Using Design Thinking to Explore Burnout Among Designers in the Workplace


Burnout is an occupational phenomenon often resulting in job turnover, excessive absenteeism, and physical and emotional symptoms that have significant financial implications on businesses. While office burnout has been widely investigated among human-service occupations, there is a lack of empirical research on burnout among designers and the organizations and conditions in which they work. Using design-thinking strategies, the purpose of this research study was to explore burnout among designers in the workplace and propose solutions. This investigation was divided into three parts using a purposive sample of animation, architectural, experience (UI/UX), fashion, graphic, industrial, interior, instructional, motion graphics, and web designers and educators working full-time in private- and public-sector companies and institutions. Part one involved an online survey (n = 150), interviews (n = 18), and journaling (n = 4). Findings were analyzed using affinity clustering to determine common themes and generate persona profiles of designers at risk of or experiencing burnout. Part two consisted of a design-thinking workshop with a group of designers (n = 11) that critiqued the personas and prototyped solutions for alleviating and preventing burnout. In part three, 2 designers with over 20 years of experience were interviewed to gain insight on their experiences with burnout to inform future research. Results found that the majority of designers in the study had experienced burnout at some point in their careers. Solutions proposed for alleviating and preventing burnout were focused on better communication, leadership support, managing workload and expectations, and establishing company fit within an organization.


Joan Dickinson
Professor, Design, Radford University, United States Minor Outlying Islands, United States

Nakia Shelton
Director of Digital Design and Production, Marketing and Communications, UNC Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States

Kathleen Sullivan

Holly L. Cline


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Design Management and Professional Practice


Burnout, Designers, Design-thinking

Digital Media


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