Q For In House Graphic Designers Only (mostly print)

how many hours do you average a day as an in-house graphic designer working strictly on design projects (not counting misc. meetings, checking emails, interruptions, bathroom breaks, etc.). it would however, include finding inspiration, design work, prepping and uploading files, reviewing drafts, etc.)

my company is looking to set some sort of ballpark standard for all of the designers to meet, so i was just curious! we were thinking between 5 - 7/day…does that sound about right? i

thanks! :slight_smile:

It can vary, at least for me. Now granted, I’m a mix of print and web. We have busy “seasons” and we have slow seasons. In slow seasons it can be 3-4 hours a day, but even in busy season it’s rare to peak past 5.5 or 6. YMMV.

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It really depends on a day. I usually don’t have a schedule of when to do what, just a deadline. Some projects take months, especially if they are a collection of packages or products. So there are days when I come in put my headphones on and work in adobe for 8 hours straight with a 30 min break. But there are also days when I would spend a day building paper mock ups, looking at samples and chatting with my boss about packaging materials and other related stuff (not even touching adobe creative suite).

On an average day, though I’d probably spend about 5 hours working on design in adobe and the rest of the time I do research, buying stock images, email correspondence… many, many other things.

PS- as a designer, I would hate it if there were strict rules on how much creative work you need to do in a day. I can’t speak for everyone, but I have days when I feel stuck on a project. If that happens I stop working on that design for a day or two (because it would be a waste of time) and go do something else instead.

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Pardon my simplistic approach here, but I always worked full time, 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, at the very least. Frequent overtime opportunities.

I worked for 8 hours. Every instance during that time can be justified as work - from waiting for files to load, e-mailing customers, pre-press, time thinking, designing, RIP times - you name it. There’s a reason why print shops bill for all these things. If I have to handle a client flash-drive, or save a file from an e-mail, if I must add so much as a period to your artwork, this is billed as file handling, and that period added to your business card is going to set you back $20.

Every little thing I did, I was paid for, my employer billed for, and the customer invoiced for.

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What Biggs said.
It’s all work. Even if you are twiddling your thumbs waiting for Illustrator to move an object with 18 gaussian blurs applied to it (which locks up the software.)

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i get what you are saying. and i work 8 hours a day also.

however, every week i have to go to several all-company meetings (not related a specific project), help other designers with things, meetings regarding process, meetings with my boss, etc. these are paid for by my salary (8 hrs/day, 40 hrs/week) and “billed” to the clients (our company is very weird, so the billing process is a bit convoluted), but they are what i would consider “overhead” time…time not directly connected to a specific project (and the company is aware of that).

yes, waiting for a file to upload, finding specific fonts for a project, pre-press, waiting for files to upload, communication with a client, etc. are all directly connected to a specific project and time is recorded for those on the individual project.

i think it’s totally different when you are working for yourself or your own business then when you are working for an organization that puts all sorts of other time constraints and requirements on you.

we are trying to find the average % of time spent on overhead tasks vs direct project-related tasks. there aren’t strict rules (nor will there be) on how much time we have to or don’t have to spend on design; we are only trying to get a ballpark figure.

we have one designer who wastes time bs-ing about all sorts of crap, on his phone every 10 minutes texting people (he’s building a side-business), etc. if we can show that the other designers—given company time restraints—put in 5-7 hours a day of project/design work, and he’s only putting in 3-4, then we have hard data --not just people noticing it --to show his non-productivity, and can address it.

hope that makes sense.

It doesn’t seem that it matters what other designers do, this is a work ethic question. He is at work to work, not to sit around. If he is getting paid per job (and it’s stated in his contract) then it’s a different issue, otherwise he should be working. I work in a small company where we have the owner, bookkeeper, a secretary and me (designer). When there’s not much design work to do (usually during manufacturing) I still work 8 hours a day doing whatever I’m being asked to do, be it calling vendors or doing financial reports. Definitely not sitting around and texting friends.

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yes, absolutely! however it’s been allowed to go on too long (by my previous boss), but he has been gone for a few months with no replacement, and his boss is asking for the information (based on people mentioning the slackers’ work “style”). that boss will make the decision and he wants hard (as possible) facts.

office politics. urg.

