what skateboarding taught me about design

I started skating when I was about 11 and skated most days till I was about 18. Recently I picked it up again and realised that it taught me so many lessons I use everyday in my design work.



Skateboarding exists in the the past, present and future. You’ve just done a thing and you’re planning another thing and you’re reacting with your surroundings. You’re not thinking about feeding the cats or the front page of the newspaper. When you’re existing in those simple feelings of time and place, then you’re existing in the now and that’s a good creative place to be.


The main thing I’ve learnt from skateboarding is the attitude of subversion. The whole fun is using your surroundings in a new way. Suddenly curbs and driveways, slopes and ledges, and everything around you becomes a puzzle for you to play with. Design is exactly the same and you can take anything from your everyday surroundings and play with it and turn it into something unexpected.


Sometimes the most fun thing is to roll around and not try too hard. Working within your means is sometimes the most fun thing.

Shared knowledge

What’s great about skating with other people is you learn from them and they learn from you. And when someone learns from you, they often take that thing somewhere new and then teach things back to you in ways you hadn’t thought of. Design can be the same if you’re not so precious about the technical stuff and start trusting that it’s all one long project.

Letting go

Skateboards are a good object to learn about the transience of things. The very act of using it will eventually break it. 'No matter what, everything will rot’, I always say. You don’t want to think about it sometimes, but even digital pictures will start to fade and that's okay.


It is this push and pull of new/old techniques combined with new/old ideas that gets your creative brain going. You might have a new technique that fits an old idea or the other way around.

Muscle memory

This is a really weird phrase. It’s the idea that if you do something over and over again, you don’t need to even think about it anymore because your brain remembers the actions that your body does. It’s true, imagine if you had to relearn everything you ever did every time you wanted to do it. Then when things get easier you can combine them or take them somewhere new. So in design too, things become easier with practice and that's a happy thought.

Lying on the pavement

This is a thing that’s not really normal in everyday life, but it’s really fun.