20 December 2017

Creatives around the world share the personal highlights and lowlights of their year


20 December 2017


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Google Design’s goal is to connect, support, and inspire designers and design technologists.

As the year draws to a close, and we’ve been compiling these articles of reflection, on the whole they are a positive look back on the creative year. Of course that’s what It’s Nice That is known for, and always relates back to the reason it started: to champion creativity in all its forms and share things that make the world a better place to be in.

However, from combing through the events of 2017 month by month, we cannot avoid the negative and often worrying that have affected you, us, and the people we write about daily. So this year, in order to tell both sides of the story, we’ve reached out to a range of creatives around the globe to find out their highlights and lowlights of the year. 

Across the answers, from editors of magazines, graphic design legends, animators, illustrators and photographers, each lowlight mostly relates to the wider world. From natural disasters to Brexit to just one of your favourite pubs closing down, it’s rare for us to report and comment on these unfortunate circumstances. However it’s important to acknowledge these moments, for it’s been equally heartwarming to see how in a world that often appears like we’re just arguing with one another about how much people really care, these events really have resonated with people all over the world.

In turn, many of the highlights are life affirming and hopeful, talking about the projects that have allowed one creative to meet another, briefs that have seen “working relationships bloom”, and years of honing a craft turning into a full-time career. Below, 14 creatives share their ups and downs from their year from personal growth to creative achievements.

Director and editor-in-chief of The Gourmand, Dave Lane

Politics aside it’s been a really great year. We’ve had lots of super interesting, creative projects on the go at the studio, with The Gourmand and frieze, which have kept me incredibly busy. Alongside some obvious highlights, like working with the real Cookie Monster, it’s been a year that has seen some long running working relationships really blossom and find their own creative voice. Of these, the Ally Capellino AW17 campaign — set in a surreal, monochromatic restaurant kitchen where chefs prepare accessories — stands out, along with the Hermes SS17 campaign I made in collaboration with the French artist Thomas Lelu. In both instances everyone involved really brought something to the table and the results were original, witty and much greater than the sum of their parts. I think both campaigns are examples of something genuinely different in a fashion space that can often be so homogeneous and I’m really proud of both. 

The biggest problem this year has been time. I know there is never enough time in the world, I know its a cliche, but there are lots of things that we have wanted to do that have simply fallen by the wayside. Inevitably, it’s the personal projects that end up on the bottom of the pile and in many ways they are the most important.

Also a lot of really good friends from Europe who lived in London, are moving back to their respective countries. It’s a very sad time, the prospect of Brexit has really begun to have serious negative effects. Talented practitioners and creatives from all over Europe and beyond are what have made London the foremost creative city in the world, without their expertise it will truly suffer. Sad times. 

"From feeling vulnerable you always build strength and find new ways."

-- Marina Willer

Pentagram partner, Marina Willer

My highlight was making my first feature film Red Trees because it talks about the crisis of the world today but through a very personal story. It’s a moment where I can do more than just commercial work. It has been launched in the US and has had wonderful reviews. I’m happy to have explored new creative territories too.

I personally lost a big part of my team, especially my associate who had to leave for personal reasons related to illness in the family, and everyone left more or less at the same time, other designers who are friends and you miss them when you build a family. You feel the impact when everyone is gone, it’s like having your home taken away. But now we have built an extraordinary team again, and from feeling vulnerable you always build strength and find new ways.

Artist, Reiko Matsuo

My highlight of 2017 was participating in a group exhibition and illustrating for British magazines. Although my English is not quite there yet, I’m able to communicate with many people through my paintings.

My lowlight is that I wasn’t able to promote myself enough. I could have done it better to have more people know my paintings. In that respect, I have again realised the importance of language.

Graphic designer, Lance Wyman

My work highlight of the year is that the Mexico City rapid rail Metro has maintained my graphics system of station identity icons for the past 48 years, and the new line seven of the Mexico City dedicated MetroBus is finally under construction. MetroBus has applied the same station icon identity on its bus routes and I have been designing not only the new station icons, but the physical stations and sign structures. I am doing this work in collaboration with JC Decaux and Zooburbia in Mexico City and I think we have created a “sense of place”. Urban delight! 

My personal highlight is that my wife and I celebrated my 80th and her 75th on a nature trip to Alaska with our daughter Stacey, her husband Jonathan, and our eight-year-old granddaughter Maia. A family delight!

Photographer, Alba Yruela

Both my highlight and lowlight are related to women. I say lowlight because in terms of equality, men-women relationships are still a problem we have to deal with. It also shows a dramatic and brutal face: in Spain since 2003 more than 900 women have been killed in the hands of men.

Women are also my highlight because in the last year, and more than ever, we have shown a great deal of sisterhood and strength to fight against all of this. It makes me feel proud. Exposing men will also make them conscious of the magnitude of the situation and how their very idea of manhood is based on an unequal relationship towards women.

