that I travel to the most is Sedona in Arizona. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

28:16

Oh, I love Sedona. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

28:17

It’s just a magical place, right when you get there, there’s just a sense of peace that comes over you and you do feel like maybe I am taking things too serious, you know. And then it just kind of opens up those channels and usually when I take a trip and I come back to my computer I am much better at my projects. Again, not everyone can travel, so there are things that you can do locally. Right, whether you’re hiking, going for a run, there’s different activities you can do locally. I think you know another thing that helps release a lot of that stress and also get more ideas. It’s going to, like, museums, going to art shows. Attending those things really helped me kind of relax and see how people do things differently. And again, it just it makes me realize that maybe I’m taking things too serious taking things too serious. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

29:16

I love that, and especially like when somebody’s experiencing that creative block. I think the worst thing to do is to keep sitting there staring at the computer. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

29:23

Yes. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

29:23

Getting away and doing all those different activities you’re mentioning is really important, and not just think that the solving is going to be sitting here. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

29:32

Exactly, exactly yeah. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

29:35

Okay, great. So now this is an interesting one. There’s there’s a lot of freelance designers or design business owners that listen to this podcast and want to. You know it is hard running a business. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

29:47

It is it comes with so much emotional rollercoaster, stress everything Um. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

29:52

So I I’m interested to hear from your standpoint and from mentoring a lot of designers and I know you have. Obviously you’re in-house but you also work. You have your own business as well, and so what do you see for facing the challenges of maintaining your good mental health and still persisting in getting clients and securing more business? What strategies do you suggest to continue towards that success, even when things are not going well and you don’t want to keep going and you feel just horrible and scared and fear. Like how do you keep going with that? 

Barney Abramson

Guest

30:34

That’s a great question and I think that a lot of the things that we kind of talked about do apply to freelancers as well. I’ve done I mean I’ve done both in-house. I freelanced for many years. I taught you know my mentorship, I talked to a lot of freelancers and they do express a lot of stress over finding new clients, dealing with difficult clients. You know this, what I call the runaway projects that you know you budget it for one thing and then, before you know it, it spirals out of control, and then there’s also the demand of, like paying for bills, paying for memberships and all these other things. So I would kind of say the same thing with freelancers. I think I even I would even encourage freelance designers even more to find communities. 

31:19

I think that being a freelance designer can be a very lonely place. You know sometimes you’re just you and your computer at home. So definitely having a community outside of or within the creative industry helps because you know now you’re talking to other creatives, you’re listening to their problems and what they’re doing. So again, I can’t say this enough I encourage folks joining creative groups online, whether you’re doing meetups, whether you’re doing Slack is another great place to find creative groups where you can connect with other designers, other freelancers and kind of talk to them about what they’re dealing with. That tends to make you feel part of a community and not feel so alone. I think that, you know, having a kind of a process of networking as well helps. I think that when you’re networking, yes, it does help find clients, but you’re also finding other creative professionals that you can connect with. That can maybe help you through a tough time. 

32:19

Maybe you can collaborate with someone. That’s another big thing that I tell freelancers is like collaborate, you know you don’t have to do it all and, yes, you probably want every single penny that you can get out of a client. But maybe you’re collaborating with a photographer or collaborating with an animator or a web designer. Yes, you could probably do that website yourself. But sometimes when you collaborate you learn new things. You’re working with someone else, you don’t feel so alone in the process and these things can help kind of that feeling that you know, those feelings of kind of being alone and by yourself, and I think over time it does help with the stress levels. You know, with the stress levels Again, I’ll go back to the exercising, the traveling, the reading all these things also apply, but the one thing that I would harp on the most would be finding a community, finding a place, finding a support group that can help you kind of not feel so alone and deal with some of the stresses that you may be dealing with. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

33:24

Yeah, that’s great. I think that having that freelance business, it’s the goals, knowing that you, you want to do it, you got to go all in Right and and and. That means, but you, when you go all in with something, you also have to have a life too, otherwise it will not sustain itself and you will burn out. So those yeah, so those different points that you said about. You know, keeping those other things, those other activities, those other interests and goals is so important. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

33:56

Yeah, yeah, you know another thing that’s very inspiring too for freelancers it’s attending like conferences and trade shows, kind of like Adobe Max, for example. You know when, sometimes, like when you’re, when you’re alone in your room designing or creating or dealing with a project, you know you, you feel like you’re running out of. You might be running out of ideas, running out of options, or you might feel like there’s only so much you can do. But then you go to a trade show or something like Adobe Max and you’re like, oh my God, there are so many options out here. Right, there are so many of us doing this kind of work and again, you don’t feel alone, you feel like you’re, you’re in it together and you do get inspired. This conferences tend to really inspire you inspired. These conferences tend to really inspire you. Every time I go to any kind of conference or trade show, I come back just feeling this energy and feeling like, hey, listen, there’s a lot of us out here doing this kind of work and I don’t feel alone. So that helps a lot too. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

