I have recently been reflecting on the changes I’ve seen happening in the design industry over the past months, and how lockdown has brought about shifts in the way we work, and the habits we’ve formed. Yes, it’s been a hard slog for many of us, but now that we’re beginning to operate at a much more normal level again, I’m hoping that some of those new habits will stick. Perhaps you think that’s an odd thing for me to say, but I’ve seen some good stuff come out of this crisis.

Let me explain what I mean…

The pre-covid design landscape

A while ago, I wrote an article about how bad designers are at forming communities, and how my agency, being situated in a small market town, can sometimes feel a little isolating. I think that a lot of creative industries suffer the same affliction – we’re notoriously private individuals, aren’t we? Perhaps a little introvert by nature, and so we shut ourselves away in our own creative bubble.

Part of that extended into other areas too. We were not only sensitive about our communication with other agencies but also with other people seeking our advice – from the businesses we served to the graduates who asked for our support. I’m not saying that applied in all cases, but I witnessed it quite a bit (it was one of the reasons I decided to try and get some of those barriers lifted by starting my own local design community).

Maybe it was just a rut we’d got ourselves stuck in. Maybe it was just habitual. And we might find ourselves sliding back into that mindset – but I’m not so sure it will happen. I think we’ve been through too much, and that some of the new ways we seem to have adopted along the way will become the norm as we go into 2022.

So, what’s changed?

It might be that many of us were forced to work from home during the lockdown, or that we had a lot more time between client projects, but I’ve found that the urgency of projects has eased considerably. Whereas before, I had quite a few projects where the client would stipulate that they needed it done ASAP (meaning ‘drop what you’re doing and do this now’), many of my recent clients have been much more chilled, had more time, more willing to work to realistic deadlines.

The people I’ve been working for over the past few months have seemed much more relaxed generally – more communicative, and more willing to help. I’ve seen evidence of it within online communities too –some of the bigger agencies are more willing to reach out and give advice, to smaller fledgling agencies, and graduates just breaking through.

I guess that we’ve all experienced how frighteningly easily things can break down – it has made us feel vulnerable and helped us to realise that we do in fact need to pull together as a community.

The human touch

For a while – even before covid was a problem – we’ve been seeing a slow and subtle movement that has possibly been led by social media and the rise of online communities. We’ve been taking much more notice of ‘the person behind the brand’, and this has meant that more and more businesses are giving a personal service, rather than being just another corporate body. We kind of expect it now, because it allows us to build trust and likeability.

Perhaps that has been pushed further still over the past year or so. In our isolation, have we learned that we need to connect with people again?

My predictions for 2022

I have to admit, I like this new landscape. I like that those agencies that I’ve spent my career admiring have become much more approachable; more human. And I really hope that the sense of community we’ve learned to enjoy as a collective of designers carries on.

It’s important to remember that people need other people, and that’s no less true within the creative industries. We’re not in competition. We can offer each other so much more, by way of support, friendship, and opportunities to learn from each other.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this. If you are just starting on your path, or have been part of a bigger, or growing agency for a while – what changes have you seen? Have you changed the way you work, or who you work with? Reach out and let me know.