The politics in the UK and to be honest, globally has been a definite low point. From elections, police brutality, the EU referendum to everyday discrimination. It's impossible to not be affected by that from my perspective.

-- Joy Miessi

Artist, Joy Miessi

This year has been positive for me as I’ve met so many new creatives and I’ve worked on some really fun collaborations from ceramics to curation. My main highlight of the year was being a part of Sophia Tassew x ASOS exhibition called Riot X3. I was alongside two very cool artists, Rene Matic and Hannah Hill, and for the event, I created work completely out of my comfort zone, which took the form in clothing. I’ll definitely remember this event as reminder to keep experimenting and trying out new materials outside of what I know.

The politics in the UK and to be honest, globally has been a definite low point. From elections, police brutality, the EU referendum to everyday discrimination. It’s impossible to not be affected by that from my perspective. In terms of my practice, my lowlight has ranged from collaborations that have fallen through, lack of finances for independent projects and the odd exhibition that didn’t go well.

Illustrator, Camilo Huinca

This year I have achieved independence and now live completely from my creative work. This has allowed me much more time to develop my style, learn techniques and dedicate my full time to explore illustration and painting. I have also worked with some clients who have given me the confidence to develop projects that fully breathe my way of drawing. This independence has given me the motivation to live in other countries, exploring other societies and markets. One of the most loved projects this year was to make the cover for the album of Gepe, a Chilean artist who I’ve admired for a long time.

Undoubtedly, in personal terms, there were some difficult times this year. But without a doubt, social tragedies impact me much more. In the first months of 2017, full summer in Chile, there were many fires that were intentionally or naturally provoked in almost the entire south of the country. The temperature was at the limit for several days, which caused many losses and even entire villages burned.

Editor of The Happy Reader, Seb Emina

As an editor you are normally confined to doing things on the printed page. So a highlight this year was when, while making the issue for which the Book of the Season was Treasure Island, we decided to devise an authentic treasure map. Authentic in the sense we actually ‘buried’ something on a real island, or in other words I got to edit the physical world. Burying treasure isn’t as easy as it was in the 18th Century. A lot of land is privately owned and as for the rest is any local council going to sign off on hundreds of people speculatively digging around for weeks? Would I even want them to? In the end I asked a friend to tape the treasure (a small tobacco tin, the contents of which included a password for claiming a full set of back issues and books of the season) to the rear of a street sign in a small coastal town. It was duly found, and the solution is in the new issue, which has Jarvis Cocker on the cover — also, naturally, a highlight.

A lowlight was the closure of the best pub in the world, The Gowlett Arms in Peckham. I don’t live in Peckham any more but the mere knowledge it was out there was a valued source of sustenance.

"The worst moment of my year was having two 20 stone bouncers jumping on my camera when photographing in Hatton Gardens."

-- Dougie Wallace

Graphic designer, Braulio Amado

2017 was a pretty unreal year for me… I never imagined I would be asked to design a cover for Frank Ocean or Washed Out. Also, I had a book published with my work that sold out, twice! I ended up quitting my full-time job and start my own design studio, which has always been sort of a dream.

Feels weird to pat myself on the shoulder about all the cool stuff I did in 2017 while pretty much the entire planet is gone to shit. It was impossible to not feel affected by everything that happened in the world during the year. Reading the news made me depressed and anxious. Trump. Nazis. Racism. Sexism. Shootings. Terrorism. More Shootings. More Racism. More Rape. More fucking Trump shit. Oh, Global Warming. Also homophobia and transphobia. Islamophobia. More shootings again. I hope all these Hollywood pigs end up in jail. I hope Trump goes to jail.

Photographer, Dougie Wallace

My best moment was the advanced screening of the BBC documentary on me, What Do Artists Do All Day?, at Somerset House. All my good friends were there and it felt like a good culmination of my project and photobook Harrodsburg. This moved me on to finish my second photobook this year Well Heeled about dogs and the strange world of ‘pet parents’. Anthropomorphic ’parents’ can spend as much on accessorising and grooming their ‘offspring’ as they would on themselves. 

The worst moment of my year was having two 20 stone bouncers jumping on my camera when photographing in Hatton Gardens.

"I'm not really a believer of lowlights as in my experience dreadful moments are always changing points, they are like the forerunners of something great that is approaching."

