How Design Industry Works During COVID-19 Pandemic

We are experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, and it surely affects everyone and everything (to some extent at least) regardless of where you are and what you do. Creative industries, basically like any other ones, have to adapt to the “brand new world”. Even though it might be only for a few months, the pandemic will definitely change our future a lot – and this change has already started.

We realize how important it is to provide solutions that are available from anywhere and at any time. Therefore, we decided to do our part and offer a free license of Approval Studio software for NGOs and Medical Organizations during the pandemic. Check this blog post or contact us directly for more information! 

To be completely honest, I could have never thought that I would be writing an article about design in the middle of the pandemic, but here I am. What is the current situation across the design industry? Do creatives struggle to work from home? What do designers create on quarantine? I decided to break down my speculations into two parts.

Part I: what troubles designers might encounter on lockdown.

Working from home is not a novelty in the design industry. However, now people have no choice – agencies and freelancers are moving to home-based offices. Pijamas as a new formal attire and pets as new bosses – a dream come true! Even though it might seem like a pure pleasure to work from home, I would like to address a number of pitfalls. In my opinion, the main ones are:

Maintaining work-life balance 

It is hard sometimes to sustain the work-life balance even under normal circumstances. Imagine adding to this global pandemic and lockdown. Only a few might be able to equally distribute their time between work and personal life. Most of us either overwork and spend 10+ hours behind the computer screen or feel a complete lack of motivation to do something. This could also turn into a combination of those two – one day is hella productive, the other one is meant to be spent with Netflix. Whichever that would be, we now need to learn how to properly manage our time distribution. Of course, time-management is not something new, but I believe that it is in сritical demand during the quarantine. 

Here’s a small tip: 

The technique that is quite efficient when it comes to confronting procrastination is Pomodoro. It is basically a set of time periods during which you work and rest. You set a timer for 20-30 minutes and work on one task during that period. It’s only around half an hour after all – you’ve got this! When the timer rings, it’s time for a 5 to 10-minute break. Stretch, water some flowers, look at the people, who are for some reason not at home, do something to distract yourself from work. When the 4th working period is done, make a bigger pause (15-20 minutes). Then the cycle starts all over again. (The Pomodoro Technique

If you want to get even more tips and tricks, check out our recent article where Approval Studio team reveals some secrets of remote work.

Another obstacle to having a balanced life is the “home” distractions. Cat is stuck on the sofa, you suddenly have an urge to do the laundry, and those cupcakes are so tempting. We all have been there! The main reason for this is that your brain thinks that home is a place to rest. The best way is to allow yourself to get accustomed to the thought that the desk in the living room is now a home office. Make a routine around it – some people like to arrange their drawing utensils, others make a rough sketch just to start a creative process. Also, annihilate those small distractions before getting to work. If you know that you will be thinking about dirty dishes – wash them beforehand. 

Managing people and projects

This difficulty mainly concerns designing agencies and creative teams. Most of them prefer working at the office or co-working spaces. Because it is not an option anymore due to a necessary social distancing, the design community had to figure out some best practices to keep everything and everybody organized during the spread of COVID-19. What previously was face-to-face communication has now become a stalk of messages and emails. Obviously, it is hard to keep track of all of them. No wonder, that the Internet is bombarded with questions about what tools and techniques should be used to lessen the pain of remote collaboration. 

The main piece of advice I can give you is to use appropriate project management software. Every project has multiple steps and even though you cannot automate all of them, you could shorten the time spent on the most boring tasks. For example, use artwork approval software, such as Approval Studio, to manage client feedback and collaborate with designers. 

Searching for inspiration

This problem is not something that is connected solely to working from home. Graphic designers and basically all creative team members have had issues with inspiration all the time, as it is so amorphous. However, with the current situation, you are not just working from home – you are also self-isolating. This adds another layer to being less inspired. A lot of people find it hard to find a creative impulse from the same environment, others need constant social interaction, and some feel overwhelmed by the news. 

If you have usually gained inspiration from external sources, try bringing them into your mundane life. At the 1.5 meters distance, of course. For example, your ultimate idea source has always been nature and greenery. How to bring that to your apartment? Plants, National Geographic documentaries, and books on garden design. 

Side Note: If you are feeling stressed at this time in life, please, take a break if you can and need to do so! Check these booklets from the World Health Organization on how to cope with stress during coronavirus – for adults and children.

