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Alex Moy
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4 January 2022
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Stop, start, continue: creatives share their work/life resolutions for 2022

Alexandra Zsigmond, Vanilla Chi, Ayo Fagbemi, Donavon Smallwood and Rapha Abreu share their personal and professional goals for the year ahead.

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Hero animation
Alex Moy
Date
4 January 2022

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It’s Nice That’s 2022 Forward Thinking campaign is supported by Material Design, whose latest design system update, Material You, signals a radical new way to think about design for the entire tech industry. Material You explores a more humanistic approach to design, celebrating the tension between design sensibility and personal preference, and not shying away from emotion. Click here to find out more.

New Year’s Resolutions have never been as poignant as at present, when for many of us they are also post-pandemic resolutions. The past couple of years have made us all reassess our priorities and make plans for how we’ll spend our precious time when barriers are fully lifted, so the start of 2022 brings the hope of a new year with extra oomph. So in celebration, we’re bringing back our popular Stop, Start, Continue feature, which follows the format of many creative project catch-ups, asking creatives what they will stop doing, start doing and continue to do in 2022. We’ve invited leaders across the creative sectors who had a big 2021: the New Yorker’s Alexandra Zsigmond, illustrator Vanilla Chi, creative strategist Ayo Fagbemi, photographer Donavon Smallwood and Rapha Abreu. Below, each shares personal goals for their work and life.

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Illustrations by Armando Veve, Emiliano Ponzi, John Gall, Mrzyk & Moriceau, and Anthony Gerace for The New Yorker, commissioned by Alexandra Zsigmond. (Copyright © The New Yorker, 2021)

Alexandra Zsigmond, senior art director at The New Yorker

Start

Going to an in-person dance or martial arts class at least once a week. I grew up as a classical and modern dancer, and I’ve found that some of my best visual ideas spring from the calm, embodied state that I enter after an hour or two of focused movement. It was painful to not have access to dance spaces during the pandemic, so I’d really like to take advantage of the fact that they’ve now reopened in NYC.

Stop

Doubting my own vision and abilities as a visual artist. I’m more established as an art director and curator, and it has been a constant struggle to give the right amount of space and time to my own personal art practice, and to feel confident about it.

Continue

Recording my daily life in my 5 year diary. I’ve used this specific journal, designed by Tamara Shopsin, since 2009. Each day you record what you do and feel in a succinct 8 lines, and the following year on the same day you write another 8 lines directly beneath that. It’s fascinating to see the patterns that emerge. For example, I just started a new job as senior art director at The New Yorker on Sep 7, 2021. By reading through my old diaries, I found that I started my first ever editorial job as an assistant art director at The New York Times on Sep 7, 2010. Over and over, my journaling practice seems to confirm that life is a wheel.

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Vanilla Chi (Copyright © Vanilla Chi, 2021)

Vanilla Chi, illustrator

Stop

The first and foremost thing for me is simply to stop. Learn to stop working for a while without guilt and self-recrimination, due to my physical and mental condition; to take a break from social media, which caused most of my anxiety; to stop comparing myself with others, since I was suffering for too long from peer pressure…

After graduating from art school this year, I realised that my career has just begun, and the first step to begin is not to continue to ignore my health and deny my negative emotions, in order to stay “productive”. Instead, it’s learning to self-accept, rest and stop.

Start

I start to observe the outside world, and try to make some contribution, although I’m not sure if my approach really matters.

I used to be a pretty nihilistic and sometimes selfish person, in that all of my works are self-concentrated. However, I began to participate in the anti-discrimination movement, delving into Asian culture and embracing my own culture and identity.

On the secondary level, I started caring more about my friends, raising greenery and flowers and insisted on cooking for myself a few times a week.

Continue

2021 was a very difficult but also most rewarding year for me. I need to always remember the pain and the gain. This year I hope to continue to adhere to my personal aesthetic, and bravely say no to unreasonable standards in the industry, even though sometimes it means losing a job opportunity.

Continue not to be overly concerned with the evaluation systems and standards of others.

Also, I will put more effort into my personal work. It keeps me from repeating myself, and it’s an effective way to keep learning and exploring new things, stay curious and live a little more enthusiastically.

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Vanilla Chi (Copyright © Vanilla Chi, 2021)

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Play Nice (Copyright © Play Nice, 2021)

Ayo Fagbemi, co-founder of Play Nice and strategist currently working at Google Creative Lab

Stop

I want to stop obsessing over the final result. So many times you have a vision for what you want something to feel like or look like that you only think about the moment of launch. When in reality it is the conversations, iterations and deliberations we should truly value. They make the process enjoyable and ultimately memorable.

Start

Spending more time doing activities. Like playing more chess; there is a group called Chessidency I want to get involved with. Rock climbing at Stronghold in Tottenham and doing more pottery classes. All the activities that help me relax and switch off more. I guess it’s a way to be active physically and mentally without any grand vision or goal attached to it.

Continue

Celebrating and uplifting the people around me more. Often true success is the role you have played in other people’s journey, how you can help and inspire those around you. A big joy in this industry is not just enjoying your own personal triumphs, but the ones of those in your community.

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Play Nice: The New Rave Film, with the Design Museum. Design by Aaron Skipper. (Copyright © Play Nice, 2021)

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Donavon Smallwood: Untitled #2 from the series Languor (Copyright © Donavon Smallwood, 2021)

Donavon Smallwood, photographer

Stop

Putting off work and projects while assuming I have all the time in the world to get to them eventually. If 2020 and 2021 have forced me to reckon with anything, it’s that the time we have is precious and its span is random.

Start

Telling more people in my life that I love them.
Writing more.
Drawing more.
Reading more.
Taking longer breaks from the internet and devices.

Continue

Cultivating fulfilling relationships.
Seeking the truth.
Being myself.
Sharing what I find valuable with those who have interest.
Working to earn a place in history.

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Donavon Smallwood: Untitled #2 from the series Languor (Copyright © Donavon Smallwood, 2021)

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Known Unknown and Wieden+Kennedy: Coca-Cola, Real Magic campaign. Illustration by Claire Isaur (Copyright © The Coca-Cola Company, 2021)

Rapha Abreu, graphic designer and global vice president of design at The Coca-Cola Company

Stop

Meeting overload. I’m working really hard to be able to identify which ones I must be at. And to feel good, Fomo-free, about missing some.

Start

I am so looking forward to going back physically to the office. There were a few times this year when I met my team in live working sessions and it felt so good! Simple moments like standing up, huddling around boards and pointing fingers to things (!) make a huge difference in my day-to-day, collaborative creative process.

Continue

I love the fact that digital collaboration tools had brought some equity to all teams and functions across my work community. Accessing teams in different geographies, from outspoken individuals who constantly raise a digital hand, to introvert ones who feel comfortable sharing their thoughts on chats, is a benefit we got from remote working that I would like to keep taking advantage of.

Above

Known Unknown and Wieden+Kennedy: Coca-Cola, Real Magic campaign. Illustration by Claire Isaur: (Copyright © The Coca-Cola Company, 2021)

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About the Author

Jenny Brewer

Jenny (she/her) is online editor of It’s Nice That, overseeing the website’s daily editorial output. She was previously news editor for five years. Contact her with stories, pitches and tips relating to the creative industries on jb@itsnicethat.com.

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