Taken by me Taken by me on a 35mm camera of my friend in the British museum
Taken by me on a 35mm camera of my friend picking up ginkgo leaves
Taken by me on a 35mm camera in a Zoo near London
Prior to commencing DPS, I had big plans and dreams. I wanted to take as many abroad internships as I could and experience as many cultures as possible. After all, this was one of my main motivations to start DPS. After the pandemic hit, it took a long time for the whole situation to settle into my head. As many others were, I was in denial of the conditions that meant I could not pursue the plans I had set myself.
During the summer I was looking at design agencies on my list and hardly found ads for intern positions, needless to mention any jobs. Being back home in Austria during the summer, speaking to friends and family, I realized that even though many creative sectors were economically damaged, money was being pumped into the advertising industry. At first, this really confused me. Why, at the point of a pandemic that provides perfect ground to rethink business models for big corporations, spend all your money on advertising? I felt, in my design school bubble, blind to what was happening in big companies. I see a global reset as the ideal ground to build upon new, more sustainable ways of operating businesses. Taking the business model of the sneaker brand Veja as a case study, isn't this something big companies should aspire to? I like this example as their success and strategy completely defeats the argument of having to spend big chunks of money on advertising.
Coming back to London before the DPS year officially started, I had time to reflect upon my time since the pandemic and my expectations for my forthcoming year. As for many, the first lockdown taught me many positive things, such as looking after myself and focusing on what's important to me. Having more time for myself has also made me more creative, picking up hobbies such as knitting, photographing, and painting. I got myself a 35mm camera and started taking pictures for practice. It had dawned on me that I put a lot of expectations on doing internships abroad. That gaining experience outside the UK will be the only way of finally positioning myself as a creative in the industry after my DPS year. It came to my realization I was blind to the opportunities that were already around me; I live in a big creative community already, in Dalston. Unlike businesses in the retail or hospitality sector, it is impossible to know what design studios are proximate to you unless they are reasonably renowned, and you know them from their name. After searching for the word "studio" on google maps, dozens of design studio names popped up near my flat. That moment I caught myself thinking that I would not have easily thought of doing that if it wasn't for the pandemic. Things moved incredibly fast, and from the point I called up the first studio to ask if I can show them my portfolio, it was a matter of days until the same place offered me an internship. Now my work is a 30 seconds walk from mine.
"We are in this massive moment of uplift and pause. Of course, there have been so many travesties. Still, yet we have had this glimpse of what being neighborly, appreciating food, companionship, and family has become. I think in celebrating and amplifying the positive moments, not just the negative ones. It gives that glimpse of what life could be like along a more sustainable pathway that isn't centered just around cities, working crazy hours and generating profit, but centering more around communities, neighborhoods, sustainability, the close proximity of food." Tom Tapper, WOW Instagram TV Conference 2020
This quote from Tom Tapper from the WOW new agency conference really resonated with me. In times of crisis, life boils down to what is essential and what is available to one. In my case, it was the enlightenment to work in a local environment and immerse myself in the creative world on my doorstep. Even though I am aware of my privilege in living in an area with a particularly strong design scene, I think there is something to be learned about involving yourself in the community in your area. This idea can extend, like Tom Tapper mentioned, to food or sustainable initiatives. Though I will strive to find an internship abroad, this experience has helped me recalibrate my focus on appreciating what I already have and what is near me. Same counts for materials and repurposing the things I have.
The past month working at this small design studio has been an incredibly good learning experience in putting my skills to the test. Additionally, I have been critically reflecting on the project I have been working on; creating a tea company's brand strategy. For many companies that would like to be environmentally conscious, the contradictory nature of consumerism and sustainability always comes up as an issue when creating a brand strategy. Having to strike a balance in the tone of voice for the brand, not confusing the consumer in thinking that the product is environmentally friendly from the inside out, was an eye-opener for me. For the first time, I was the evil one, twisting the words and making something seem "green" to a customer when it wasn't. It is fascinating that people are working on these challenges on a day to day basis. Despite having a good time at my placement and learning a lot, I know I want my next internship to be centered around social impact design, not commercial work.
This pandemic has shown, amongst many things, how skies above cities can look. Much less polluted, blue and clear. Though one might not see the direct consequence of buying one rather unnecessary thing from amazon, it's in our generations' hands to be more responsible consumers and designers.