Creativity in this time of crisis.


Ben Lewis headshot

Working from home during the lockdown has presented its own challenges, yet also plenty of opportunities.

Those of us who are lucky enough to work in the creative industries largely do so because we get to do what we love every day. Perhaps we were swept along by an idealistic yet genuine belief that creativity can change the world, and who’s to say it won’t?

In the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic, the importance of graphic design may seem negligible. Witness the government’s somewhat bizarre and much-maligned decision to redesign their ‘Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives’ logo only a week or so into their daily lockdown briefings. It’s tempting to wonder how many hours were wasted discussing the need for an immediate rebrand and settling on a revised design, rather than worrying about how to obtain the vital PPE and testing kits our gallant NHS workers so desperately need, but anyway, I digress.

For us here at The Canopy, it’s been very much business as usual. We took the decision as a business to begin working remotely over a week prior to the official government advice to do so on 23 March, so we’re now well into the third week of working from our various homes. Fortunately, being a design agency, most of us either had a home set up and a company laptop, so we were already largely equipped to make the transition as smooth as possible. However, a few days working purely from a single laptop screen proved too much to bear, so I went to the office to collect my monitor from the office prior to the official lock down. How on earth did anyone cope when working from one screen was the norm?

We start each day much the same as we would in the office, running through the days scheduled tasks in Asana, checking off finished jobs and assigning new ones. However, we now do this remotely via conference call, rather than in person. It’s a good way to kick off the day, see a few familiar and friendly faces and keep on top of how things are progressing. Whilst we may be missing our face to face interaction (not to mention the table tennis table!) we’ve been making full use of the technology on offer, and have held Friday night drinks, a virtual pub quiz, and even thrown a surprise birthday celebration via the magic of video conferencing.

We use Slack to share work updates, either through dedicated project channels, or by messaging one or two people individually. This saves time and prevent the inbox being cluttered up with unnecessary emails. We’re fortunate that a number of our larger clients have continued to progress their plans, although we have had to pause some branding projects with some clients with a view to picking them up at a later date. No doubt it’s been a frustrating and fearful time for the businesses on what we hope is only a temporary hiatus, but hopefully the launch of an exciting new brand will be just the tonic for both staff and clients in a brave new world.

Whilst there’s currently plenty for us to do in terms of traditional design, branding and copywriting projects, having a CGI and VFX side to our business has undoubtedly been a great string to our bow, and a boon to our clients at this time. It enables us to create videos, animations and photographic effects entirely from scratch in the virtual world, rather than carrying out physical shoots.

When it comes to structuring days, I can’t speak for the other guys, but it’s helped me to try and stick as closely as possible to my office routine whilst I’ve been at home. Unless there’s a pressing deadline I try to make sure I take an hour’s break from the screen, usually between 1-2pm, just as I would do at the studio. I use this time to either go for a run, a walk, or do some other form of exercise, as without the daily commute I’m moving a lot less than I would do ordinarily. The much-neglected gym equipment that’s been cluttering up the attic for years has even seen a bit of action recently.

In the grand scheme of things, design and branding may not seem the most important thing right now, as the world as we know it shifts perhaps permanently on its axis. However, whatever new world emerges from the wreckage of this global pandemic, the need for brands to think, adapt and react creatively to the situation will surely be of paramount importance. The phrase ‘creativity can change the world’ has perhaps never seemed so pertinent.

Take care of yourselves and each other.