This pandemic has affected us all in one way or another. And within this unprecedented and frightening time we are experiencing due to the spread of the virus, it has been heartwarming to see people coming together, offering help where possible, and giving advice/guidance where necessary. There has been a tremendous amount of support and countless initiatives from established practitioners and studios, which is why it will be impossible to list them all here. Instead, I wish to concentrate on current changes in the industry and talk a bit about how these past two months in lockdown have pushed my career further than I could have ever anticipated.
Over the last couple of months, the creative industry has faced a great challenge of adapting to a new sense of normality and with this period likely to last a while, many of the studios have been experimenting with different tools and ideas to make working from home more efficient, less static and more interesting. With that being said, there has been some great shift towards finding digital alternatives and it has been both humbling and reassuring to see our community come together to work on innovative solutions in the hardest of times. I really enjoyed how Mark Pernice, the co-founder of design studio Out Of Office (OOO), said that this is an incredible time to have a very hard look on how we structure our businesses and hopefully this will have an impact on the way how we treat and care -or don’t care- for our workers. Which I think has been a subject of discussion amongst many freelancers, especially during tough times like these where many have lost their job(s). With one of my contracts finished and a placement in Berlin postponed indefinitely, I found myself without a job too. And although these tough times will pass, there needs to be restructuring and adaptations within the teams to avoid such situation in the future. We can all use this time to test remote working, making the most of digital tools and develop them, whilst travelling less and thus, saving the environment. It will be a great challenge to see how to reduce work-related travels and client meetings beyond the lockdown. With that being said, I think there will be some great new technologies developed- perhaps a virtual reality or easier ways for 3D rendering, which will push our current practice and beliefs further and hopefully shift our thinking and perception of a ‘normal’ design studio. It is a great challenge to overcome now, which will eventually lead to the restructuring of design teams and offer a more flexible working environment where freelancers would not have to face a similar situation again. Design studios will be better prepared and remote working would not be a novelty, but rather a new norm.
Secondly, I hope that the great effort of utilising design for social change will continue to grow beyond the pandemic and push businesses to re-evaluate their strategies. Big corporations should feel especially responsible for changing direction as their impact on the economy and environment is much greater than the one from smaller businesses. I firmly believe that if we keep being resilient and, once again, remind the world how important creativity is, many corporations will shift and reconsider strategies set into place before the pandemic, as they will no longer serve a purpose in a post-COVID-19 world. What is more, it is great to see creative agencies help businesses in need of creative counsel for free. Mark Pernice has said that these times have represented an already concrete belief for him: “If you put other people’s needs first, it’s a great coping mechanism when you’re feeling helpless.” In addition to agencies working independently, Ask For Ideas, a creative agency matchmaker, has launched a brand new scheme called Now Needs New, open to international brands in need of creative counsel that have met with new-found hurdles during the Coronavirus crisis. With the aim of giving unique ideas and collection of innovative strategies that will help push companies and our world forward, it will help businesses to weather what looks to be a daunting financial year.
Li Edelkoort, one of the world’s most influential trend forecasters, has recently said to Dezeen that despite all the help, lots of companies will, unfortunately, go out of business as their money will be wiped due to slowing down. The economy will have a blank page to re-think and re-evaluate current strategies in order to make meaningful changes in all aspects of the business. Current crisis will draw a clear distinction between strategies that are working and the ones that are not. It will be an opportunity for us to learn from the good practice established before the global disaster. According to Li Edelkoort, creativity and improvisation will become the highest asset for businesses and implementing design thinking into current, outdated business models will thus be inevitable.
Coming to the level of individuals, there are hundreds of creatives offering their time to young designers and students. Carly Ayres from Google Design, who offers ‘digital coffees’ as portfolio reviews for students, and Pip Jameson from The Dots, who is giving advice through the platform and in person, have stood out the most for me. It is now especially important to give out valuable knowledge to young designers as the pandemic is going to make the industry rethink the importance of good communicators and having experienced this ourselves, it is upon us to dictate the future of the creative industry. And to speak truthfully, I was in a shock when due to the virus, all my further DPS plans were postponed indefinitely. Looking back at it now, the situation has taught me incredible resilience and commitment to push through. Reaching out to well-known designers has expanded my network and given me invaluable industry insight. The United Nations issuing an open brief for designers to help fight coronavirus is an incredible initiative and a chance to challenge artists and designers and remember what it takes to be a good communicator. With the main aim to continue to spread the correct information and reach communities that can minimize the risk of the outbreak, it encourages participants to think about the way we communicate as well as how, what and why. It will ensure that moving forward, people are put before profits and that design is measured by its purpose and ability to communicate with the audience more than solely by its looks.
Despite the negative aspects of the pandemic, I have had more time on my hands and found myself strengthening my technical skills and expanding my practice in the realms of coding, through which I have had an amazing opportunity to re-evaluate the purpose of creative industry. I have slowed down and started thinking about the future of design by questioning my motifs and having the freedom to create for myself. I no longer define the value of design by great visual language only; if done right, design can help people overcome difficult situations and companies to evolve by abandoning outdated strategies. In order to reach the potential of graphic design, it should most definitely be paired up with other forms of visual communication and strategic thinking.
In a search for my next challenge, I have been looking into corporate companies to implement design thinking to. It has been wonderful to feel the support of my tutors and my previous mentors at Pentagram, who have pushed me to work harder every day, encouraged me to take on a new challenge and supported me during each application process. I have thus been able to secure a Junior Specialist position at a Swedish investment bank and I look forward to starting a new chapter that will bring me closer towards my dreams.
A week before lockdown in London, missing Mabel a lot