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Do you worry about your eyesight?Do you worry about your eyesight? As a designer, there’s pretty much no escaping being in front of a screen. If you’re like me, between the computer, phone and TV, you probably spend more time each day with your eyes staring at a screen than you do sleeping. Face it, we’re slaves to our tech displays.
Did you know that this constant exposure to one screen after another throughout the day can cause strain, and even damage to your eyes?
The issue is ultraviolet blue UV light emitted by all these devices. Although researchers are at odds on whether screen use can cause permanent damage or not, they do agree that prolonged exposure to blue UV light does affect your eyes.
Dr Ritesh Patel, an optometrist with the Ontario Association of Optometrists here in Canada, describes the problem.
Our eyes are sensitive to a narrow band of light frequencies called the “visual light spectrum”. In that spectrum, blue light has the shortest wavelength causing it to emit the most energy.
Traditionally, ultraviolet blue UV light comes from sunlight. It’s why you’ve been told all your life to protect your eyes with UV protecting sunglasses. However, unless you’re an MTV rapper trying to look cool, or you’re playing in the World Series of Poker, chances are you don’t wear sunglasses indoors. That’s a problem because all these screens we stare into each day also emit blue UV light. That’s not taking to account the LED lighting in our homes and offices which also put out blue light.
Blue light is known to suppress the sleep hormone melatonin, causing an artificial feeling of wakefulness and disrupting sleep patterns, which can add to eye strain and affect your life in general. But it goes beyond just the blue light. Some screens today have built-in features to alter the light spectrum and reduce the amount of blue light they project, but they can’t eliminate it altogether, and it doesn’t change the fact that you are staring at a screen.
How screens affect your eyes.
A Canadian study reports that one-quarter of Canadians spend over 2 hours per day staring at their phones. Staring at a screen for hours at a time puts a heavy strain on your eyes, so it’s probably not a big surprise that doing so can put your eye health in jeopardy.
Researchers are linking exposure to blue light to macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness. This research is referencing the blue light from the sun. These same researchers are not confirming a connection between screen time and blindness, but it’s a scary thought nonetheless that the same outside light they’re worried about is also being emitted by that device in your hand.
According to a study done by Weill Cornell Medical College in New York:
- 93% of American adults spend two or more hours per day in front of a screen.
- 61% spend five or more hours in front of a screen.
- 30% spend more than nine hours in front of a screen.
Chances are, as a designer you fall in that 30% bracket spending more than nine hours per day in front of a screen. Does that concern you? It should.
Other studies say between 50%-90% of people who work all day in front of a computer screen experience symptoms of what doctors call Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). CVS is not one specific condition, but rather a term used to classify a multitude of problems caused by prolonged computer use. Things like:
- Blurred Vision
- Double Vision
- Dry, Red Eyes
- Eye Irritation
- Neck or Back Pain
People with existing vision issues are even more at risk to Computer Vision Syndrome.
Eye strain isn’t only annoying, it can lead to health issues. Not to mention that when your eyes start bothering you your performance drops, you slow down, you become less creative. Not good for a designer.
Smartphones are just as bad as computer screens. A study out of the United States predicts that 2 out of every 3 Americans will experience eye strain caused by excessive use of their phone. I'm sure the same applies in most countries around the world.
Eye strain is a growing concern.
Did you know that until the 1960s, the majority of the world’s population was farsighted? But since the 60s the table has shifted and now there are more nearsighted people in the world than people with farsighted vision. The 60s is when the television gained in popularity as a form of daily family entertainment.
When I was in grade school back in the 70s, there were maybe two or three kids in my entire school who wore glasses. Nowadays, it’s hard to find a single classroom without at least one child with vision problems. Just look around you and you’ll see evidence everywhere of how people’s eyes are getting worse.
As a graphic designer or web designer, someone who relies on your vision to make a living, you should be taking precautions to protect yourself.
What can you do to protect your eyes?
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to drastically reduce the risk of eye problems in the future.
The first thing you should do is start giving your eyes regular breaks. Have you ever heard of the 20-20-20 rule? Every 20 minutes you look away from your screen and spend 20 seconds looking at something that is 20 feet or more away. This will alleviate strain on your eyes.
