Why Designers Should not Work Alone


So let’s say you have what it takes to become the next big thing in the field of web design (Okay, fine… Maybe you actually do have what it takes to become “the” next big thing). You have just about everything you need to be an effective, even great, designer – you’re creative, artistic, you’ve got an eye for color and texture, plus you’ve got yourself great problem solving skills and technical abilities. With these skills, anyone can make it big in the web design industry, right?

Wrong. There’s one very important factor lacking in the equation – TEAMWORK!

Superman needed Batman and the Justice League to defend the world from a slew of villains. Michael Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, and the Bulls all together conquered the NBA. Even Megamind needed Minion in becoming the world’s baddest bad guy. All these successful guys have their team to support each others’ backs in one way or another.

My point is: Nobody Works Alone!


It’s a reality that in the dynamic world of web designing, too many of us work alone. When we talk about the great people making it big in the industry, we think about highly creative people.

In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.”

~Rollo May

The very popular concept is that highly creative people work really well when they are alone. I know a lot of you guys know what I’m talking about. Freelancers work all by themselves. A person starting his own advertising agency works everything out all by himself. There are a bunch of guys out there able to run a complete website all by themselves.

Indeed, isolation fuels creativity. With solitude you can hear yourself think, you can meditate and reach the deepest part of yourself, and with solitude you can focus and concentrate more. The idea of working alone is very tempting: no distractions. Just quiet.

Too quiet…


Sometimes I am distracted by the silence”.

Who’s with me? I mean, sometimes it just gets too quiet. So quiet that you can’t think because you keep hearing your own thoughts and they start to get too noisy.

Going back to the subject, indeed there are a lot of good things about working alone. However, everything has its pros and cons, the same goes for the idea of “working alone”. As web designers, working on one’s own can also be counter-productive. Although it can fuel a creative designer’s mind, boost productivity and attracts fewer distractions, it also have some negative points. The benefits above can be outweighed by these negative points.


The following are harmful and might lead to choking and eventually death as web designers.

1. Social Isolation is Bad for your Health


This is perhaps the single biggest reason why designers should not work alone. Human beings (including web designers) are “social” animals. We are designed to mingle. We evolve and surpass challenges by sharing our experiences with mankind. We communicate for the sake of progress.

When we work alone, we isolate ourselves and it can really do damage, not only to our careers as designers, but also to our mental health.


When working alone, it is very easy to get used to isolation. There’s no boss, no working hours, you can work freely on your own based on your own rules, and in fact just the idea of taking care of everything yourself is really exhilarating. It is really possible to pull it off all on your own, but as time passes it can be very difficult on you.

Just like everything else in this world, there will come a time when you cannot handle everything on your own. By that time, you will become too comfortable with working alone that you’ll find yourself uncomfortable with other people and you won’t be able to work with them. Worst case scenario: Irritability, fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, and inactivity. Plus you’ll no longer be able to enjoy what you usually find enjoyable. In other words, you’ll lose interest!

Thus, it is okay to work in solitude, but do not make a habit of isolating yourself. You see, solitude and isolation are two very different things.

2. Working Alone = Creativity


It’s true that creativity flourishes in solitude and creative people work at their best when they are alone, but only to some extent. You cannot be creative on your own forever. Creativity requires dynamics. At some point, everything you do would seem like a routine and that’s not creative.

As designers, it is our job to always make things a little bit better. Ideas must be dynamic and in motion. Say for example you have this crazy idea, you can always discuss it with the team and this crazy idea of yours might turn into an even more crazy idea, an exceptional one!

Therefore, as designers we have our team to share our ideas with and turn them into something amazing.

3. Too much Increase/Decrease in Confidence Level


Without a team to work and converse with, working alone can have either a horrible increase or a saddening decrease on a designer’s confidence level.

Since you are working alone, you are a lot less likely to have interaction with other people and you may find yourself battling depression from time t time. If you’ve become too comfortable working alone you may have a hard time imagining yourself attending big gatherings, or work with a team amd discuss your idea because you don’t have confidence to do so. For web designers and developers, there’s always room for support and that’s where the team comes in.

On the other hand, some people might have the opposite effect. Since they have been too comfortable working alone they feel really good about themselves and they are a bit on the arrogant side. Plus, there’s no team to question their ideas if they are wrong. For these web designers, there’s always room for a solid reality check. Just like a family, the team is always there to guide good web designers.

Let us remember that no one is perfect and that there’s always room for improvement. So, be sure to surround yourselves with a team of great people and make sure to be open for suggestions.

4. Working Alone means No Second Opinions!


That’s right, it will be like a room full of chairs but no one’s there to have their say. A room full of opportunities but no one’s there to grab it. It’ll be just you and your doubtful yes or no. When you are working alone, you are handling all the work. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a team to share the burden with? And wouldn’t it be nice to have a team to share all the glory with?

Even if you’re a really, really great designer, you’ll reach a certain point where you are confused too. When that time comes, wouldn’t it be nice to be surrounded with a team of great players and listen to their opinions?

