Graphic artist, print-maker and designer Anthony Burrill is known for his persuasive, up-beat style of communication.
His work is held in the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, New York and has been exhibited in galleries around the world including the Barbican Art Gallery, the Walker Art Center and the Design Museum, London.
He gave his view on stress during the following Q&A session:
What do you think of when you hear the word stress?
A lack of good planning or having to react to a huge cock-up that nobody predicted.
Tell me about a time when you experience stress.
I do everything I can to anticipate stressful situations and avoid them at all costs. I plan meticulously, allowing sufficient time for everything to happen. I hate uncertainty and always need to know that things are being done correctly.
I work with people who I’ve developed good working relationships with based on trust. When a job comes in with an unrealistic deadline I turn it down, I know how much time I need to do a particular job and if I feel there isn’t enough time I say no. I like the feeling of a looming deadline, it helps focus the mind to the job in hand. I’m usually calm, my natural state is relaxed and mellow. I have moments of anxiety, but they are short lived.
Usually small things like trying to get my annoying wireless printer to work get me more stressed out than the big things. I guess they’re little outlets for stress that sneak out unexpectedly.
Tell me about a moment when you felt the benefits of stress.
Times when I’ve felt out of my depth or like some kind of impostor. I’ve been in meetings and people have asked me about the job and I find myself saying things that I didn’t expect. It’s good to test yourself and once you come out of the situation and things have gone well it helps your self-confidence. You feel yourself growing into a role, maturing even!
Do you feel stress motivates you or paralyses you? How so?
It’s more of a motivational force for me, it helps me get to the stage where I think this is when I’ve really got to get on with things and sort everything out. It helps me to get things done.
How much of your life would you say you spend stressed out?
As little as possible.
Which areas of your life are most affected when you’re under stress?
It comes out in unexpected ways, you think you are coping OK and suddenly you snap over the smallest thing. When you are feeling like that you just have to take a deep breath and let the stress out. I don’t meditate or do yoga, I find a good bike ride helps to unravel the stress.
If you were given a magic wand in the middle of your next stress fit, what would you do?
Sometimes stress can be good, it gives you an edge and a burst of creative energy. It all depends on how you are feeling at the time and how capable you are of dealing with the situation.
It would be handy to have a clone of myself that could stay in the studio and do all the work, while the real me goes off for a bike ride or a walk on the beach. The reward you get when you’ve completed a job or successfully dealt with a stressful situation is a feeling of satisfaction. You’ve proved to yourself that you can handle things well, it feels like you’ve passed a test. That’s what keeps me motivated, looking to achieve the goal and getting past the stress.
Switching back to reality, what do you do in your day-to-day life to help yourself handle stressful situations?
I think my experience over the past twenty years as a designer helps me handle the stressful situations. I know there’s always a creative solution and even though it might feel like it at the time, it isn’t the end of the world. You have to be flexible with your aspirations, if something doesn’t turn out exactly how you envisaged it, then that’s OK. It gives you room for improvement next time, not every project can be a masterpiece.
Which is worse: work stress or home stress?
Work and home are so closely intertwined for me that they are both the same thing. When a job isn’t going smoothly I’m not my usual laid-back happy self, I try and soldier on regardless, but it’s only later that I realise I was quite stressed. Most of the time I’m happily rolling along, feeling productive and positive. It only takes a small niggle to derail that feeling, which is annoying. I’m usually quick to bounce back, usually after a good nights sleep.
How does stress feed into/inform your work?
It gives it an edge, I wouldn’t want to live totally without stress. It’s like any extreme emotion, it has positive and negative aspects. Part of being creative is never feeling completely satisfied, there are always more things to explore out there and experiences to try out. Stress can be useful if it helps you get to where you want to be.
In October we’re holding a one-day event in London all about stress and how to make it work for you and your business.
We hope you’re enjoying our current series all about stress and how it can work for you or your business. If you haven’t already, check out ‘The Stress Report’, a supplement to our event Do Stress and a modern blueprint for a better way of working and living.