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Design is a full contact sport – are you ready?

Have you ever been punched in the face? Kicked in the shins or wrestled into submission? It hurts. Strangely enough, the more it happens, the less terrifying it is. This is the gift of conditioning. I’ve been practicing Krav Maga now for the past few years and contrary to the brutal “no rules” self defense techniques taught, I’ve learnt more about myself than I ever expected.


1. to be aware of my surroundings
2. to never underestimate anyone
3. to communicate clearly and speak to people as people (not anything less)
4. to breathe during highly stressful or fearful situations
5. that there are smarter and more effective ways to reaching a desired outcome.

For those that haven’t heard of Krav Maga, it’s a self-defense system developed for the Israeli military consisting of a wide combination of techniques including boxing, judo, aikido, wrestling and realistic fight training. As you can imagine, coming from soccer and solo resistance weight training, learning Krav Maga has taken my discipline to a whole new level. For those of you that do any form of martial arts, self-defense or fighting, I hold much respect for you. I realized how unfit I was when starting out!


Everything I listed above on my five listed points, can all be applied to design. 

Let me elaborate. I’ve learnt:

1. to be aware of my surroundings – in every corner, there’s inspiration to be found. In every environment, there’s research to uncover and in every experience, there’s a problem to be solved.

2. to never underestimate anyone – what you say doesn’t mean a thing, it’s what you do that matters.

3. to communicate clearly and speak to people as people (not anything less) – the fundamental principle of visual communication.

4. to breath during highly stressful or fearful situations – deadlines, responsibilities and delivering to the highest standard every single time can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s important to stay calm. Freaking out won’t help you get anywhere in a tough situation.

5. that there are smarter and more effective ways to reaching a desired outcome – as designers, we can often get caught up fleshing out and crafting an idea. Most of the time, we need to take a step back and involve our peers (to collaborate) and our client (for first round concept stage) early on the project. Both of these decisions are smarter and more effective because you’re progressing with a creative solution lighnting fast in a short time frame without burning all your fuel.


Design is not for everyone. 

Many people tell me “I didn’t pursue design because I couldn’t draw”. That is the least concerning trait of a designer in my opinion. By choosing to be a designer, you’re opting to willingly get your ass kicked every, single, day – 7 days a week. There is no off button. You’re constantly curious and constantly being informed. There is no, ‘I can’t handle it’. You recover, get up and rise to the occasion as best as you can. Your work will be criticized and torn to shreds a thousand times before you get praised for a single piece. You will be told you’re not good enough. You will be told that you’re not cut out for this industry, that you’re not talented or creative enough.

For all those punches to your spirit, let me tell you, love the pain. Condition yourself. This is greatness in the making.

Remember, a fighter doesn’t lose when he or she gets knocked down. That fighter loses when he or she refuses to get back up.

How has your experience with physical sports helped you in your life as a designer?

For more, pick up a copy of Ram Castillo’s internationally and industry-acclaimed book ‘How to Get a Job as a Designer, Guaranteed’.

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Author: Ram Castillo

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About Ram Castillo


Ram is an award winning Design Director, Blogger, top ranking Podcaster, Speaker, Instructor and Author of two internationally acclaimed books 'How to get a job as a designer, guaranteed' and 'How to get a mentor as a designer, guaranteed'. He's based in Sydney, Australia and in 2012, started the blog which helps thousands of design students and graduates be employed. Ram has since been featured in Communication Arts, HOW magazine, Herman Miller, deFrost*, and Apple.

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