During a pandemic the rawness of the world is brought to life. Human actions and interactions with their surroundings become the focus of attention to people. As an immigrant designer part of my purpose is to use my journey as my motivation to create art and to look into the overlooked. To organise information, create accessibility and highlight the importance of why the arts are so much more than what gives the eye. Hence why working with social brands and communities will help me understand the different ways in which I can use my ongoing knowledge to make their connections with their audience more meaningful.
Extract from 16 Handwritten Letters
Romania, circa 1996. A collection of memories and of history encapsulated within this publication from letters initially found in my grandparents shed.
New Agency is Uncertainty
Looking back on August, uncertainty was already part of my plans since I had nothing yet planned for any work experience; the only thing I was certain about was that my spreadsheet was busy filling up with where I’ve sent my applications to, yet no greens in terms of replies. On one side, this uncertainty brought the what if question out more often, which made me worry thinking if I’d ever find something that I would want to do. However on the other side, this uncertainty has also allowed me to pace myself at a slower rate. I think now I’m at a better stage of understanding that at the moment nothing is quite stable or long term so uncertainty is part of the experience, teaching you to become flexible. Hence my surprise in September when I received a reply from an email I had sent back in June!
New Agency is Rejection
There was one rejection email (amongst others but this one in particular) that made me realise that sometimes rejection doesn’t have to make you feel bad. The story goes…I applied to an open job position at Bumble (yep it’s the dating app) knowing that they most likely were looking for senior designers but I had some hopes. I remember laughing as I was telling my friend the story when I saw the rejection email, it’s my reaction that made me realise that some experiences are just not meant to be but even so still worth the time to apply because of the ‘what if?’ I think the main thing at this point is that its better to get a rejection email than be the one ghosted. And always to try your luck!
New Agency is Decisions
This email that I wrote back in June was to a staff member I knew that worked within marketing and communications back at my old school, where I used to volunteer while I was a student. In the email she told me how her current assistant just left and that she was looking for someone else to fill in the spot! Making decisions in a short time has never been my forte, especially since I remember having another interview the next day and a promising reply in my inbox from another company. Not knowing exactly what type of experience I was looking for and being opened to explore and to try my skills within different environments, just made me question my decisions and options even more.
New Agency is Experimenting
Community and social design became my two key words after my tutorial with Sarah, which I think was one of the main reasons I chose to take up the opportunity at my old school. I’m currently working full time as a Visual Marketing assistant at Clapton Girls Academy, talk about doing a 360 in life. Being a staff but essentially still a student I think has allowed me a greater insight into their audience, for me to understand exactly their work and their message. Being employed and not working as an ‘intern’ essentially has given me freedom yet a workload of responsibility as a package.
New Agency is Confrontation
Although I am stable with my current work experience and my time is preoccupied with learning, experimenting and exploring the working world, there’s always times where I’m confronted with the thoughts of what next. There’s days where I’m questioning my choices and wondering if I should be doing more? More in terms of having chosen a company more set on graphic design rather than something as broad as my current role. A few months in our DPS journey and I seem to already have set an expectation on myself of knowing what I want to do next or double wondering why I feel like I have yet to discover my own style. These thoughts are always passive but always make me evaluate where I’m at. Sometimes I feel these thoughts as an extra pressure and sometimes it’s my rain check to stop and think of where I’m at in the year. I think these thoughts are most of the time the product of comparing yourself and your experiences to others. So to battle this, sometimes I have to stop and jot down the whys of my choices and all the benefits that a smaller company can bring to me and even better, what I can bring to them in terms of pushing their communications further. I think one thing I need to start doing more is seeing the benefits in the now and where these can take me after.