Devil’s advocate here:

Now, I realize you already said he’s a slacker. So that is different. However comparing how many hours someone works, IMO, is not always so simple. I’ve seen designers that can do as much work in 4 hours as some can in 8. In some cases that discrepancy is worked out in the difference they are paid, but not always. Now that’s not to say that they should just sit around and text and twiddle their thumbs, but actual hours worked designing does not always equal amount of work produced.

We had one designer up here that was a little slow, but produced good work. So, at the end of the day, his 8 hours of work, was probably closer to 5 or 6 by other designers we’ve had in his position that were paid comparably. However, once again, the quality of the work made up for the “slower” speed.

Then again, I live in a “at will employment” state where the company does not need to provide a reason for termination. So, if your boss is trying to gather up “reasonable cause” for termination, that may be different.

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yea, i understand. we are in an “at will” state also. i just think the boss wants more data.

granted this guy is as good designer…and i would hate to see him canned, he regularly misses deadlines, makes excuses why and blames the client for not responding (which they usually have). however, here’s an example that fully backs up his slacker-itis and his getting away from it.

for the last two weeks, we’ve missed multiple days because of snow, so we all worked from home. his wife works and his kids were with her for those days. he not only got caught up, but actually (gasp!) started next week’s work! he was sooooo proud of himself the next day we were all in the office, but…back to his bs-ing and phone watching. he is again, off schedule on his deadlines. ugh.

i love the guy and he does good work. but the younger staff are already taking a page from his book and doing the same thing. our goal is to have adequate time to do good work. if we all work at different rates, that’s one thing. however his days at home proved that he can do it, if he just focused like the other of us do.

Maybe he’s saying he wants to work from home?

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lol! dude’s an extrovert to the max (thus all the extraneous talking and bs-ing with anyone who will listen)! :unamused:

Well, there’s always that software that tracks what you do on the computer. :wink:


hmmmm… might have to look into that. :unamused:

You can’t include designers with a poor worth ethic into this scenario. That designer BS’ing with coworkers and texting won’t be in the industry very long. And if the whole point of this analysis of workable design hours is to show how little one team member works, heck, you don’t have to go through all this. If it’s well know about his/her performance, report the employee.

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it’s not well known, that’s part of the problem… in fact, he sets himself up to be the “lead” designer and can convince others (who don’t sit right beside him) of how hard he’s working! :pensive:

ballparking the hours is for one reason (used in beget, etc.), but it will help (we hope) with the other (slacker). .

It sounds to me like there’s a supervisor without enough backbone to confront the slacker and work toward a solution. Trying to implement something that affects all employees because of one employee is a passive approach.

I enjoyed being a supervisor, and influencing my team’s results. I gave my strong workers gift cards, extra time off… I counseled the slackers, documenting the specifics, and either they improved their performance or they left.

The supervisor needs the spine to tell an employee that they’re slacking off and it could affect their job. That’s basic to a supervisory role.


yes, absolutely. unfortunately, we are without a direct supervisor at the moment. and the previous one was a good friend with the slacker, and even tho he “tried” to get him to shape up, the slacker didn’t take him seriously and the supervisor didn’t have the heart to carry through on the consequences.

(i’ve actually applied for the supervisor position, which is now vacant, for just this reason. i can’t stomach people who whine and complain, yet don’t pull their own weight. sad thing is, this guy creates good design…he’s just not a good designer–i.e. professional in how he conducts himself with his work or with the clients.)

all in all, i do think it’s a good idea to track our time (generally speaking) as we need that information for budget reasons. it’s just that it’s revealing a lot more information that now has to be dealt with, and creating a “toxic” work environment with complaining and blaming. ugh/

From my experience managing others, unless there’s a good billing-related reason for tracking time, it’s a giant hassle, creates time-consuming bureaucratic overhead, skews the efforts and measurement of talent in the direction of quantity rather than quality, contributes to people feeling as though they’re not trusted and, in general, contributes to — as you’ve noted — a toxic work environment that demoralizes the team.

Every situation is different, of course, and I don’t know yours. In general, however, I’ve found that if there’s a specific problem related to an employee, the problem is rarely as simple as it might appear. Whatever the reason, though, I’ve found that it’s best to deal with that specific problem directly rather than spread an attempted solution over the entire group in a way that risks doing more harm than good.


Excellent, good luck! I hope you get the chance to offer him a choice to improve or leave. Usually people fire themselves, because they can’t maintain the changes to become a better employee.

There are plenty of good designers out there. In my opinion, being good at design isn’t enough if one demoralizes the team, or is off-putting to clients.

Again, good luck!

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