Last week I worked some pretty late nights. Monday I came home from work at 1 AM, Wednesday it was 4AM. They were the first few nights I’ve worked late at a job in my long history of working in this business. I’ve always heard stories about how designers work until all hours of the night and now I can say that I’ve fully experienced what that’s like. I can sum this up in two words: not bad.

Granted, I work at a really awesome place with a great boss who has the greatest music ever (i.e. Muppets and William Shatner), so my experience might be different from others. I’m pretty tired this morning (as I usually put myself to bed by 9:45) but I feel as though I’ve completed some sort of rite of passage by working late. But I digress.

The reason I bring this all up is because I often wonder why designers are forced to work such late hours. Is it because our clients gave us a deadline of yesterday? Is it the clients’ fault at all? Or is it just a case of designers procrastinating. And is it procrastination at all?

Basically, there are two ways of looking at this: 

01] Harmful procrastination. This is playing Solitaire, checking personal email, browsing ebay for your missing D&D card or checking out Paris Hilton’s latest fashion disaster. These are things that neither help your job nor your career. Time wasters. Things you can do outside of the office. As designers, there is so much more we can be doing than spending precious nanoseconds on reading about which celebrity couple is splitting. This leads me to

02] Helpful, meaningful procrastination. In a designer’s life, this means research. Blogs. Design News. Portfolios. There’s that old adage: “Nothing new has ever been designed. Only redesigned.” Ok, so I made that up. And as much as I want to believe that everything I do and see is truly original, there is a large part of me that knows you’ve taken at least one person’s idea and reworked it in your own way. And you still want to show it off. Which is why we have the internet. And why designers need the internet.

Instead of continuing this rant about why it’s okay for designers to procrastinate as long as they are researching, I’m just going to give you a list of my favorite sites to waste time at:

01] To start with, Google Reader is just about the best invention ever. I used to have all my RSS feeds under a tab in my bookmarks bar. Then I tried getting updates through email. Both ways were a bit jumbled and never worked out quite right. Now I have just one bookmark where I can read everything I subscribe to in one window.

Legitimate, actually-learn-something-sites:

02] Brand New: I get all of my updates on new logos and looks for companies around the world. There is usually a before and after shot of an organization’s logo, followed by any supplemental material associated with it (packaging, advertisements, variations, etc.). I love this site because it’s so extensive. I don’t just get a new logo, I get to see how it is used and how it differs from the old one.

03] Quipsologies: From the makers of Brand New, this site is devoted to short, Twitter-like messages that allow anyone to post about the design world. A cool ad they’ve come across, an amazing flash video about the expansion of Walmart, etc. It’s a great starting point for getting sucked into an hours-worth of following links.

04] Smashing Magazine: A site I’ve followed for sometime. They showcase great work, give out freebies and provide tutorials on how to make those things you wished you could make in Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. And while it doesn’t apply to me, they’ve got some great resources for programmers and web-developers.

My favorite photo blog:

05] Bebb Studios: I love this couple and I love their photography. Their blog is great about showing off their work and their personality. It’s a great source for inspirational wedding, engagement and general couples photography

I’m trying to get into photography and looking at other photographers’ portfolios gives me inspiration every day to get up and get out and take pictures.

And for a good design laugh:

06] Photoshop Disasters: Basically a showcase of nation and worldwide ads with glaring mistakes. A good reminder of how important it is to step back from your computer and look at what you’ve created.

There are tons of sites out there to follow. Everything from colour to typography. If you really love this stuff like me…that’s how you waste time. Err, research. That’s how you research.