Before we are designers, we are human beings. “Social” animals that are designed to work in teams, never designed to work alone.

The Bottomline:

  1. Social isolation is bad for your health.
  2. Working alone does not equate to creativity.
  3. Working alone can lead to too much increase or too much decrease in confidence level.
  4. Working alone means no second opinions
  5. Nobody works alone!


This is just me. It would be my pleasure to read your comments and please don’t hesitate to add anything as I fully realize that it is necessary for learning.

How about you guys? Do you prefer working alone? Or are you more productive when you’re communicating with the team?



  1. Jay Karsandas

    I love design critique to the extent that I push my fellow designers to give their opinions. Working alone may work for some people but personally I prefer having fellow designers with me. It adds to your creativity feeding off the inspiration of others.

    Just having that extra eye and dimension from someone else can help improve your work.

    Nice article :)

  2. Vijayraj Reddy

    Ya, if we work in group we will have many Opinions and we can choose the best to make the work easy and fast…

  3. HL Alcigaire

    As knowledge and intellectual property have increasingly become valuable currency in the “new economy”, more people will learn to perfect working alone as a vital way to protect their ideas that are the lifeblood of a project or the designer’s very assurance of survival. Unless mandated to work with a team as a strict requirement, and all the efficient and effective legal protections are in place, I advise working alone or learning to do so incrementally over time. Not many among us can sustain long periods of solitude, but there’s peace to be gained for those who can.
    Agreeably there are moments when one can experience lingering creativity lapses when hard pressed to devise a completely new product, concept or method, but that is overcome with good note-keeping, hard-copy drafts and the ability to construct simulations of the desired product.
    And we must never aim willfully to exclude all other people, namely those who can be trusted to test the draft stages of our concept, and those who can clarify some questions.

  4. Russel

    If you completely isolated yourself from the outside world, then—yes—that’s probably not a good thing as it’s easy to lose touch with reality (whatever that is!). I tend to work best on my own, and find it’s when I’m most productive and creative.

  5. Johnny

    YAY! Let’s hear it for mindless group-think!

    Personally, I prefer to work ALONE, and bounce ideas off my peers when necessary.

    The article and all the commenting cheerleaders only serves one purpose — to promote group-think.
    I think TENA’s payroll is getting bottomless at this point.

  6. I agree and am beginning to realize a lot of what your sharing. There are times when I am working on a project and another project is also available; I wished to be part of a team so we can split the work and get more work done.

    Efficiency and all. It doesn’t matter if your a rock star web designer, web developer, flash creator, etc; your still just one person and you still only got 24 hours.

    I’m in the midst of updating my site right now, which, I’ve been lagging because I’ve been working AND learning at the same time. At times, wish there was a team to collaborate with because opportunities are out there.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. nathan

    In essence I totally agree with your article. When you’re working on your own you don’t even realise that you’re alone. Thats the tough bit. You just get on woth it. Its only when you return to the pack that you realise what you’ve missed. Getting a second opinion on your work can be hard going. I have had a bit of luck through some forums but its not quite the same.

    2 weeks ago I moved into a shared office space and am really noticing the difference. Just getting out of the house and being around people again, this after 3 years working from my living room. I feel better.

    Im already learning new things and have been invited to work related workshops that I never would have heard of otherwise. I look forward to everything else it brings. I still work alone, but I have people around me… its makes a difference.

    If you’re getting cabin fever from all the solitude and quiet of working from home, then I’d highly recommend sharing some office space. It seems to be working for me.

    Thanks again for the article.

    Good luck!

  8. Ana Amelio

    For the most part I agree with the OP and a few other comments here, balance is the key for everything

  9. SD

    I agree wholeheartedly with your article, however, for a person like myself, as paolo put it, it is very hard to find those you trust.
    My initial experience in design utilizing teamwork failed miserably. Needless to say, ideas were taken, then designs and eventually, the client.
    As with my other business (which is my Ying to my Design Yang), I find comfort in working for/by myself.
    My social interaction is with my clients (sad as it is to say). However, the one very large drawback to this mentality is that I do not trust people to perform ‘up to par’, therefor, I have a hard time finding people I am willing to hire.
    On the design aspect, the experience I shared above is only my ‘First’ experience. Many more followed, each with a lesson to learn (and wound to lick). Never again.
    I tend to work in ‘Opposing Networks’, depending on the phase of the project I am in. ie. When working on code/layout and useability, I tend to ask opinions of Graphical Designers who have no idea about web design.
    When working on Graphic Design, I tend to lean on those I know on the opposite side of the spectrum (and typically who don’t have an artistic bone in their body… then again, html/css/php/etcetc is an art in and of itself is it not?) and for general feedback, I lean and those who don’t have a clue in either field. You know the type, Jane and John Commonuser.
    I still remain very skittish at the thought of sharing my WIPs with anyone.
    I accept criticism with gratitude and attentiveness, and do not fear being told I am wrong… it’s forever a learning process. However, with that said, do not take my ideas’ and designs’, hack, split, spit and chop them up, then run off with my wallet (clients) touting your ‘Great, Unique and New Idea!”
    Another side to look at things, in relation to working by yourself:
    A lot depends on the individual. A person, raised in a social environment, or who thoroughly enjoys socializing, can excel amazingly well in a team environment.
    However, a person, such as myself, raised ‘On the Road’, so to speak, enjoys the company of others, yet, is also irritated and distracted by the presence of other people, especially when working. BS’n over drinks or intelligent conversation is warmly welcomed, though.
    As my wife and I firmly believe: “Humans Suck!”
    Pardon me for sounding cynical, I speak only from MY experience, and not that of anyone else.
    Warning: User experience may vary