34:55

Oh, that’s an excellent point. I’ve definitely experienced that too. It’s a sense of purpose and and like community and excitement about renewed excitement about our beautiful industry, which is graphic design. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

35:08

So, yeah, yeah, and it doesn’t seem so daunting totally. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

35:12

I love it. And then so one of my, my last question for you is really like what resources or support systems you’ve actually already mentioned a lot of these, but you know any anything else that you recommend for designers? Maybe some books I can also link to those in the show notes but any resources or um support systems and books or or different points that would help to just keep boosting that mental health, without obviously there’s therapy too, but just any other points that you feel could be mentioned for someone to check out. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

35:47

Yeah, I mean I’ll start with books. I think that Psycho-Cybernetics again, the Study of the Self, by Maxwell Maltz, it’s an amazing book. It’s a hard read. Even the book tells you like at the end of every chapter, like take a couple days and process everything you read before you come back to the book. Right, it’s a. It’s a hard read. I know it sounds like a very technical book, but it’s filled with stories and anecdotes and like real life experiences to like really help you digest the content. But at the end of the day, is a study of the self. It’s going to really help with your self-esteem, with imposter syndrome, with understanding some of the triggers that maybe make you have some stress, and it also kind of it really does help you with dealing with others. Right, because the more you know about yourself, the more the better that you um that you are dealing with others. Another obscure book, um that I wanted to talk about was happy money by uh God, I forget his last name. I know his last name is Honda, but I can’t remember his first name. But a happy money. 

36:53

I you know, I’ve been an immigrant. I grew up in the American Republic. Uh came to the United States with immigrant parents uh, grew up in a kind of an immigrant environment and when I left that environment and kind of joined, you know, the corporate world, I always had this kind of issues with money. I didn’t know I had them right. I always had a goal like I need to make this much by this age and I need to do all this, accomplish all these things. And I was always hustling and having side gigs and all these other things you know, in like pursuit of this kind of money that I thought was going to make me happy. And you know, once I became a manager and once I uh I kind of reached that kind of money goal, I still wasn’t happy and I and I was like, oh my God, maybe it wasn’t the money thing, like what was that thing that I was feeling all these years? And reading this book Happy Money really helped me with my insecurities around money and kind of financial issues. It really helped me break away from having this kind of money goals that were really toxic for me. So that’s another thing that I recommend. Happy Money is a great book. 

38:05

And the other book I don’t remember the title completely but I think it’s like the Art of Not Giving an F and I also recommend this book, and the reason why is because designers we tend to be, or creative professionals we tend to be perfectionists. We want everything to be so perfect and look so clean, and I think sometimes, you know, within perfectionism we can experience moments of imposter syndrome and also creative block, right, because we want to be perfect. So we end up kind of shutting ourselves down. And this book really helped me just care less. I know that doesn’t sound like a good advice, but for someone like me it really helped me to just care a little bit less, right? Stop worrying about all the details, worry about the big picture and just keep it moving. And once I started doing that especially when I started managing and I would open my email and I had a hundred emails and I’m like, oh my God, how am I going to get through the day? And then I remember the book and I’m like, well, you know what, if I get through 30 of them, that’s okay. If I get through all of them, that’s fine too, right. So it just helped me not care so much so that I could focus on other things. So those are some of the books that I would recommend Again. 

39:18

I also recommend creative groups on LinkedIn. There’s quite a few of them. Communication Arts is a great group. The Graphic Designer Lounge is another great group. Creative Central is another great group. Obviously, there’s other, more obscure groups for photography and illustrations. Those being active, reading what people are saying, engaging, conversation, networking in those groups. It’s really going to help build a sense of community around you. So, yeah, this is some of the things that I would recommend Love those. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

39:52

I wanted to read that last book. You mentioned the Art of Not Giving Enough and I wonder if and something I just want to mention related to that is this is something that not everyone deals with, but I deal with it a lot is the people pleasing, and it’s something that’s really hard to have as a when you are the one owning your business and having to deal with clients or, in-house, having to deal with people who say no. So I think that that probably would help with that problem, which is a problem, like you know, when you need to put your foot down. 

