Covid-19 / Design Strategy / Remote Working

Why I won’t be going back to the way things were before Covid-19

The past weeks have been challenging for all of us. Not only have I had to work from home instead of travelling to my studio every day, but I’ve had to adapt to meet the needs of my clients, too, many of whom have either reduced hours, reduced workforce, or, like me, are working from a different location to usual.

Add to the mix sharing my new office-space with my family – which means answering questions from my currently home-schooled kids (I’m at home, so of course I’m available 24/7, right?) and fitting in with my family’s routines, which don’t always align with mine, and you’ve got something between chaos and, erm, utter chaos!

But even though it has taken me a while to settle into things, I’ve discovered that there are actually some positives to all this, and, dare I say it, a subtle realisation that the way I worked before wasn’t always the best and most efficient way of working.

My biggest revelation – and I’m certain that many of you will agree – has been Zoom. Ok, so we’ve used Zoom before, but the normal thing to do was to arrange to meet prospective clients in person, even if that meant travelling an hour or more each way for a meeting which may or may not result in a few days’ work.

I’ve realised that in reality, many of those meetings are better to arrange through Zoom. It works more than a phone call, because you are able to see the person (always helps), but you are also able to view each other’s screens, show each other images and examples if graphics, and send over files etc while you’re talking. All of this means that I’m saving loads of time, I don’t have to waste hours driving, and I don’t need to spend too much time looking up and sending over information when I get back to the studio.

Zoom has become the new norm for most of us, even the News on TV. I think it would be a shame to revert back to how things were, as we’re in a fortunate time where technology and virtual meetings are so simplified. And aside from the huge time-saving advantages, think of the environmental impact it could have with so much less time spend on the roads.

But apart from that, working away from the studio has made me realise that I don’t need to be tied in to working in the same place. I don’t know if it’s just coincidental, or down to the type of projects that I’m working on at the moment, but I’ve found that working from home (aside from the obvious distractions), can be just as achievable as working from the studio.

As long as I’ve got the right set-up on my laptop, and a decent internet connection, it’s viable that I could work remotely. I’m not saying that I’m going to become a digital nomad and work from coffee shops and libraries all the time, but it’s certainly feasible that I could spend the odd day working from home.

Working this way has actually shown me that a change of scenery can be beneficial from a creative perspective. So perhaps in the future, when all this is over, that’s another thing I can incorporate into my normal routine. If I could manage to spend even a couple of days a month working away from the studio, whether that’s from home or somewhere else, it might just be the tonic I need to revitalise my brain, help to spark some fresh ideas, and just give me a break from the ‘norm’.

So, yes – the way things are right now might have forced us all to rethink the way we work. But, like me, perhaps that’s given us an opportunity. Maybe we’ve been stuck in a rut, simply because that’s the way we’ve always done things. But it doesn’t have to go back to that, and I think that we’d be foolish not to take on board some of these new habits when the world, eventually, returns to normal.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Has the current situation made you reconsider the way you work?

Collaboration / Graphic Design / Remote Working

Are there benefits to working remotely as a designer?

This is a question that someone recently asked me. What is it like, as a designer, to work away from a major city? It’s a question which kind of stopped me in my tracks, and one I’ve been thinking about ever since. Are designers who work cities like London or Manchester, for example, better placed than those who are not? While I think there are some benefits to working in busy hubs like these, things have definitely changed over the past decade or so – freelancing is becoming commonplace, and remote working can be done from pretty much anywhere. Interestingly, being away from those major cities is becoming more and more attractive, as people are finding that living and commuting to these places is becoming so much more expensive. I wanted to share some of my own thoughts and experiences with you, and talk a little bit about the changes which have led us here.

Digitalisation and design trends

The way in which businesses work has changed in many ways, and continues to do so. Most aspects of design now are done with digital tools, for digital media. And this in itself has huge benefits, in the freedom we have as designers, and where and how we work.

In theory, a designer can work from any location, anywhere in the world, whether that’s a large city or a tiny village, as long as we have a decent internet connection. Basic as that sounds, the tools of our trade are now simple and portable, at least on the surface.

Is there really anything stopping a young designer with a lot of flair and passion from setting up shop, even if he or she is based in a remote location in the middle of nowhere?

The pros and cons of working remotely

I used to work in a small market town, where there was a strong student community (thanks to two colleges nearby), a few established businesses, and not much else. It was perfectly workable, there were plenty of cafes and bars within easy reach, the rents were cheap…

But it was mind-numbing!

It didn’t take long for my inspiration to wane, and there was practically no stimulation to ignite my passion for design. It felt pretty stagnant.

Since setting up The Severn Agency, we made the decision to relocate to a larger town, and settled in Shrewsbury. Here, there’s a lot more going on – though it is a market town, it’s much more vibrant and it has much more of a community. From a design point of view, there is never a shortage of things to see and do, which is so refreshing. I also find that it’s much better located for meeting people to discuss work.

The future

Would I like to work in a city? I can see that there could be benefits in that. For starters, there are a great deal more designers working out of places like London, and I’d imagine that it could be a great place to find fresh inspiration, and be in the centre of new innovations.

But do I need to work in a city? Absolutely not. I think designers, and freelance designers, are in an age of great opportunity right now. We really can work from anywhere – and we can be as portable as we like. With the right tech, we can work on the move, from client’s offices, from home. The limitation which in the past tethered us to our locations are quickly disappearing. It’s exciting to think that in the future, location will no longer even be a factor.

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