Staying creative together

How does home working affect the dynamic of design?

Three weeks ago, we put our computers under our arms and like so many other studios across the world, we went home. In a strange way, remote working has become our biggest creative challenge yet. Will it make us all more flexible? More innovative? More focused?

In the years BC, we debated the pros and cons of home working. It’s not easy as a large design team, working across multiple projects and multiple platforms, to kick ideas around the room when those rooms are any distance away from each other. The energy fizzles, it gets stuck between the screens.

Our Camden studio offers us a creative playground as well as the resources that us needy designers have grown used to. The big screens, the powerful WiFi, the coffee machine, the fancy printer. We’ve always believed that together is better. But if the key to creativity is communication, there’s no reason that we can’t stay home, stay in touch, and stay inspired. Like other industries, we’re getting on with what we do best. And we’re learning.

One rule I’ve always believed in, is trust your team. Without this you’re going to end up in a pickle.

Our team at 20.20 know each other well. We’re a family that’s bonded together by our values. We know how our colleagues behave, how they think and we can read between the lines if Bob starts tapping his pen too quickly.

What we’ve found most heartening, being apart, is that we are getting to know each other even better. Every morning, we’re invited into each other’s homes for a morning huddle. Our workplaces are shared in a new way, and that’s been brilliant. We are seeing the kids run past, the dogs on the desk, the paintings on the wall. We are taking notice. What we need right now is more humanity. The familiar “good mornings” and the less familiar “hands up who’s wearing pyjama trousers?”

We’ve hosted creative workshops remotely with clients. We’ve presented work. We’ve been more direct with our feedback. We’ve started a dress theme for our internal calls to make each other laugh. We always talk about human connection, well here it is with silly hats on.

Part of our creative philosophy, “Go somewhere, see something” is about getting out of the office and surrounding yourself with new ideas. With the whole world indoors, we’re still discovering new places. With more time at home, there’s been more need for creativity. We’ve seen friends and family starting new projects. We’ve seen artists live streaming their music. We’ve seen galleries and museums opening digital doors to the world. It’s still possible to get inspired.

The other part of our philosophy is even more important to us now. “Where there is fun, there is creativity.” We are a family of creative souls and we believe in the importance of feel-good energy. This whole experience has served as an unexpected reminder of the importance of enjoying what we do. We want to be excited to share our work, even when we’re separated by screens. If anything, being apart actually amplifies a sense of surprise when our ideas have developed in unexpected directions. Fun is good.

Other friends in the industry I have spoken to recently have said similar things about working from home. We are busy, we’re getting on. Our tech is at home. Our colleagues are on screen. We are still face to face. The immediate connection is missing but you work around it.

My good friend Andy Milligan is part of the team at Caffeine Partnership. They have been cloud-based for over 15 years. “It’s key to establish house rules. As long as the work gets done by the deadline and doesn’t inconvenience anyone, then that’s okay.” You can go for that run, read that book or walk the dog when you need to, as long as the work gets delivered on time. And why should that be any different in the studio, really? We get caught up in ourselves. It’s the breaths in between that revive creative souls.

We are being shown how fragile and vulnerable our interconnected world can suddenly become. With our social lives on pause we still need to react, work, create and deliver beautiful ideas and visions for our clients. Creativity doesn’t have a switch. It will never turn off.

And at the end of the day, when we’ve finished our work, our commute back home has shortened considerably. We don’t need to decompress. We can dance with our kids, we can cook, we can phone old friends or nurture new projects. When the world was on lockdown, we were creating

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