Just Checking In: Eight creatives collaborate on downloadable postcards to send to those you miss

As the world tentatively begins to open up again, check in with your nearest and dearest using a range of downloadable postcards, made by a collection of global creatives.

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It’s fair to say that the past year hasn’t been what any of us anticipated. As the effects of the pandemic led borders, offices and businesses to close in the early months of 2020, most assumed we’d be isolating at home for just a few weeks. Those weeks turned to months, and we recently marked a dark anniversary of a year of living with Covid-19. During this time, further implications beyond the immediate health threat the virus poses have increasingly appeared.

A growing concern is how being isolated will affect us as individuals previously so used to daily social interactions. Many of us haven’t seen loved ones for this entire time but there are other connections that have fallen by the wayside; a friend you only bump into every so often, or a colleague you don’t directly work with day-to-day but love to catch-up with across desks. So, as the world cautiously begins to open up again, we’ve created Just Checking In: a collection of postcards to send – by social media, email or post – to those you’re missing, those you’re desperate to see, or those you just want to check in on.

We commissioned eight creatives from Exeter to Chicago, Seoul, London and in between, who kicked things off by collaborating in Dropbox. Starting their own Dropbox Paper thread and throwing around ideas of themes for the series, the team shared things that brought them happiness this year (from Schitt’s Creek to Percy Pigs and Facebook groups of “Disapproving Corgis”); helpful ways for maintaining their mental health; and even a name for this difficult chapter of their lives.

With themes and routes decided, each individual then pulled together their own Dropbox folder of references, sketches and inspiration to design from, leading to one final postcard for you to share. Below, we speak to each creative on the year they’ve had and how their postcard displays the hope they’re holding close.

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Scotty Gillespie - You Here Soon

Download your Just Checking In postcards

Pick up your free downloadable postcards to share with those you’re missing via email, message or post.

Download here!

Tess Smith-Roberts

From her home in London, illustrator Tess Smith-Roberts found herself switching the desk for the stove during the pandemic. A perfect task to fill what soon became endless evenings between work and sleep, Tess found that time in the kitchen provided a welcome break from the outside world.

Food, both cooking it and enjoying it, has provided daily comfort at a time where so much feels out of our control; whether you're kneading away as a new member of the sourdough cohort, or waiting patiently for your Friday night takeaway treat.

Tess’ postcard, therefore, embraces the sense of delight cooking has offered her, but also hints at the countless meals we’ll soon be enjoying in the company of others through an illustration of two friends enjoying a plate of spaghetti. Like most, we can’t wait to book into one of our favourite restaurants with an old pal where there’s little more to think about – other than what you’ll choose from the menu.

It’s Nice That: Cooking appears to have been a real source of comfort for many during this difficult time. How has it comforted you?

Tess Smith Roberts: For a long time, it was the only thing to do. Thinking and planning what to have for dinner really gave my days focus! It’s also a great distraction from many things; either feeling lonely from the lack of human contact in the first lockdown or stress from work.

It’s a nice relaxing bubble in the day, where I don’t have to think about anything else. Plus, you get a nice meal from it, too!

INT: How do you think food could bring us together, in a non-socially distant world?

TSR: I think going out for dinner will be really exciting again! And having people over for food too. It’s a great way to bring friends together. I know I can’t wait to have people over for dinner again!

INT: How have you found working collaboratively in Dropbox?

TSR: Working on Dropbox Paper has been very easy and enjoyable! I like how you can see the name of the person who typed a note so easily. I really enjoyed seeing all the pet photos on the doc also, and all the “chapters of your life” titles made me laugh.

INT: What reaction do you hope your postcard evokes in who receives it?

TSR: Hopefully it makes them less upsetti, but a laugh and a smile would be good!

Download Tess Smith Robert's postcard here!

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Tess Smith-Roberts - Less Upsetti, More Spaghetti

Min Heo

Originally from Seoul and now based in the Bay Area of California, illustrator Min Heo’s work is often imbued with a specific kind of chuckle-inducing relatable humour. Yet despite often including a positive message in her works, at first Min found she was “really struggling with the topic of finding happiness during these times,” adding “It seems like every day there’s something new to be worried about.”

In turn, Min decided to hone in on her realisation that she often forgets to check in with herself during such a tumultuous time. “I’ve often forgotten to ask myself, ‘am I doing what I truly enjoy?’” In turn, through the character of a little cat who doesn’t give a hoot about how its actions affect anyone else, she presents “a message my future self could tell the present me: doing what you love is the most important thing!”

It’s Nice That: Tell us about your postcard, how would you describe it to a friend?

Min Heo: I drew a cute cat doing everything he loves – basically causing a load of destruction – and then giving himself a big thumbs up for a day well spent.

INT: Why did you decide on a cat from your postcard’s central character?