New Agency is Adaptability
Currently I’m working on site, a second lockdown yet the trains are fully packed by 7 when I get on. The biggest con of this job is the waking up early, probably a insignificant detail but the pain of a working reality which I have just joined. Adapting to this new routine has taken me some time, adapting at work now being on the other side of things, a staff and not a student anymore, has also been another step. Apart from a major shake up to my routine, I think there has also been two important events which have added to my ability to adapt to changes and responsibility. One- managing the communications side of things for two weeks while my manager was off. This has definitely polished my multi tasking skills and given me a raw taste of work experience. And two- being briefed a major project to lead on by myself and having seen this project from start to finish, with it going live last week on the 25th Nov! With majority of communications being digital now, sometimes it feels unreal that your work is out to the public since you physically can’t see anyone looking at it.
New Agency is Vision
Time is flying with December around the corner, and when looking back at my aims for the year - to explore, refine and challenge, I think my current role has been a major insight into the skills I have and what I can offer to a company (refine my skills set). Now my next steps is to find a role which I can expand and learn new skills (explore design fields/challenge). A DPS resolution list to come.
Martin Creed, Work #203, 1999
White neon / Installation at The Portico, Linscott Road, London (- current work experience location!)
Photograph: Hugo Glendinning
It is essential to me, my purpose and practice that my work benefits people, and makes a real difference to the quality of at least one person’s life. The PPU project from second year, was a campaign to get Generation Z involved in the work of the charity WaterAid. The impact that WaterAid has had, and continues to have, on the lives of so many is inspiring and life-changing. The opportunity to design for the charity was a pleasure, allowing them to improve the livelihood of many more people around the world; through promotion, recognition and funded support. My group assisted the charity by targeting the audience directly through the designing of an online/mobile game, in order to educate, promote and encourage donations.
Screenshots of the Game me and my group designed for WaterAid
I think generally when I look at all the things I like the most across different creative mediums I can see connections between the various things that excite me. A lot of what I like tends to play with / subvert ideas about identity, takes something and presents it in a new context as art or creates it’s own world. I think when creative work is able to do these it can become really interesting and mind opening, and depending on the project these are things which I try to aim for myself whether I’m doing it consciously or not.
I think the type of ‘agency’ a crisis like this produces is based around adaptation, fast innovation and knowing when to take opportunities. The examples we’ve seen of people and companies that have thrived during this time are those that waste no time thinking about what they could or would have done if the crisis had not happened and instantly start looking for ways they can use this new environment to their advantage. Overall it’s about understanding that when the circumstances of the world change, the way you operate in your work and every aspect of your life needs to change with that. I think one thing that this ‘global reset’ caused and allowed to happen, especially following the 1st lockdown, was giving people the chance to reflect on themselves but also the overall state of the world, with this most notably revealing itself in June during the civil unrest in the US surrounding the George Floyd protests. I remember at the time talking to black friends who felt that this was only happening now because over the Covid lockdown people had less to be distracted by, and less things to draw their attention away from the racism that has always existed. I think this is true and is an example of how when we face crisis’, there is room for human consciousness to develop and change how we approach the ethics of our lives and creative practises, which in many ways I think defines what a ‘global reset’ means. What happened in June, which was undeniably a result of the pandemic, helped push the ongoing fight for dismantling oppressive systems in the world and within the creative industries.
I think generally as well, what we can learn from people, during this time, who’s professional practice has been born in the face of adversity is the ability to yes be resilient, but more importantly embracing of change. For a lot of people, myself included, I think it’s quite easy to make a plan for your work and if that plan doesn’t work out how you thought, to want to give up. But to me it seems, the most effective and useful agency to have in a crisis is to be able to try different things, make mistakes and grow by learning from them.
So far, the same way it seems most people have felt about 2020 as a whole, my DPS year has not gone exactly as I had wanted before starting. However, blaming this on the pandemic to me feels like an easy cop out and I think the last thing I want to do is use it as an excuse for not growing and achieving the things I had hoped for. I have found that if anything, in this time it has been my own will power and ability to stay motivated/focused (or lack of) that has held me back. The second lockdown has also highlighted to me that I feel in some ways, almost at a crossroads with my creative practises. Around 2 years ago I started producing music and since then I have watched myself slowly progress into creating tracks this year that I really like and am proud enough of to release, as well as working with various vocalists. Since the first lockdown, although I have also spent time working on multiple music videos for different collaborators, I would say producing became my main focus as it has felt the most freeing and the way of working, creatively, I have been most drawn to in this time.
