Will the current pandemic provide an opportunity for a creative reset?
During an online event last week hosted by Wix Playground, our four panellists spoke about the challenges of lockdown and a few silver linings that are beginning to emerge.
- It's Nice That
- 28 April 2020
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
“All of us are looking to see what role we can play in all this.” That was how Ollie Olanipekun, co-founder of Superimpose, described his and his peers’ experience of the lockdown so far, during a virtual Q&A event hosted last week by It’s Nice That and Wix Playground. The thought will resonate with many who are currently keen to help and support where they can and who are, at the same time, trying to look after their own health and livelihoods.
The online event was focused on the theme of “Designing for Community” and saw four speakers – Danielle Pender (founder and editor of Riposte magazine), Jessica Walsh (head of &Walsh), Eike König (of Hort), and Ollie – come together to discuss how the current lockdown is affecting them and their work. They also each looked ahead to how the creative community might be changed by the pandemic in future.
For Ollie, dialling in from east London, the current crisis has revealed the importance of community. Superimpose, he said, has always been community-driven but in recent weeks it has been making more of an effort to “reach out and see what the community needs”. On Instagram, the agency has been using its clout to encourage people to support their local businesses and has been running a submissions initiative to keep creatives inspired.
“One silver lining has been seeing people coming together, but also seeing brands beginning to consider how they connect with customers not simply to push product,” Ollie said. Similarly, he said he felt that the current crisis was affording everyone a chance for a mission reset, the time to re-focus on “considerate problem-solving across the board”. As he put it, “We all came into this industry thinking that was what we were doing, but we’ve fallen into bad habits over the past decade. This is an opportunity to reset, to go again and do it better.”
Jessica Walsh has also been active and outspoken since the very start of this crisis. Early on, she and the illustrator and designer Timothy Goodman launched a guerilla scheme on Instagram allowing her followers to donate money to people, creatives or otherwise, who needed it most. Her non-profit organisation Ladies, Wine & Design has also been doing what it normally does – empowering women and non-binary creatives worldwide through its city chapters – and has pivoted to online events and meet-ups.
Gallery&Walsh emojis for 2020
Jessica joined the virtual event from upstate New York and talked through these initiatives, as well as a new series of emojis she and her team have created to help graphic designers grapple with the “shitty” year that is 2020 so far (“because we all need a laugh sometimes, too,” she explained). When asked the question (submitted by a member of the audience), “What is the best way an individual designer can make an impact on the community now?”, Jessica made the point that we shouldn’t be putting too much pressure on ourselves to constantly be in “help and support” mode. “It’s a very stressful time!” she said.
Danielle Pender also underlined this point when she took to the screen, dialling in from north London. “This is not a holiday, it’s a pandemic,” she said. Whereas some (including Jessica and Ollie from Superimpose) have used social media as a way to connect to their communities, Danielle explained that she had found social media particularly unhelpful at points over the past few weeks. We shouldn’t feel, she continued, that we have to be making the most of this time; we shouldn’t feel that this is an opportunity to be increasingly productive. “We live in this capitalist society, which tells us that we’re only valuable if we’re being productive or consuming,” she said. “It’s time to reassess our relationship with work.”
It was perhaps fitting, then, that the evening ended with Eike König, a designer and artist who has completely refashioned his work and his work-life balance to match what he wants to do with his time. Dialling in from Berlin, he spoke about how Hort has become less a studio and more a non-hierarchical collective that only picks up around six projects a year “to pay the rent”. This has given him time to focus on his own personal artistic practice. “We said no to the agency life. We just don’t want it,” he said.
Asked specifically about the future of graphic design, Eike took a step back and asked the audience to consider instead the role of the designer in society. “It’s a lot about personality, fighting for ideas, for vision, and being a critical citizen,” he said. “But also learning how to take care of each other. It’s best to forget about graphic design as a discipline and think more about what impact your work will have on society.” That’s advice we could all do with heeding every now and then.
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