MH: I love all animals, but cats are especially funny to me because they really seem like they DGAF. They can cause so much destruction, but they know they will get away with it because they are so cute!

INT: How have you found working collaboratively in Dropbox?

MH: It was a really enjoyable process to see how other people answered the group questions, and even added in photos and videos. It was like taking a little peek inside everyone’s brains. It was interesting to see how different our lives are (we live all over the world) but notice similarities in certain aspects of our thinking (we love seeing cute pets out and about!). I’m excited to see everyone’s final product and if they’ll reflect any of the answers to our initial questions.

INT: What reaction do you hope it evokes in an individual who receives it as a surprise?

MH: I hope everyone who sees it will take some time out of their day to do something they enjoy!

INT: Who will you be sending it to?

MH: I’ll be sending it to my lovely artist friend, Jane! I hope she’ll get a good giggle out of it.

Download Min Heo’s postcard here!

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Min Heo - Do What You Love

Sujin Kimm

With work often depicting her very funny (and slightly dark) sense of humour, Sujin Kim’s postcard invests in a common guilty pleasure: simply doing nothing. A comment on how many of us have actually quite enjoyed the time out isolation has provided, Sujin’s approach builds upon how she found it “exhausting to think about happiness in difficult situations during the pandemic,” she tells It’s Nice That.

Therefore Sujin’s postcard is an ode to do nothing, an encouragement to find happiness in whatever makes you feel better that day – specifically if it involves lying horizontally.

It’s Nice That: Can you tell us where the idea for your final postcard developed from?

Sujin Kim: I’m a little tired of this situation. I think many people are probably the same. So, I’m trying to make myself feel better about the situation, but sometimes these efforts make me even more tired. Rather, I feel better when I don’t try to get along and do nothing instead. I thought it was fun to feel happy when I wasn’t trying to be happy and I got the idea for this project in this feeling. Simply, I’m happy when I do nothing.

INT: It’s true, it’s very important to do just what we feel like at the moment when there are so many restrictions. What have been some of your favourite “nothing” thing to do?

SK: I don’t try to get along and be happy – I think being comfortable is the best. During this time I’ve found it helpful to reduce my social media intake.

INT: How have you found working collaboratively in Dropbox?

SK: Through Dropbox Paper I was able to share my thoughts on this subject, and see the thoughts of other artists living in other spaces. It was fun to find out about the happiness of other artists during this period, and it was fun to watch the reactions in real time.

INT: What reaction do you hope your postcard evokes in an individual who receives it as a surprise?

SK: I hope people will have a little fun if they receive this postcard. And, if you look at this postcard when you’re tired, I hope you’ll have time to rest and do nothing for a little while.

Download Sujin Kim’s postcard here!

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Sujin Kimm - Do Nothing

Jaemin Lee

From his home in South Korea, illustrator and graphic designer Jaemin Lee chose to represent the mix of feelings we’re experiencing currently through an idiom. Jaemin also “thought about my identity as an Asian, and what I could do,” he tells It’s Nice That. “In Korea, and perhaps in east Asia more widely, four-character idioms are commonly used to express various situations and values.”

Finding the idiom 고진감래(苦盡甘來), which translates as “sweet after bitter”, Jaemin realised the phrase describes much of the hope individual’s hold after such a difficult time, as well as denoting the “bitter and sweet taste of some drinks”. Then interpreting this phrase visually as one of his favourite cocktails, Jaemin’s postcard, therefore, pinpoints the desire people hold for life returning to normal, as well as an ode to enjoying a drink at one of his favourite bars once safe to do so.

It’s Nice That: How would you describe your postcard to a friend?

Jaemin Lee: There are some cocktails with a bitter taste like a Negroni, Vieux Carré, the Americano and so on. But these cocktails are not just bitter, they also have a sweet taste that follows. This kind of drink reminded me of the idiom, 고진감래(苦盡甘來), used often in Korea.

On the other hand, we all hope that the current bitter pandemic will pass and that the days of sweetness will return. Bitter-tasting cocktails are also loved as an appetizer. Wouldn’t it be okay to have a drink of aperitif first, looking forward to the wonderful day we meet again?

INT: What was it about 苦盡甘來(고진감래) that speaks to you of these current times?

JL: Each of the characters in this idiom have the following meanings. 고(苦) means “bitter taste”, 진(盡) is “over”, 감(甘) translates to “sweet taste” and is 래(來) “come”.

Therefore the full idiom means that sweet things come when all the bitter things are over, and that happiness can reveal itself after suffering. It’s similar to “no pain, no gain”, for example. It led me to think about good moments about friends I’ve met in many cities before the current situation. While no one can predict the end of this pandemic, I thought it would be helpful if we all had a little bit of sweet hope.

INT: How have you found working collaboratively in Dropbox?