40:25

You have to put your foot down on things in order for the sake of the project, your business or your own mental health as well. So I love that recommendation and the happy money, and the other one sounds great yeah. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

40:40

So I used to be a people pleaser my pretty much all of my twenties and thirties. That’s all I did, and I remember reading this book called like too happy for your own good or something like that, and it made me realize that maybe I was being too happy for my own good because, um, you know, being always positive and uh, kind of like people pleaser always led me down a path of anxiety and stress and I stopped doing that. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

41:08

That’s great. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

41:09

It took a long time, but I stopped doing that. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

41:12

That’s a big win, I definitely. I feel that the business having a business it makes you overcome that, because you have to as well. So that’s something that I’ve. It’s it’s a growth that I feel that the business has given to me too is I’m not so much of that anymore, but I can always improve on it too. So, yeah, great. Well, this has been really fun to talk to you, barney. I love this. All the advice you gave. It’s really helpful for any designer, whether in-house, in agency or freelance. So thank you so much for taking the time to be here and speak about this very crazy topic of mental health. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

41:52

Absolutely Well, lauren. Thank you for inviting me. I was looking forward to this one, so I’m very excited to have had this time with you, and I look forward to listening to the podcast awesome. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

42:07

And then can you I know you mentioned and I’ll have all the links in the show notes can you just say the on here, in case people don’t see the show notes where they should find you and be able to follow you on social and I know you have that linkedin group as well absolutely so. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

42:17

Um, I am very active on linkedin, probably where I am the most active. I have a newsletter in the creative group there under the name Creative Central. But yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn Also. I’m very active on Instagram, so at Barney Abramson 01. There’s a Barney Abramson in, like the Netherlands, that won’t let me have my name, so at Barney Abramson 01. And in there you’ll see whether I’m having workshops or whether something’s happening with the creative group. That’s really the main source. And then, obviously, my website, wwwbarneyavansonscom, is the other place where you can find and learn more about me. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

42:59

It’s a beautiful website too, by the way. 

Barney Abramson

Guest

43:00

Oh, thank you, Thank you Looking through it. Yeah, I really love it. Yeah, awesome, of course. 

Lauren Gonzalez

Host

43:06

Listen to this podcast episode on…

Practical Tips for Thriving in Graphic Design

In our latest podcast episode, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Barney Abramson, a seasoned professional in the graphic design industry. Barney shared his journey, shedding light on some of the most pressing issues faced by designers today, including graphic design anxiety and mental health.

One of the key topics we discussed was the challenge of maintaining creativity under pressure. Barney emphasized the importance of stepping away from the screen and finding inspiration in unexpected places. This simple yet powerful strategy can make a significant difference in managing graphic design anxiety and promoting overall graphic design health.

Another crucial aspect of our conversation was the often-overlooked issue of imposter syndrome. Many designers, regardless of their experience level, struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Barney offered some practical advice on how to combat these negative thoughts and build confidence in your creative abilities.

Barney also shared his thoughts on the importance of community and connection. Whether it’s attending local art shows, participating in online groups, or simply networking with fellow designers, staying connected can play a vital role in maintaining graphic design mental health.

If you want to know about the specific strategies Barney uses to stay inspired and mentally healthy in the fast-paced world of graphic design, or if you want to overcome imposter syndrome and continue to produce outstanding work, then tune in to our latest episode to find out!

Books mentioned in podcast: 

PsychoCybernetics by Maxwell Maltz: https://a.co/d/bLa4McY

Happy Money by Ken Honda: https://a.co/d/icbvsZe

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson: https://a.co/d/e0tQxhY

Rate, Review, & Follow on Apple, Spotify or Google Podcast


Please consider rating and reviewing my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — build a graphic design business they can take pride in. Click here, scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you haven’t yet, make sure to follow the podcast. I’m adding several bonus episodes, and you might miss them if you’re not following. Follow now to stay updated!

More about Barney Abramson

Barney Abramson is the head of design at Southwest Gas Corporation, an energy company that services 2 million customers across Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona.

He has over 20 years of experience in the design industry, working as a graphic designer, content producer, and creative director for various companies in the gaming, entertainment, and energy sectors. He holds a dual Bachelor of Fine Arts and Corporate Communication degree from Bridgewater State University.

His core competencies include creative direction, branding, marketing communications, graphic design, and web design. He leads a team of designers, freelancers, contractors, and creative agencies, ensuring consistent and on-brand messaging for all customer-facing graphic projects.

He is passionate about mentoring and inspiring the next generation of designers, and he provides pro-bono mentoring via ADPList, a global platform that connects experienced professionals with mentors.

In addition to his day job and mentorship, he writes about his experiences as an Afro-Latino creative in corporate America and shares his insights and tips on social media.

Connect with Barney Abramson: 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/barneyabramson/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/barneyabramson01/

Website: https://barneyabramson.com/

Blog: https://barneyabramson.com/blog/

LinkedIn Newsletter: https://www.linkedin.com/build-relation/newsletter-follow?entityUrn=6916082986522210304

Design + Mental Health Workshop: https://mailchi.mp/c49b18626523/design-and-mental-health-workshop

 

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