Working on something else for a while: pacing in creative design projects

Wendelien van Eerde, Flora Beeftink, Christel G. Rutte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
110 Downloads (Pure)


In an interview study among 25 architects we investigated how activities were allocated over time in the design phase of an architectural project. Specifically, linking the literatures about pacing behavior and incubation, we set out to identify patterns related to how the interviewees paced their activity before a deadline. We used two types of materials to stimulate the answers in the interview: 1) standard graphs, developed in previous research; 2) a timeline. Five main themes emerged, that were termed pacing; milestones; multiple projects; deadlines; and quality–time trade-offs. Based upon the results we propose a model that includes overlapping U-shapes of activity, that is, most activity at the start of a project and right before a deadline. A second study provided a comparison of the pacing patterns among 85 respondents in jobs that required different levels of creativity. Not only U-shape pacing, but also deadline pacing was more common in creative jobs, whereas early starting patterns were less common. The two studies provide insight into how professionals in creative jobs deliberately use pacing that allows for incubation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)676-699
Number of pages24
JournalTime & Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Creativity
  • deadlines
  • incubation
  • pacing
  • time


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