19th May 2020

Here and back again | A designers tale

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Nikki Simpson

Here and Back

As we enter week 9 of lockdown, working from home and ‘staying alert’ (whatever that means) I thought it would be a great time to reflect on this great lockdown tale. With the trepidation that Bilbo Baggins felt before leaving the Shire and heading deep into Middle Earth, sights set on the Misty Mountains, we too are experiencing some odd feelings. Is it excitement? Worry? Fear? Who knows. But one thing is for sure, it's actually been a great adventure...

Week one of working from home came easy, from a technical and setup standpoint, that's the beauty of what we do. The Abstrakt team are very lucky to all be able to work together while apart. However, the emotional ramifications of being so isolated took its toll. As a very sociable person, I think it's fair to say I struggled with this new separation. FOMO without the actual missing out happens to be a thing.

As the government guidance wedded us all to our four walls, we settled into our new ‘normal’. So what challenges have I faced both personally and professionally?

I HATE my house. Well, not really but it’s amazing that when you spend so much time in your house, all the annoyances start to crop up. Let me tell you, a lot of DIY has been going on. This past weekend I’ve transformed my stairway and landing into a beautiful bright space, with lots of focus on family. The addition of a gallery wall along the stairwell now pays tribute to the people I am missing so much. Each time I run up the stairs to my office space, I am reminded of their faces and it brings about so much joy.

Home Decor

I’m missing the gym so much (got to get in a wedding dress next year) but like many, I’ve been going out walking and running loads. I’m an avid gym goer so when they closed their doors I was devastated, but the amount of new places I’ve discovered adventuring—not only locally but just a short drive away—have been amazing. These areas would have been left undiscovered by my household, if it wasn’t for this situation.

Walks

The hardest personal challenge so far has to be the void of missing friends and family. My birthday is coming up and the thought of not being able to see loved ones in the flesh is certainly painful. Last week my mental health took a beating with that realisation that I will have my first birthday, in 32 years, without seeing my parents (ouch). Zoom is a saving grace though! I’ve been tech support for my parents these last few weeks and now video calling has become super easy for them and I’m pretty sure they’ve mastered it.

So, what about work challenges? It turns out being creative during this time can be hard. I’ve had days where creativity and productivity have just fallen off a cliff. But you know what, that's ok. The beauty of working from home is the flexibility it offers: those days where focus and creativity are lost, I am able to shift my tasks or even my working days around to suit the mood of the moment. The greatest professional discovery during these weeks has been the fact that each and every one of the team at Abstrakt are the catalyst for my creativity. Working remotely lacks that constant buzz and conversation that being in the studio offers. We can hop on a call or chat on Slack, but it's just not the same.

Colabs

Are you being passive aggressive? A question I have asked myself a number of times whilst replying to that thousand Slack message. Feeding back or being given feedback on creative or development work remotely sucks! Designers, especially, feed off of positive reactions to their work, a simple ‘looks good’ or ‘smashing it’ message just doesn't cut the mustard. Early on it was clear that asking for feedback via Slack wasn’t going to work in the long run. As a team, we are working hard to find new ways to run feedback and QA sessions by quickly hopping on a call. I tend to be structuring my feedback requests by following these guidelines shared recently by InVision:

  • What I am sharing today: (What is the actual problem you are seeking to solve with this work)
  • The work is at the stage of: (e.g. “discovery”)
  • The constraints I am dealing with are: (e.g. “I only have two weeks,” or “We don’t have x data available”)
  • I am looking for the following feedback: (Be as detailed as necessary)

Running these feedback sessions around these constraints allows me to gain useful comments that I can take away and action, whilst also feeling positive about my initial outcomes.

But if you really have to give feedback via Slack, adding an emoji at the end softens the blow a little ;)

Emoji

After 9 weeks of living and working this way, I for one have learnt a lot: about both myself and the people around me. Although I have had a number of dark days during lockdown, I have also had some amazing joyful moments. Moments that will stick with me for life. Visiting the Quarantine Arms Pub on Zoom every Saturday night, getting dressed up for remote cocktails with friends and even enjoying afternoon tea with my family. Along with discovering new local walks and making home cooked meals every night.

Zoom Parties

Tolkien himself described The Hobbit as having a tendency towards chubbiness, having a love of food and drink (especially ale), eating a mere six times a day on average. A love of laughter, jests, games, and celebrations and love of peace and quiet. I’d say living this lockdown life like a hobbit is quite an adventure, wouldn’t you?

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