For our big summer event, AIGA SB invited Texas-based designer Ben Jenkins to speak about living a creative life that mindfully fuels work and health. Ben’s presentation was a hit earlier this year when he took six east coast AIGA chapters by storm in April, and then most recently visited AIGA Arizona on his way to see us, so we were thrilled to host him at his only California appearance. Thanks to AIGA SB past president Patty Devlin-Driskel, who opened her home in the Goleta foothills for this event, we got to hold a mellow outdoor hot-dogs-and-s’mores cookout in a beautiful setting and perfect “Live Slow, Make Fast” style.
Ben quickly dismantled the idea of work-life balance for a creative person, noting that the nature of our work allows us to work all the time if we choose to. He admitted that for his first decade in the business, he did just that—worked like crazy, founded and led his OneFastBuffalo firm in a “cool,” “creative” workspace, landed projects from high-profile clients, and generally destroyed his physical, emotional and mental health in the process. As a former professional baseball player, those health concerns, along with the desire to create meaningful work and truly spend more time with his growing family, compelled him to rethink his approach to conventional notions of professional creativity.
Following his new “Live Slow, Make Fast” mantra proved a literal lifesaver for Ben, leading to greatly improved health, higher quality ideas and design, and more profitable work. A major aspect of “LSMF” was condensing OneFastBuffalo into a leaner, more focused firm: ditching the office to go remote with a smaller team, restricting their offering to one service (inventing a brand), delivering one proposal and concept, holding minimal meetings, and limiting the client work season (9 months per year). Soon Ben began working half-time on the road in a vintage Airstream trailer and developing his own brands (including Warstic Bat Co. and most recently the lifestyle brand ONEFASTco) outside of fee-based client work.
When endorsing the idea of mobility, Ben noted that many firms and designers here in California have already figured out most of this, saying “professional is the quality of work, not your clothes” and “the value of your work has nothing to do with where it’s done.” He also countered the current trend of noisy, distraction-filled open offices by recommending we “embrace the fear of working alone.” Since design is a relatively motionless profession, Ben reminded us that “sedentary design will kill you.” He observed that “moving inspires making,” and urged everyone to stay mobile wherever possible by doing common-sense things like walking while holding impromptu meetings or taking phone calls.
“Live Slow Make Fast” is all about the freedom to define your own work, and Ben’s been doing that long enough to fully embody it. Arriving with his RV and family in tow, he said “you absolutely cannot get me to work” during his yearly three-month sabbaticals, but that it took a big leap to overcome the fear of such a massive change in his professional life and income. What did the trick was getting real with himself about what leading a conventional creative professional’s life had cost him, and after that the resolution to change was easy.
AIGA SB thanks Ben and the entire Jenkins clan for making the trek to California and sharing their vacation time with us, Patty and Dana Driskel for transforming their home into the fantastic “Driskel Starlight Theatre,” our volunteer board of directors for tying up loose ends, and our members and guests for coming out for a fun evening!