Blue UV Light Glasses
Something else you can try is blue UV light filtering glasses. These special glasses are coated with a blue UV light filter to help protect your eyes. This coating is available on prescription glasses but there are also a wide variety of non-prescription glasses available to protect your eyes from blue UV light.
Installing a humidifier in or near your office will help keep your eyes moist. Working all day long in dry air is really bad for your eyes. A humidifier can help eliminate that dryness.
Eye drops can help moisturize your eyes. If you do use eye drops, avoid the ones that “get the red out”, they work great for a quick fix, but did you know that your eyes become even redder when you stop using them?
Regarding your screens:
Turn down the brightness on your phone and tablet. Most people have their brightness set much higher than necessary. Reducing the brightness will make it easier on your eyes. Plus, it has the added benefit of conserving your battery life.
Increase Text Size
If you find yourself squinting to read your phone or computer, try making the default font size larger. Press Command/Control and “+” to increase the font size in any web browser making websites easier to read.
Position your computer screen at arm's length or more away to avoid excessive eye strain, and place your screen so that your eyes are at the top edge of the screen looking at a downward gaze towards the monitor. This will lower your eyelids slightly and help protect your eyes.
The average person blinks 15-20 times per minute, but when looking at a computer screen that number drops by up to half. It may sound crazy, but consciously blinking will help keep your eyes moist.
Take care of your eyes
You are a designer. You chose this profession because you love the creativity and challenge it brings you each and every day. Don’t let Computer Vision Syndrome affect your ability to do your job to your fullest. Take precautions to protect your eyes and you'll enjoy a long career.
Do you wear protective glasses when working at your computer?
Let me know by leaving a comment for this episode.
Questions of the Week
Submit your question to be featured in a future episode of the podcast by visiting the feedback page.
This week’s question comes from Adam
I’d like to ask for some advice in regards to a dilemma I've found myself in recently. I have a client I acquired when I bought out the client portfolio of another web designer who decided to close up shop.
This client’s site is ugly and uses poor design technique.
I met with the client a few weeks ago to discuss designing a new website for them. This meeting was not predicated on the client's recognition of any problem with their site, but rather because I informed them of the issues with their site. They understood the gravity of the problem and agreed to consider a new website for their next budget year.
Then, we talked about their logo… Oh boy, this logo is atrocious, and I'm quite certain that it was actually designed in Word or Powerpoint. I quickly learned that there is some personal stake in this design by the organization's Director, and that she actually dictated this design to the designer, who obliged her design.
This logo is not only ugly, but it doesn't really represent the business. The Director gave me her explanation of what the logo means, but admitted that her target audience likely did not understand its meaning. My suggestion of a re-design was quickly met with a loud and clear “off limits.”
I've been sitting on this proposal for a few weeks because I'm simply not comfortable with designing a new website that incorporates that hideous logo. At least not in its current state. I'm trying to set myself apart from my competition as a premium web design, hosting and management service. I'm afraid that to use this logo on my website design does not reflect well on my business. Am I wrong to feel that way? I'm tempted to tell the client that I can't design a website for them if they want to continue to use that logo, but I'm not sure that's really reasonable. It feels like holding them for ransom just to get more design work.
I'm considering offering the client to at least clean up the current logo design so that it doesn't look quite so bad. I've even considered offering to do this at half my normal rate because it seems silly to kick an existing client to the curb and give up a several thousand dollar website design over a few hundred dollars work to their logo.
How would you handle this set of circumstances? Thank you for taking the time to consider my question; any advice would be greatly appreciated.
To find out what I told Adam you’ll have to listen to the podcast.
Resource of the week Elementor
Elementor is a WordPress Page Builder that works seamlessly with almost any theme and plugin. Similar to the Divi Page Builder, it allows you to drag and drop elements making it extremely easy to build and customize beautiful responsive websites. With over 80 design elements, and more being added on a regular basis, Elementor offers a complete set of dedicated tools that help you generate more traffic, leads and conversions.
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Running a graphic design or web design business all by yourself isn't easy. If there are any struggles you face running your design business, please reach out to me. I'll do my best to help you by addressing your issues in a future blog post or podcast episode here at Resourceful Designer. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org