4 CREATIVES – 4 PERSPECTIVES
The current crisis hits us on a global and on a very individual level simultaneously. While everyone is confronted with the same issue, it affects us on different levels, and we have our own ways of coping. We spoke to four talented women of the creative industries, asking them the same questions, gaining different perspectives.
Rosa Kammermeier, graphic designer, lettering artist and illustrator from Munich, Germany. Working in print & web, analogue & digital projects, big murals & and small calligraphy.
Christl Baur, co-producer at Ars Electronica, researcher with an interdisciplinary background. Working in art history, cultural management, and natural science.
Cordula Alessandri, founder of alessandridesign. Working in packaging, corporate identity, wine and food labels, annual reports, publications and websites.
What has changed in terms of the relationship with your audience or clients?
Whether anything has changed in the relationship with my clients? Hm, it’s difficult to say: Although some projects had to be cancelled or put on hold for the time being, I do feel a certain solidarity at the moment – we’re all in the same situation, sitting in the same boat: it’s difficult, but we’ll manage somehow.
In general, you try to help out wherever and however you can – be it only by sharing an article or a post. I have been feeling a lot of support on Instagram, especially these days. Many of my followers have ordered posters, t-shirts and prints and thus are showing me their appreciation very much.
We generally have a relaxed relationship with our clients. Our cooperation has now become more intimate. We see clients with children, without make-up and in front of the drying rack. And vice versa. Surprisingly, this has created a sense of familiarity that leads to a really good workflow. The teams seem more patient and motivated, we feel “welded together”. In other areas, our clients’ now experience problems or stops, but not in the design process. That motivates us.
It is interesting to see how much can happen in a short time, negative as well as positive. Within days, weeks, more people started utilising digital tools to improve their daily lives and the virus pushed our society into the digital age. This is fantastic to see as it feels, the world is moving closer together. At Ars Electronica we’ve been always in contact with partners from all around the world, but especially in the past weeks, I have the feeling, we became even closer. Despite thousands of kilometres and borders between us, the solidarity and sympathy for the respective problems and worries grew immensely as we are facing similar but at the same time very individual, global challenges.
No commissions were cancelled or postponed, and new commissions are regularly coming in, as usual. However, these are jobs from clients that we have been working with for a long or short time already. No new clients have been acquired in recent weeks.
I think that we are in this fortunate situation mainly because most of our client base does NOT come from the art & culture sector. In these industries the tap was turned off overnight. We are therefore very well positioned with brand development, corporate design, but also with the overall management of visual communication for biotech companies.
What is worse: the financial or mental impact of the situation, and why?
First of all, the panic about the financial impact of the crisis was so intense that it overshadowed all other areas of life – what happens, where does it all lead?
The panic paralyzed me and with it my creativity. For me, the financial and mental effects go hand in hand, but the mental effects are worse for creative people.
The situation is changing our working conditions. In our case we are currently growing, and unfortunately this has been stopped temporarily. It is difficult to hire someone new if you do not meet in person. The crisis is hitting our industry with a slight delay. The current projects are actually continued as usual and perhaps even more effectively and enthusiastically. But many new clients are now postponing the start of the projects until autumn or right into next year, because they suddenly have less internal capacity. So it is still a little unclear how our summer will go. Mentally, we are all doing well.
The first week of isolation was, of course, also a shock for me. I panicked like a hypnotized rabbit. Then I began to investigate day and night. I still exchange intensively with friends via email. We are sending each other alternative researches and reports. My only concern is getting to know every flip side in order to be able to deal with the daily conventional media in a more critical way.
What is a topic that should be addressed more often during this time?
Of course, we are all in a difficult situation, life circumstances are changing, freedom is being restricted – but still, we all should not forget how insanely privileged we are here in our bubble. Even when the going gets tough – we will survive, we live in a welfare state and we can consider ourselves lucky.
Apart from looking at the crisis areas of the world, however, we should also keep our eyes on our policies: we must protect democracy, our freedom, and we must keep a keen eye on how much power is being exercised by governments at the moment.
What can designers do for society now? We do not belong to the so-called essential workers. But design is a stimulating economic factor. A good design strategy has the potential to boost the economic recovery after the crisis. To me personally it is important to pay close attention to whether my employees are doing well at home. We encourage our designers to take longer breaks during the day, for example to enjoy the sun or to go shopping in peace. One might mistakenly believe that home office is not very exhausting, but one should not underestimate private stress. So over Easter, despite a lot of work, we took a few vacation days and they were really good for us.
Well, at the moment we are talking a lot about the deficits of our systems and society, as we are all affected by them. Topics like climate crisis, migration and the deficits of our democracies are discussed in light of the current crisis. We definitely shouldn’t forget that we need a plan for action that helps us in collectively moving forward, so that we can address those problems even after we were able to continue with a new normal. Therefore, let us discuss this now so that we can start acting. At the same time it is wonderful to see, how much individuals can change and how strong the solidarity across continents on a very personal level is. We really can learn from this and focus on the humane aspect of our actions in such a moment of crisis.
“Indignez-vous!” proclaimed Stéphane Hessel already in 2010. Time for Outrage!
Is there a part of your isolation that you would like to continue when all this is over & if so, which one?
The appreciation of all the essential frontline workers, the solidarity of the people.
Since we all work very efficiently at home, we are considering introducing one home office day per week. We already have flexible working hours anyway, so I can imagine that quite well.
The virus forces us to appreciate the calmness, the emptiness and stillness again, as the constant movement came to a stop. This break offers us the chance to rethink and reevaluate our economic, social and cultural structures.What until now seemed to be impossible is now inevitable. This is the part I’d like to keep, this time for reflection and exchange.
From 13 March until last Friday, 17 April, my team and I were working from home. Fortunately, very grateful and humbled, I can report that we were fully occupied from the beginning. Communication was done via telephone or zoom conference. That works without any complications anyway.
If you knew that for some reason this situation would last forever, what would you change about your working life?
I’m currently trying not to think too far into the future. At the moment, you just have to stay in the moment, everything else will drive you crazy, and won’t help anyway. We don’t know how long all this will last, what will happen in the future.
As great as it is to be at home more often, I do miss the team. If this went on forever, I’d buy a giant screen, invest in a virtual reality room and install a dedicated line to connect all of us.
If this situation is ongoing or will reappear continuously, we would have to rethink the responsibilities of cultural institutions like museums but also festivals as social platforms, where until now it was to some extent required to be physically on-site. Especially also in light of the climate crisis, it would be very interesting to consider the need for mass mobility again and what forms culture can take to reach everyone, no matter where they are physically.
I wouldn’t change a lot about my personal working life, as I’m in the lucky position to adapt my professional life to my private life rather easily. However, we would have to come up quickly with an equivalent to a bar or café where we can have social interactions outside of the screen.
In the coming decades, it will not be us old people who will have to deal with this, but those who are young now. If I should die in the near future, I will at least have the certainty of having lived until the end in a way that seems to make life worth living – I love my family, my work, the designers I work with, and my friends. None of this is missing for me at the moment.
Interview by Iris Writze and Konrad Pannagger