Ever since quarantine(s) started and things began to shut down all around us, I’ve found myself being faced with issues that I don’t have answers for. I am sure I’m not alone in thinking that I truly did not expect to be working more than much less, than not at all… While the state of the world remains clouded in so much uncertainty not too much has changed for me. I’ve always worked from home. Ironically I was about to purchase a studio before the pandemic because…I was sick of working from home. Surprise to me! Nevertheless, this is our current reality, and we must all find a way to adjust and adapt.
At the beginning of COVID, many businesses I’ve never worked with before realized the importance finally of their online presence and social media marketing. They needed to either be online or improve their online presence with SEO, social media marketing, and better websites. Thus, I was busy… Like I needed 8 clones of me – busy!
I started feeling guilty…
While other businesses had to close with the uncertainty of when they would re-open their doors. I remained opened and thriving…at first…
How I stayed creative: Well… I was busy! So it was easy!
Once our economy began to tank and panic started setting in the brands that I work with on a regular basis stepped back from working and even marketing their brands for a bit. Understandable. We all had no clue what to budget for during the peak of COVID. Business slowed down and I got bored…
Something about me: If I’m not busy, I struggle mentally. I know it’s not technically healthy to have a go-go-go, hustle-hard frame of mind when it comes to your job. But I always have. When I had no work I sunk into deep deep depression just like so many of us. It was rough.
How I stayed creative:Reaching out and collaborating with others on projects is a great way to keep the creative energy going. I did just that and worked with brands who like me, are usually too busy to collab! Not then!
The End (Infiniate End of COVID)
And where I am now. A much better place mentally of course! And now that things are picking back and getting back to (semi) normal
How I stay creative:The importance of your mental health in these challenging times cannot be overstated. Looking after your own well-being is critical to the creative process, and meditation and mindfulness can be powerful tools for maintaining wellness.I’ve started taking yoga with Buti Yoga and even learned breathing techniques. I’ll continue to always keep my mental health flourishing to keep my creativity flowing.
Green•wash•ing /n. disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image. — The Oxford Dictionary
In a new world where more people care about the environment than generations before we want to be a part of the solution as consumers. Not the problem. So we want to buy products that reduce our carbon footprint, reduce waste, and/or are ethical. Great brands are starting to lead by example and give us products that do just that.
Because you can’t have good without evil there are also brands that are “greenwashing”.
Following the demand from consumers, companies that set out to help our planet had to sacrifice to sell their “green” products. Recyclable packaging, environmentally friendly ink, and ethically sourced ingredients are… more expensive. Bottom line.
And for brands who don’t want to spend more money to switch from being a part of the problem? Some brands created secondary packaging for their newly developed products at a higher price point to cover the cost of the more expensive packaging. Bad brands did that too! There is just one main difference. Bad brands didn’t change what’s inside the packaging OR started marketing that they are “green” when they aren’t Or even worse. They just lied to you.
Let’s first start with white lies…
What words can you use when you want to appear green?
Natural – Cyanide, arsenic and asbestos are natural – trace amounts will kill you.
Eco-friendly – Being friendly to the environment? This statement carries no weight.
Eco & Bio – ‘Eco’ and ‘Bio’ ranges of products are just a name, double-check that they’re actually better for the environment.
Green – Going or being green is another hype word that lacks substance.
Sustainable – This word has a strained relationship with regards to environmental conservation.
x% biodegradable – A product is either completely biodegradable within a human lifetime or it is not. Anything else is hype.
If you’ve bought any of these brands thinking they were actually “green”, don’t feel like a fool. I actually 100% believed that Mrs. Meyers was “green” for a decade… sigh…
Sometimes there are some quality brands out there that do deliver truly environmentally friendly products.
We know this because their marketing claims are backed up by industry-recognized certificates and government-backed standards.
Furthermore, they’re open and transparent with the way they operate.
So what’s the difference between greenwashing and green marketing?
Green marketing is not a simple phrase to define, as several meanings cross over and contradict one and other.
But, is the easiest way possible: Green marketing is the process of marketing products based on their environmental benefits. Period.
How can you tell a company is greenwashing?
It sounds too good to be true. Do the statements sound overstated and perhaps a little dramatic?
It’s hard to double-check. Does a product say it’s organic, but you don’t see a certified organic icon on the packaging from the USDA? Then it’s a lie.
Nature Graphic Elements. This one speaks for itself and is more on the brand than the consumer who wants to be buying products that are good for the earth.
It’s a laser-focused idea. For example, McDonald’s may use recycled paper in their bags, but they are one of the biggest enablers of factory farming, an industry that has mind-blowing methane emissions. Take a look at the bigger picture. Are they trying to show you one hand while hiding the dirty one behind their back?