JL: I usually complete the work of the design studio with my partners through Dropbox, so I know the advantages of it very well. In this project though, it was good to be able to get a glimpse of other collaborators’ thoughts. When using Dropbox in the studio, it’s also great to be able to see what the others are working on in real-time.

INT: Who will you be sending your postcard to?

I know a bartender who used to make a nice Negroni and Vieux Carré, but I haven’t been able to visit them for a long time since the pandemic. I want to thank him first.

Download Jaemin Lee’s postcard here!

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Jaemin Lee - Sweet After Bitter

Scotty Gillespie

Down in the southwestern city of Exeter, Scotty Gillespie creates the sweetest illustration work – and his postcard is the next in a long line of comforting artworks. Building on how we’re all craving social interaction and affection in isolation, the idea for Scotty’s postcard stemmed from a Facetime with his mum.

“Like quite a lot of people, I haven’t been in a physical space with my family in over a year now,” Scotty explains. Catching up over their “usual chat about current events and putting the world to rights,” it was when Scotty’s mum shouted: “I cannot WAIT to give you a great big hug” that the illustrator realised “if I haven’t received a hug from someone, the chances are others haven’t either.”

It’s Nice That: Tell us about your postcard, what does it mean to you?

Scotty Gillespie: I wanted to create a moving picture that embodies a true show of affection: a big hug. It’s basically an “I owe you” a hug ticket.

Hugging is something that we have all lacked for a while, so I thought it was fitting to embody that in this project.

INT: What are you most looking forward to doing with your friends and family once life returns to semi-normal?

SG: I am really looking forward to seeing them in person for a start. If that’s not too overwhelming, I’d love to go out for a dance – as I have done enough bedroom dancing to last me a lifetime now. It will give me a real reason to dress up! And, just in general, enjoy the world outside of my home with them. Very much looking forward to getting some chippy (that’s fish and chips for non-UK people) and siting on the beach, with my dog and friends.

INT: How have you found working collaboratively in Dropbox?

SG: I really love the Dropbox Paper format. It was a lovely way to communicate with the other artists on the project, seeing pictures of their pets, favourite sweets and record collections. Collaborative work is such a great way to generate new ideas from other people’s perspective, being able to do this online across the world via Dropbox was a dream.

My Facebook feed is now flooded with pictures of Corgi dogs from the Disapproving Corgis Facebook group and I am totally Hooked on Schitt’s Creek, Thanks Tess and Naomi!

INT: What reaction do you hope it evokes in an individual who receives it as a surprise?

SG: I just want, even for a split second, the recipient to remember that someone out there is thinking of them. I want them to remember the feeling of being held by a friend and also that *fingers crossed* it’s not going to be long until you can give someone a real big squeeze.

INT: Who will you be sending it to?

SG: My mum, she always gives the best hugs.

Download Scotty Gillespie’s postcard here!

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Scotty Gillespie - You Here Soon

Crystal Zapata

Over in Chicago, illustrator and graphic artist Crystal Zapata has created a postcard that, similar in message to Scotty, visualises warmth from sender to recipient. Featuring a sunset gradient and utilising typography, Crystal’s postcard sends a hopeful message of “warmth and light” as a symbolic reach out during dark times.

Hoping to offer “a sense of calm and comfort” for those it’s shared with, Crystal notes she’ll be sending it onto “friends whom I miss!” to show she’s thinking of them.

It’s Nice That: You referenced a Solange clip during the research phase, how did this provide inspiration for your final piece:

Crystal Zapata: I included the clip from When I Get Home as something that has provided me with some joy, rather than it being a direct reference. Solange is a great inspiration to me – her use of choreography, sculpture and environment create such a beautiful reflection on space. The dancers in the clip calmly moving in unison around on another is such a serene image. A circle feels universal and intrinsically meditative, so carrying that geometry over into my artwork felt very natural.

INT: Your piece is a lovely depiction of the comfort warmth can bring, why was this your focus?

CZ: Colour and image can transcend language. I wanted the viewer to understand the essence of the visual, without reading the text.

INT: How have you found working collaboratively in Dropbox?

CZ: I typically work alone, so it’s nice to be able to read ideas and see photos from the other people involved with this project. My initial idea for my postcard was to use a nature-related phrase inspired by going for a walk; an activity that I, and many others, practice as an exercise to benefit mental health. I wanted the feeling of taking a break to go outside to carry over into the postcard visual.

Download Crystal Zapata’s postcard here!

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Crystal Zapata - Sending Love and Light

Naomi Anderson-Subryan

Over in London, illustrator and artist Naomi Anderson-Subryan’s postcard presents the joy pets have provided while spending so much time with them at home. Inspired by her own sausage dog – who is not a fan of walkies “and will literally run away from me if he sees me reaching for my coat” – the postcard is an ode to the walks the pair have had together (once Naomi gets him out the house). “Taking him for a walk every day has been such a highlight of lockdown for me,” she continues, “it’s become that special time where we go outside and I just take a breath and feel present. Some days just going for a walk is all I’ve felt up to.”

