Staying-Creative-&-Connected-During-the-Ever-Lasting-Pandemic

Staying Creative & Connected During the Ever-Lasting Pandemic

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.

The Start

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!

The Middle

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.

Design-Trends

Design Trends Seen in 2021

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.

Ethical Living

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.

Example: FrugalPac & Food and Wine

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.

Font on Creative Market – Click Image to Download

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.

Wordpress-Featured-Image

I was aGraphic Design Efficiency Expert for an eCommerce brand a few years ago…

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.

Expertise

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:
    • Pay More
    • 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!