So what can you do if you’re a brand who wants to know more about going green in an honest way?
Start small. Change one thing at a time if the higher cost of “going green” is too scary right now. Swap your shampoo bottle packaging to recycled plastics? Change the lid of your skincare product to something made from petrochemicals? Is your coffee label made from recycled paper? Is the sticker glue biodegradable?
While I mentioned glue…a new fad in 2021 is “vegan glue” in packaging. Let me just tell you. This isn’t a new thing. By default, the glue used in cardboard boxes is vegan as it uses adhesive polymers from rubber trees. However, if you see a product claiming it uses vegan glue throughout their brand that means it’s a lie. Animal-based (made out of collagen. which is from animal byproducts, leather, and bone marrow) glue is commonly used in tapes, adhesives and other sticky parts of the shipping industry. And without it you can’t ship anything to your customers…
Ok, end of glue rant…
What other small steps can you make as a brand moving forward? Stop selling mini plastic (travel-size) version of a product. Remove single-use packaging and pay a bit more for packaging that a customer will want to keep and re-use (ie. Fun glass bottle).
Without a doubt, the most ‘ eco-friendly’ packaging is zero-packaging. If there’s zero-packaging used, then there’s zero-packaging to dispose of. But chances are that if you need packaging, zero-packaging isn’t an option.
Use a bioplastic and inform your customers of the importance of it, rather than using petroleum-based plastic.
Compostable poly mailer bags are a great option if you’re sending durable products through the mail
For many eCommerce brands, the most carbon-neutral packaging option is the traditional cardboard mailer box.
There is a ton of more stuff you can do both with your packaging and within your company to help the environment. Then you can market it to your customers who want to help even more! Do your research and implement innovative ways to stand out as well as be a part of the solution!
If you’re a consumer, do your own homework and check the facts around large corporations and their statements of ‘going green’. Pretty much every cleaning product on the market is not “green”. Most makeup lines are not 100% vegan as well and when they are (like Crunchi) their makeup just flat out doesn’t work as well. So be real with yourself on what products you want to use or reduce the ones that can never really “go green” just on sheer facts.
Greenwashing is a phenomenon that harms both the consumer and honest companies that hold the environment core to everything they do. So you if you’re a brand thinking about whether to lie or tell the truth about being “green” — choose wisely and don’t f**k up!
Marked by a lovely pandemic (*eyeroll) that shattered our “normality”, 2020 and 2021 also saw unprecedented political, social, and environmental unrest. Many of us experienced a level of chaos we couldn’t have possibly planned for. Around the world, creative professionals have been operating on what feels like quicksand.
Because visual culture is intimately connected to lifestyle shifts, our design trends shifted as well.
Environmental awareness peaked in 2020 and 2021. Moving forward, the interest in eco-friendly packaging will shape digital design. Biodegradable materials offer a great solution to a planet-ethical brand. Brands will be expected to operate with an elevated level of awareness in multiple respects going forward thus leaving designers to be inspired by the “going zero” movement and designing accordingly.
Off the Grid
One of my favorite trends of the year; behold rebellious, brutalist graphics that defy the grid. Designs in this “Off the Grid” trend are an ode to asymmetry. Type pops up where you least expect it to, and when it does, it’s usually reverse contrast, wavy, or ransom-looking. When it comes to design, expect the unexpected.
Here’s Come the 70’s Again
A big trend was bringing back the 70’s. No more pixel-perfect graphics and instead of a push to use more worn-out images (aka. 70’s photo quality). Analog techniques like risograph printing are making an important comeback in both physical and digitally-crafted graphics. I have a feeling this comeback was really stemmed from the calming, laid-back nature the 70’s appeared to be. Something we needed more of in 2021.
Design in every Color, Size, & Orientation
Now, this was way overdue. Strip down most design elements in marketing throughout companies and you’ll see a representation of who is on the team. It was time to change in both categories. Some Asian markets switched from showing only Asian models and people in their ads to those of all ethnicities. And of course, popular brands are highlighting women of color more and fashion and makeup brands are even embracing gender-neutral and LGBTQ+ models more than ever. Natural representation of everyday life in media… Finally! Diversity, beauty, and life all go hand-in-hand.
I was aGraphic Design Efficiency Expert for an eCommerce brand a few years ago…Here’s what I found…
Back in 2018, a catalog company that sold gift baskets, sweet treats like chocolates, nuts, meats and cheeses, and other gifts needed a design overhaul. I was hired as a freelancer to take over their seasonal catalog design. Create a clean, precise layout for over 50 pages and set it up for the marketing department as a template so they can easily keep the designs in place and accurate. Aside from that, I oversaw all new photoshoots for their products.