Another way of finding inspiration can be quite challenging because it requires time and change in a mindset. Inspiration isn’t something that has its own life, and you don’t need to sit and wait for it. On the contrary, it is a process that should come from within and could be turned into a habit. As a famous writer William Faulkner says: “I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes at nine every morning.” 

Creative process artwork
Source: Home Activities

In order to tame creativity, try building a routine, where you are doing a creative brainstorming activity. For example, an illustrator and designer Minnie Small devotes 1 hour every morning to drawing and she makes sure that there are no distractions. Moreover, it is vital not to check the social media and news sources first thing in the morning as it can get frustrating and therefore might kill the incentive to do something at all. 

These pitfalls disrupted the workflow even of well-established freelancers, not to mention newly remote teams. It is important to keep in mind that most of us learn as we go! Building a routine that works for you and having rest is essential to staying sane and productive during this lockdown. 

Part II: what kind of design is being produced on quarantine.

Not only has the designer’s workplace changed but also their product. I have noticed a tendency, that some designers either experience a sudden demand for their type of work or, vice versa, a decrease in commissions. Both of those instances have a perfect explanation: we need an artwork to help battle the coronavirus and keep everybody sane, and a lot of businesses are slowing or shutting down. This triggered a shift in the initial motives and the type of art.

Artwork to build an online presence and promote personal brands

Everything became digitally oriented and the ability to adapt to these massive changes is the determinant of whether your business will survive the coronavirus pandemic. Companies are moving online and they need visuals to represent them. Therefore, web design, online ad design, content design are the most common clients’ desires. Although, it doesn’t mean that companies, which are starting to build their online space, are starting from scratch. The majority of them already have a dusty Instagram account lying somewhere, and this might also bring demand for rebranding. Now it is not enough for designers to follow a brief, they need to show analytical skills to change what the company already has into something appealing and trendy. 

Moreover, a lot of artists are jumping on the trend and using quarantine to build a stronger personal brand. They focus more on their social media and personal projects as it attracts clients. If I wanted to hire a website designer, I would prefer someone with a great website of their own that might serve as his or her portfolio. Also, designers’ work represents daily matters, like the absence of social interactions or struggles while being on quarantine. It makes them relatable, as the whole world is going through the same, and it’s a nice marketing strategy. 

Artwork to spread awareness and build community

This type of artwork goes in hand with the previous one, but it is more community-oriented. Collaboration is as popular as ever. Art challenges are back. Artists unite to make quarantine less stressful not only for industry insiders but also for other people. For example, the project Together Gallery provides free coloring sheets to everyone with the help of commissions from various artists. Claire Ritchie and Luke John Matthew Arnold decided to work on this concept solely because they wanted to bring more positivity into unstable times like this. 

Coloring Sheet by Almost Iris

Designers are also using their skills to spread awareness about the notorious coronavirus. These might include infographics about how to properly wash your hands or banners with a more artistic approach. For instance, Jure Tovrljan included a bit of humor into his project, where he has redone the logos of famous companies and posters of his favorite TV-shows. Another example would be a remake of well-known album covers by the creatives at Activista Los Angeles. Now all of the members of the band are 1,5 meters apart. 

Final thoughts

All in all, being on the quarantine has definitely changed the way designers and other creatives work. Working from home is now a staple and online collaboration and management skills are worth its weight in gold. But not only that, the general feel of the industry has altered: people are now having more time and the same topic to focus on. The artworks encapsulate the urgent matters and help people and businesses go through harsh times. This sparks a cozy sense of community that confronts a feeling of being lonely in the cold industry. 

Needless to say that if you want to reduce the time spent on the tasks that could be automated, relocate this burden on the shoulders of the remote team management and artwork approval software, like Approval Studio. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to provide a free license to NGO’s and Medical Companies to help battle coronavirus. You can contact us directly or check this blog post to gain more details.

Stay home, stay healthy!

Picture of Mary Cobe

Mary Cobe

Mary Cobe is a girl with a graphic tablet and a new member of the Approval Studio team. Illustration and design have always been her passion and now she is eager to share her extensive knowledge about the creative industry. She considers black and white colour palette her best friend and enjoys splendid visuals more than a good cup of coffee.
Picture of Mary Cobe

Mary Cobe

Mary Cobe is a girl with a graphic tablet and a new member of the Approval Studio team. Illustration and design have always been her passion and now she is eager to share her extensive knowledge about the creative industry. She considers black and white colour palette her best friend and enjoys splendid visuals more than a good cup of coffee.

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