Deciding on this direction by keeping a diary detailing the small, everyday joys that have presented themselves during lockdown, Naomi hopes the postcard offers a smile to those who receive it. “It was a lot of fun to make,” she says, “so I really hope that comes across! Plus, grumpy sausage dogs in berets are always a delight!” Its cheekiness also offers hope, adds Naomi: “As lockdown restrictions slowly start to lift, we will hopefully be able to get outside and see our friends and loved ones again. I see this artwork as an invitation of sorts… a ‘see you soon!’”

It’s Nice That: What have been some of your favourite or consistent small joys during this time?

Naomi Anderson-Subryan: Animals have been a consistent joy for me – my own pets and just watching or looking out for other peoples’! Be it the dogs I regularly see in the park, the pigeon that sits feeding on the bird feeder in our garden for hours on end, or the neighbours cat I spy on the windowsill in the morning.

There’s something about those little moments of consistency, especially at a time when everything has felt so uncertain. Looking out for these regularities has been almost vital to everyday life.

INT: Do you think you’ll continue to find happiness in these everyday occurrences when life returns to normal? Has it changed your perspective?

NAS: I’d like to think so! In many ways, despite the past year seeming to have flown by – Monday blurs into Friday incredibly fast these days – it has provided the opportunity for many of us to slow down and prioritise the things that are really important to us.

Even just for this project, actually actively making a note of and documenting small everyday joy has been so great for me! I’d message my friends asking for a small joy they experienced during the day! I don’t think we always check in and reflect on those small things that bring us happiness, and just by doing so I’ve realised how many small things bring me immense joy. It’s definitely something I see myself keeping up!

It’s been a great reminder that happiness is something that can be found in the smallest of actions and activities. For example, I never thought I’d get so much enjoyment from a trip to B&Q but when it’s the highlight of your week, you kind of have to see the funny side and embrace it.

INT: How have you found working collaboratively in Dropbox?

NAS: I really enjoyed it. I thought I might find it a little intimidating – it’s always quite daunting having to share your ideas to begin with, and you never want to be the first! But actually, it is such a great way to connect with others and easily share information and thoughts in a natural way.

I’m a very visual person so being able to just upload an image and easily add a caption was great! I really enjoyed reading the titles people give to this chapter of their lives – that was a lot of fun. I would certainly read each and every one of those chapters… It is interesting to hypothesise a time when we will be able to look back at this period in history and reflect.

INT: Who will you be sending it to?

NAS: My best friend! She lives in Amsterdam and I haven’t seen her in over a year, so I really hope one day soon we can just go for a walk, nothing fancy or extravagant! Just to be in the same city as one another would be swell!

Download Naomi Anderson-Subryan’s postcard here!

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Naomi Anderson-Subryan - Let's Go Walkies

Daniel Gebhart De Koekkoek

Often lensing animals as the stars of his photographic works, over the years, German photographer Daniel Gebhart De Koekkoek has created series with cats, alpacas and most recently guinea pigs. Often preferring furry friends to his human companions, there is a joy to animals that Daniel is always trying to portray. “Imagine a world ruled by animals,” he says of his postcard. “Friendly, smiling alpacas going on vacation and taking their family selfie while spreading nothing but love and joy.”

Considering how he always loves to “say it with animals”, Daniel’s postcard offers a nostalgic memory of family trips away, while also reminding us of the absurd nature of the past 12 months.

It’s Nice That: Animals always seem to be such a source of joy in your work. Why do you continue to work with them?

Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek: Animals are better than humans, and I always enjoy to work with them. I see myself as not only a photographer and director, but also a bit like a children’s book author. I love to imagine the joy and wild fantasies of a child looking at my images and following their stories. I will soon become a father too, and can’t wait to tell my daughter all about these crazy animal adventures.

INT: How have you found working collaboratively in Dropbox?

DGDK: I’ve using Dropbox for a long time, but this was the first time I had worked with Paper. I think it’s a good tool to collaborate and share ideas within a creative team.

INT: What reaction do you hope it evokes in those who receive it?

DGDK: I hope they will have a smile on their face and enjoy looking at it. But I also hope they will think about how we as humans have made a lot of mistakes, and almost destroyed our world, and realise it’s time for change now.

INT: Who will you be sending it to?

DGDK: To my nephews, Emil and Paul.

Download Daniel Gebhart De Koekkoek’s postcard here!

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Daniel Gebhart De Koekkoek - Welcome to Our Future!

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.

lb@itsnicethat.com

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