After being unsuccessful at getting an internship placement before the start of DPS this October I set myself a SIP to create a zine, but after spending some time trying to come up with a concept for it, and also juggling it with a music video I’ve been editing, I have started to question whether a zine is the most relevant format for me to create work in right now. I chose to do create a zine because ever since releasing my first one, over a year ago, I always had in mind that I would want to make another. Although, when I sat down to try and conceptualise and begin work on this project I started to think that maybe a printed publication is no longer the most effective format to express my ideas. For a while I have had some other ideas for creative projects that maybe feel more relevant or exciting to me right now such as a play that could accompany my music. As much as I’m still intrigued by work within fashion, over my time this summer working a lot on music, I felt myself developing a much stronger love for conceptual art projects I was seeing, giving me inspiration for new visual work I had in mind. I think what I need to do now (the next couple days) is look at the research I’ve done so far for my project and decide if a zine is the best option for my first SIP outcome, and if not, maybe start channeling my ideas into a different project, like the play I previously mention. During this weeks group session I when doing the exercise where we spoke about things being ‘dead’ or ‘alive’ in our lives I mentioned that the idea of ‘thinking about things too much but not getting round to fully doing them’ was something that obviously felt dead. In reflection I think this is my main goal to get over before this term ends. To stop procrastinating or thinking too much about my ideas behind something, and just getting on with and creating work. This was something I felt stronger at with my visual work last year, so for the remainder of this term my goal is to regain that sense of productivity that is useful to help push creative projects through to their finish.
I’ve missed most of the sessions for this task and I genuinely have no idea what I’m supposed to cover with the 1K word-count... but I’ve been making some efforts to reflect on the way I work and learn during this crappy time.
One of my first steps into DPS, and as a more proactive 'creative’, was enrolling on a motion course to finally understand some basics animation principles, in the hope of figuring out why my work sucked (it still does most of the times).
Going through the painful (but often rewarding) process of brainstorming, animating and sharing my developments, every week, for 3 months, made me realise some stuff. It won’t make a ton of sense to you, but I’m writing this after a long work day, so forgive me.
Animation Bootcamp Notes
- For the Brainhole logo animation, you jumped into developing the first idea that you knew you could execute but didn't consider alternatives that'd give the boring-looking logo more personality. While you did ok in your own right, many others used (and duplicated) elements to create more playful and unique animations, giving the whole thing a ton more personality, even if it took them longer - when you have the time, use it to create something with personality.
- For the Space Explorer, you took your time to really get the very BASICS done, following Joey's instructions, then once you felt more confident you tried adding a bit more nuance to it, whilst following the principles. That was smart: copy the exercise to reinforce the principle, then step it up to give it your style.
- Unlike with the Brainhole exercise, you solely focused on executing YOUR concept, without stressing about what others had done from the FB group chat. That was smart, because it removed that constant comparison of skills rabbit hole you usually fall into. So always do your own thing at the BEST of your ability, then share and see what everyone else was up to, which might give you ideas for a v2.
- With the Step Three exercise, you could've kept it pretty simple, and used more linear position movements, but instead you tried making those motion paths work, and they kinda did after a while. That's the whole point, try things you suck at. Though some others definitely did even more impressive work, recognise you tried YOUR best.
- With the Dogfight exercise, it was smart to plan ahead of time what to do based on how much time you had available, which gave you some time to practice with the Speed graph before tackling the final assignment.
- Another important thing to keep in mind was that you could've altered the final design to be cooler, but instead you kept it super simple and focused on NAILING THE BASICS FIRST - keep doing that!