-- Anna Kövecses

Illustrator, Anna Kövecses

The highlight of my year was definitely the birth of our third baby, and especially those couple of weeks before his arrival. I decided to cut out all commercial projects in the last two months of my pregnancy and concentrate totally on myself. I finally had time to paint and draw, I dwelled deep in the pleasures of crocheting baby cardigans, baking sourdough bread, reading cheap crime novels or just sitting in our backyard and admiring the glittering sunshine peeking through my closed eyelashes. I originally planned this time to be ultra productive, and imagined I would finally have time to finish all of my abandoned personal projects: books, ceramics, blogs, startups, a series of artworks. Of course I didn’t have time to do everything but those handful of drawings and paintings will always remind me of this very special period. I feel that I finally found a path in my work that could lead me forward. After running the same rounds of cliche in my projects over and over again, it came as a huge refreshment for me to express my own feelings as a mama and an artist, to document the changes of my body, giving birth, breastfeeding, constantly fighting time and being utterly happy in the same moment.

I’m not really a believer of lowlights as in my experience dreadful moments are always changing points, they are like the forerunners of something great that is approaching. Anyway, I did have some stressful moments a bit earlier in the year. Imagine our last night before moving to a new country. We had packed up everything, sent our 25 boxes of belongings to Cyprus by cargo. It’s an exceptionally cold night in January in Hungary, I’m three months pregnant, working on eight commissions simultaneously, fighting with nausea and falling asleep at any moment, in any position. We don’t have plates, dishes or a table any more so we go out to have dinner in a fancy restaurant. My two kids are totally out of control, sitting under the table, playing pirates or knights, or whatever. I check my emails and read eight angry emails from eight angry clients who are all totally dissatisfied with my sketches, my style, my colours, my everything. Everyone wants to see something new by tomorrow. The day of our move. That was the moment when I switched off my phone, ordered a steak and decided I needed to take a break.

Animator, Frances Haszard

My highlight of the year has been actually getting to meet other animators! Animating for me has been kind of a hermit occupation. I’m self-taught and have always collaborated with people from other disciplines, which is so cool for lots of reasons, but I had always carried this doubt with me about how I was doing things. Was there a better way to manage the process, how was I managing the career aspect of it? This year was just so great in terms of connecting with other people who work with similar processes — some beginners and some way more experienced than me. Definitely my highlight! 

My lowlight of the year was the Odyssey project. It’s a project that I spent so long wrestling with before I came to the point where I just had to walk away and let it exist not as a film but as a disassembled series of animated gifs. I really enjoyed animating it, I had just come off a sailing expedition and it was for me a way of exploring water movements and also a more painterly way of animating. Looking back on it now I guess I learnt a thing or two, it really expanded how I animate. But at the time it felt like the collapse of something I thought was going to be really great and it was difficult to move on and start making other things. 

"Overall, designing for music and the arts is what I always wanted to do, so work feels very gratifying."

-- Cecilia Serafini

Graphic designer, Cecilia Serafini

2017 felt like the year where my professional life has suddenly all come together. I started working at Boiler Room, which has been great, and continued doing really interesting freelance projects. My favourite of the year is the work I’ve been doing for Helen Nisbet, the curatorial fellow at Cubitt Gallery in London. I’ve designed the posters for all her exhibitions (with four more still to go) and she’s given me a lot of freedom to experiment within my designs. This also introduced me to the work of really amazing artists like Helen Cammock and Flo Brooks, among others. Overall, designing for music and the arts is what I always wanted to do, so work feels very gratifying.

The low point of this year has been seeing a terrifying sequence of events unfold back home in Argentina (the disappearance of a young artisan called Santiago Maldonado as a result of the gendarmery’s repression of a protest by indigenous people over land rights). I emigrated almost five years ago and seeing these things from the outside can be very scary and frustrating.

Photographer, Pooneh Ghana

Getting to do more music video work this year has been super rad. I’ve done some video work before, like on tour or occasionally for a live gig, but this year I’ve been diving more into that world. Everything from directing, editing, the whole creative process, and putting together the resources to make a music video come to life have all been really great to experience and learn to do better. A big 2017 highlight was working with The Big Moon over the summer to make a video for their song, Pull The Other One. We filmed it up in the mountains outside LA, and the band was all dressed as detectives and running around this spooky ecodome ‘solving a case’. It was just a blast to shoot and work with the ladies, as well as Marika Hackman who played the villain. It really motivated me to want to do more video work in general. Touring the west coast with Glass Animals was also a highlight of the year. Absolutely lovely dudes.

Well, you know who’s running our country right now, right? Haha…er. So watching all of that unfold slowly and painfully, and seeing how it’s affecting people and politics around the world, as well as social media and the news, has been the lowlight. I suppose an upside is that this is motivating people with a grain of morality in them to come together and work in a grassroots way to try to improve conditions. A majority of us want to look out for each other and want to fight for progress and equality. Social media, on a positive note, also definitely helps get issues out there quickly and shows us what we can do to help.

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy (she/her) is the senior editor at Insights, a research-driven department with It's Nice That. Get in contact with her for potential Insights collaborations or to discuss Insights' fortnightly column, POV. Lucy has been a part of the team at It's Nice That since 2016, first joining as a staff writer after graduating from Chelsea College of Art with a degree in Graphic Design Communication.

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