  10. HI,

    I totally agree with your point “Social isolation is bad for your health” Most of the freelance designers work alone and this can result in depression, anxiety or any other mental health problem.

    Working in a team enhances teamwork and also helps in developing management skills. I think full time freelancing can be quite difficult task. Team is always better than a single person.

    “Union is strength”


  11. Piotr

    Great article! I have worked at a startup ad agency with some freelance work here and there. There is a huge difference between working alone and working with a team. The team can be just a couple other people, but it really does wonders for bouncing ideas around, growing those great direction and trimming down the bad ones.

    The points you make are very valid. I think that the second opinions bullet does not receive the attention that it should. Without a team of people to give you feedback, it’s very easy to go off track. Between the client requests and your own ideas, there is little ground for feedback by someone who understand the project but is not 100% focused on the creative details of the designer.

    I’ve heard a number of freelancers taking advantage of shared workspaces where they can be alongside other people that may or may not be working in a related field. I think that’s a great way to get some new perspectives on your work.

  12. Mike

    I used to be a cube dweller in a corporate environment before going full time as an independent working from home. There are a great many things I like about working on my own and I would not want to give it up. Still, there are times I miss the BSing around the water cooler and the team experience. I always try to get out on a regular basis and form as many contacts in the biz as I can. It’s a constant balancing act…

  13. Stuart Chester

    The social interactivity points are all spot on, a great read with some interesting views on working alone, some of it is sad, some of it is great but all of it seems quite the way it can become, I would just say thatit would take a very, very long time to reach these depths!

  14. 100% agree on all of those points. Been doing this for 11 years as both a freelancer and having people working for me. The times when people were working with me were definitely the more enjoyable and productive of times. Have spent the past 3 years as a lone freelancer and have recently coming to the conclusion that I’ve had all the time to myself I need for a long time. This article helped define some of my current frustrations with my business that I didn’t realize were there. Thanks Luanne!

  15. Some of the article seems sooo true. I need to get myself out of my isolated routine. Perhaps a small office share somewhere within a bigger company!

  16. Balance is definitely the key here, because there are plenty of disadvantages to working with a team:

    1. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Design by committee rarely works.

    2. Sometimes in a team environment, the designer never speaks directly with the client, only hearing them through secondhand sources like the project manager. Messages get garbled- it’s a game of Telephone.

    3. Sometimes the people with more authority are the least qualified to have an opinion. It’s bad enough when a client is stuck on a bad idea, but it’s even worse when the bad ideas are coming from someone higher up within your own organization.

    • Camille

      I have to agree. The firm I’m with is guilty of all three, more or less constantly, and it can drive a person completely insane. Honestly, it’s a deal breaker for me. I’d rather work alone than with a sub par team.

      But I agree that balance is key. Ideally, you’ve got enough solo time to dive into that creative space and a good team for support.

  17. paolo

    I agree with you, I am a social animal too, but I have to say that, sometimes, it’s hard to find out people we can easily trust

  18. I have the best of both worlds I think. I share office space with a group of independent freelancers who just for themselves. Gives you a place to go, be social, bounce ideas around, ask for opinions and advice… but we all have our own sole proprietor businesses. Also, I don’t know about the quiet thing. Depends. One of the best working environments for me when initially coming up with design ideas is a noisy coffee shop with me, a fineliner and my sketchbook. Other times I need solitude but not quiet. When building the initial HTML/CSS I work best with my headphones on cranking music. If I’m trying to figure out some tricky PHP issue I close my office door and work in total silence. All depends on the activity.

  19. rajasegar

    I need only one thing when i am working or designing, “CREATIVE FREEDOM” , if i have it i have no problems at all in working alone….

  20. Davida

    I think initially working alone on a project alone has its benefits however, there comes a point in time when you need outside opinions feedback to really make the idea, like you said “an exceptional one”.

  21. Most of the greatest artist were very social people, they were bouncing ideas of each other.
    Just remember your design is 20% inside workspace and 80% outside workspace.


  22. Madeline

    I understand the power of teamwork and although I work alone I have other designer peers that I chat with and to get critiques from on my projects. I can also rely on them if I need help to collaborate on projects. It would be good to have a partner because just finding clients is a whole marketing ordeal in itself and if I get overwhelmed it would be nice to share the load.

  23. Geoffrey Gordon

    Some bracing insight which I definitely agree with. People need people to be better themselves and generate a healthy working environment.