Now if you were just a consumer of this magazine you may have noticed that previous Halloween or Christmas issues looked outdated, but you may not have been able to put your finger on why…
I was hired in early Spring to re-brand the business – then re-do the Halloween and Christmas catalog. This project was penciled in to take 4-6 months. It took 1 month.
I was surprised when I got there that they already had a small team working on these upcoming Summer versions of the catalogs while I worked on the future catalog for Halloween and Christmas seasons. Why did they need me?
Their team of 8 was full-time while during my time there. I worked only 15 hours or less a week. They got paid 3x less than I was per hour. Of that team of 8 the Creative Director and 1 other employee actually had a graphic design background and a degree in Graphic Design. The Creative Director up to this point was really the only one tackling any creative projects with success as the rest of the team felt overwhelmed (or so they said).
So given that the projects were completed 3-5 months early, the Creative Director felt embarrassed that she had clearly scheduled out a project based on her current team’s efficiency. She felt bad I wasn’t going to have as much work anymore so she asked me to be a sort of undercover Efficiency Expert and get to know her staff. This is not something I usually do. Nor did I enjoy this as I end up looking like a bad guy who just waltzed into their company to snitch on their team.
I haven’t talked about this story as it always feels like a brag. But I recently have been getting asked by many companies who already have small design teams to take on over-flow projects and subsequently the rest of their team’s projects. Here is why a freelancer designer might get more done than your staff and why the catalog company was lagging behind.
The #1 issue I see always in companies like this is the staff’s training. The world of Graphic Design careers has changed drastically in the last decades. In the 90’s a graphic designer was a rare employee. A hard find to employ. Many companies hired people to teach them basic software skills for their business’ marketing or design needs. However, they never taught basic principles of design or urged them to keep up with design trends and new knowledge. You’ll find older companies staying loyal to employees who have been using design software for a decade or two, but never having professionally designed anything yet. I’m all for employee loyalty, but at what point is an old dog not going to learn new tricks?
9-5 Workplace Culture
In the era of COVID I’m glad more businesses are finding the 9-5 workday is not efficient. Think of it. You get in at 9am, chat with co-workers for a bit and then settle in. By 10am you’re starting to work, but by 11am you slow down as to not get too far into something before lunch. 1pm hits if you were lucky enough to get an hour lunch break and now you have to get back into the rhythm you were in before. And then that dreaded 3pm energy crash hits. In a poll done in 2019, 89% of employees produce little to no work from 3pm-5pm for this reason. Now math isn’t my thing, but if you’re a full-time 9-5 employee that’s 2-4 hours of quality work in an 8 hour workday… No wonder your team isn’t where it should be.
While at their department location, I often looked like some kind of weirdo introvert as I didn’t want to chat with them for 15 minutes a day about myself. I’m not here for that. I have a job to do so I get paid and my client is happy. I’m not an employee, however, so I got to come and go as I please – often working more either before employees came in the morning or after they left for the day. I get no benefits and have a contract and a deadline. But I’m a happier creator compared to them and my client was happier with me than their team of 8. I don’t work 9-5. I sometimes don’t start my day until 11am! I rarely end my day at 5pm though as well. As a freelancer, you are paid more to get it done faster and better.
Wages vs. Hourly Rates
So let’s talk about that…
Say your employees are getting $15/hour in the graphic design department. They take home a $1000ish check every 2 weeks for a fourth of the output (refer back to that 2-4 hours of quality work they are getting done each day).
Now as a freelancer — I get paid $30/hour for 15 hours a week. If we take the catalog project for example; I got paid $1800 for the project (plus a bonus for early completion) so let’s round that up to $3000. The project was completed ahead of time vs. leaving it to their team for 6 months which would have cost them $96,000, in the end, to pay their employees to only do this project and being that very few of the team had graphic design skills, that $96,000 could have left the company with a poor quality catalog still.
How to Fix This
Now if you’re reading this as a business owner you can see why hiring a freelancer may be more beneficial. But what about a business owner who already has a team they don’t want to fire just to pay less and get more?
What could you do?
Invest in Graphic Design Training for your non-trained Graphic Designers
Re-Organize Your Current Team into other positions and hire skilled Graphic Designers or a Freelancer to take up the slack
Re-Organize your Workplace Culture:
Be More Flexible w/ Your Employees Hours (ex. If an employee can work 8 quality hours from 6pm-2am at home…let them!
If you’re a startup wondering who to hire and what team members you need onboard first, start with a freelancer. I’m always happy to take on more happy clients at Unglitch.io and happy to show you where to get the more bang for your buck!