- Eventually, as you worked every day between Bootcamp and other work responsibilities, you burnt out multiple times (Brainhole pt. 2, Eye trace exercise), mixed with that same feeling of the Dip.
- ☝🏾Now when this happens you feel at your lowest, losing creativity and ideas, producing something that feels like a sub-par idea that sucks compared to what you did the last time. The thing is, when you're in this rut and you're running out of time you still gotta BEGIN SOMETHING, ANYTHING, even if you don't like where it's going because 1) it might eventually improve as you develop it on the fly or 2) at least you've tried and done a v1. Don't dwell and complain about having no ideas, it's a waste of time - take a proper break with that time, then get back up my dude.
- When planning a complex shot, try to break it down by the primary and secondary actions. You want to spend as much time nailing the primary action (e.g. an anticipation followed by an impact) then once you've nailed the movements and timing, focus on the secondary motion to help emphasize it.
My New Agency
Prior the many changes caused by the pandemic, my hopes for this year were getting out of my social comfort zones; travel to more places for both work and leisure, but also get out of my professional comfort zones and get a foot in the door in a field that I care about, at my own terms, without the pressure of being the generalist that can do it all. I wanted to prove myself that after being a ‘design student’, I could become an employed ‘designer’.
Since we’ve been locked in, left to our own devices and our own thoughts, I’ve often spiralled into thinking that this was it. This is how far I could get, and whether I make it out of this pandemic or not, no one would dare hire some guy with messy hair that can barely come up with creative ideas for simple briefs.
This downtime also made me reflect on the importance of personal projects, and most importantly, the way I learn, and my unrealistic pursuit for overly professional or ‘perfect’ outcomes, as a result of my ever-evolving creative taste, that while helps me strive for (what I hope are) good outcomes, have sometimes been detrimental to my approach at learning and failing. The latter of which I’m so terrified of I’ve held myself back from trying new things, experiment and ultimately learn from the inevitable failed attempts that come with doing something new. Two sides of the same coin.
Sometimes waiting is not about what's on the other side. It's about what you become, before you get there. - Source
I try not to drop overly optimistic/inspirational quotes, but I believe the above words from a recent short film I watched gives a brilliant perspective on how to get through this time and what type of “New Agency” comes from this crisis. A collective of individuals that take a negative situation they’re in and make something worthwhile of it, without necessarily waiting aimlessly for something or someone to save them, but doing the best with what they have, even when it feels pointless, to be better than what they were when they got started.
That's all for now. Thanks for stopping by.
Stay safe and have a nice day 👋🏾.
What do I worry About?
Since Covid slowed all of us down, I’ve realised that what gives me greatest anxiety is the idea of leaving this earth without having pursued my passions and interest. Regardless of excelling in them. Just trying them out.
What am I good at?
Looking back at my favourite projects, I think what I’ve become better at is pushing the quality of a concept through iteration and attention to detail. Keep editing/adjusting the thing until it looks less crappy.
Who do I admire?
Kind, hardworking and passionate people who give 100% in their work, like Jr. Canest. People willing to save for moths to take on expensive courses to kickstart their careers even in the midst of an economic crisis like Felipe Ramírez and kids who dive head into things without overthinking like I do. 🙃
Have a nice day 👋🏾
I feel incredibly passionate about gender inequality and women's sexual health. With my skills in researching and strategizing, I could potentially set up my own company to help women or help other similar companies define their brand strategy to reach a broader audience. In other design jobs that don't surround the topic of inequality, I can be responsible for representing data from working-class and minority groups in research. Additionally, when creating brand strategies, I can support gender equality and move away from toxic stereotypes in personas.
Sit down comfortably my dear reader. I am about to tell you a kind of a boring story.
