How Paula Scher remains productive

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:


What is your biggest challenge as a designer?
Not to repeat. I’ve been designing for over 40 years now, so the question becomes how to approach something with a new point of view. How am I not jaded?

Do you have any productivity tricks?
I have a productivity trick that I didn’t know I had until I heard about it on a radio program. NPR did this interview with experts about boredom. iPhones and other forms of digital media were disrupting boredom, because people can occupy themselves all the time. You don’t have any more downtime—you go on your iPhone, look at email, or you’re playing video games. The fact of the matter is, that eats up really good creative time. I realize that when I’m sitting in a taxicab in traffic, or on my way to the airport, or waiting to get on a plane, or trapped in some other boring situation, that’s when I get the best ideas, because I’ve got nothing else interfering with it. I didn’t realize until I listened to that broadcast how important boredom is to me. I have to stop reading emails or being anywhere near the internet to be able to create.

If I’m alone, I try really hard to shut down, because that’s when I’ll figure out a whole pile of stuff. I’m very disorganized. I never finish sketchbooks—my sketches are on crappy little pieces of paper distributed amongst my team. I’m not like my Pentagram friend Michael Bierut, who has every sketch he’s ever done in his life. The idea for me is find these moments of supreme focus where I gather the shreds of things I’ve thought of independently in moments of boredom or downtime and pushed them through. That seems to be my method.