My greatest wish for the DPS year was to get out of my comfort zone and combat my fear of rejection. My whole time at school I have been taught that the time you were given to live can be divided into following orders, rest and sleep. Any initiative of mine would be discouraged, since it was consuming a precious time I could use for studying. Whenever I was not concerned about a B, or C when I was not interested in the subject, I was taught that I should be, that the numerical validation of my accomplishments is the highest good in this world. With this in mind I indeed grew up being an A student most of my life and acing my finals. Though at the university I quickly realized that I am only good at following orders and learn-pass-forgetting. Even in my drawing, which I am objectively good at, I can only recreate on paper what's in front of me. I believed there only are two types of interpersonal contacts: ones I do not care about and ones I fear.
And the sandwich year at the university was supposed to change everything. I knew I would have to write a lot of e-mails, be rejected more times than accepted and prove my skills confidently, rather than ask for feedback on them.
I have had very high hopes and big plans. I wrote down a list of companies I would love to collaborate with. I knew I was going to design and paint a mural on a school my friend is a principal at in Zambia, then stay in London for 3 months, fly to Singapore for a MUN conference, from there either stay in Singapore and find an internship there, or go to Australia, stay with my friends and try there.
But then the pandemic came and verified everything.
Although DPS was supposed to be about leaving my comfort zone, staying in a foreign country in these tricky times seemed too far beyond that. So knowing that I certainly will not be able to travel, I decided to stay in Poland. Looking for an internship I have contacted all of the companies I have listed previously, mostly magazines and cultural/educational initiatives I believed in, I have quickly realized that finding an opportunity when most companies struggle to keep their existing employees will be very difficult. Although I have sent countless applications, I received very few responses. All negative. My dream workplace, a particular children's magazine, even wrote that I am just perfect for their team, buy they cannot take the risk of admitting someone new and since they work remotely, they would not be able to make it an educative experience. I even considered resigning off the DPS. I did not feel excited and motivated about it anymore, but an online senior year seemed like an even worse perspective.
I ended up getting an unpaid internship at a local advertising agency. Through someone I know, who knew someone, who knew someone. They had big clients, including the largest local and international companies operating in Poland, but their works were not too impressive. They were very mainstream and classic, as if the company was still in 2010. But at that particular moment, after a month-long fruitless job hunt, I was excited to start working ANYWHERE.
I was greeted at the office by another graphic designer of the company. At all times we had to stay 4 meters apart. He told me straight forward to "abandon any hope". "Do you know why there is so much ugly design out there? Because clients are morons! They tell you they want genius and innovative solutions, yet what they expect is the most basic crap you see on cheap chocolate packaging! You want my advice? Just design what everyone else does. Do not strive to be creative, cause there's no point. The sooner you learn that, the better.".
My first tasks have been purely manual. Demanded knowing my way around the software and absolutely no creativity - finding logos of fifty listed companies, putting them in a stencil file and filling another file with data of people from another list.
Then I have been asked to design a couple of Facebook and LinkedIn posts for a company specializing in logistics. My father's competitor. I have prepared four layouts. They have decided on the one that in my opinion was the worst and asked me to make some changes making it look even worse and less professional.
On the day after telling my friend how much I hate Christmas commercials and the entire festival of capitalism and vanity around the second most important holiday in Christianity, I have been assigned making a Christmas banner for a company selling car parts. "Buying a set for at least £200, you'll get a £10 gift card to your chosen shop!".
This week on the other hand I have been working on an ad for a quality meat certificate. Me. A vegan.
That very moment I realized that to me DPS has become everything I did not want it to be. For the last month I have been working on projects I did not believe in, at a job that is all about fulfilling orders and receiving feedback. I am not saying that this professional experience has not taught me anything. It did teach me a lot. I got to know how an advertising agency works from the inside, I got to work with really big companies, although everything I do is very comfortable and regular. It has nothing to do with what I have planned for this year.
Two weeks ago, after the number of cases in Poland has skyrocketed, we have all been sent on home office. Welcome to mine.
One of my projects that have not been accepted.
Working as a graphic designer for an agency. Expectations vsa reality.