Design in a time of Corona

Maintaining a healthy mind, managing to work and doing your bit for society as we go through a period of extreme changes.

Graphic Design is by its nature a lonely occupation. But what can we pass on to others that may help in these difficult times.

For years, as a Graphic Designer, I have sat behind my lovely Apple 30″ monitor, clicking away, studiously, examining, questioning, drawing and reviewing work alone. It’s the job.

Along with the job comes the necessity to find tricks and techniques for surviving the 14 hour day and the 2am work environment when there is no one else around and you so desperately want to go down the pub, share a bike ride or meet friends at a climbing wall. You can’t because you need to work and you are doing it alone.

A list of survival hacks for being alone:

Accept the truth of your relationship with Social media, and keep it in perspective.

Manage your time with social media, manage when and where and for how long you use it.

Right now we need it, we need to connect and it is a lifesaver. For a great many vulnerable, isolated and lonely people it may be all they have alongside the traditional media channels. But now more than ever we need to learn to manage it, it is potentially as harmful as it is necessary to feel a sense of belonging.

Using the TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime as supporting distraction without actually watching it.

We all need to belong. We are social creatures and sometimes, sadly, our television friends become just that. I’ve never met Jeremy Clarkson, I’ve seen him at an airport, but I feel he is in some way a part of my life for the better, as he occasionally, albeit in a puerile and politically incorrect manner, makes me smile along with his buddies and any number of personalities that appear regularly on the thousands of media channels now freely available.

So I have made virtual friends who don’t exist in physical reality, but are undoubtedly part of my mental health, as they make me smile, and make me feel good as they prevent the reality of loneliness from rearing its dark head too often.

I have come to terms with it and it takes time. Sure I’d prefer to party and will do so more in the future as circumstances allow, but I have reasoned make friends with these strange and removed characters, but always keep a check on the fact that they don’t know you, are unlikely to ring up and ask if you’re OK and certainly aren’t going to give you a big hug and buy you a beer the next time they see you.

Even doing the smallest action, can mean so much to others

Wave and smile, thumbs up or perhaps just be silly and plain daft. All social behaviour where you share a moment with someone however small adds to your daily tally of positive uplifts.

When travelling, for days on end without meeting another soul, you begin to crave people. I remember in Croatia, travelling for several days on back roads, desperate to meet someone, it was a strange conflict of emotions and wasn’t let go until I found a coffee at a petrol station as I emerged into more civilised territory. I still feel sorry for the attendant, he must have thought me a strange fellow. I was but his smile meant so much and I was OK then for a few more days. That’s all it took.

It’s the small things that matter on a daily basis

Take pleasure from anything anywhere when you can. However locked down you are by focusing on the detail and staying in the present moment there is a lift to be had.

Pausing and stop for a moment to look at the detail of what is right in front of you and find a moment of lift as you discover something new that you hadn’t noticed before. Photography was a good teacher for this… It made you look at the field flora, the moss on the drystone wall, the leaf insects as well as the sound of the birds and the burbling stream as though they were escaping and you wanted to remember them forever. A treasure of mini positive experiences.

This can even be with objects. Everything has something to give, however inanimate and however domestic. I have found myself stroking old iPods, pausing and thinking of how clever Jony Ive was to design such a thing then, how extraordinary his influencer Dieter Rams were was to create these beautiful elegant lines for objects and how wonderfully connected all good work is. My point is, is that it’s a flow of positive conscious thought that takes you away for a moment into the now and into another uplift for the bank of positive.

Techniques for purging your thoughts and clearing your mind

Zoning in and focusing on a task can lead to a clarity afterwards.

Anxiety and circular thoughts can overwhelm us and preoccupy us. Sometimes it’s hard to clear them. At times like these, when we can’t just get up and go and do something else, somewhere else, it is a great technique to learn. Zoning in, Zooming in on the immediacy of what you are doing pushes all the anxieties and worries to the edges and you are then so immersed in whatever you have chosen to do that the trouble has temporarily moved to the sidelines. It’s a skill or technique and as such needs training and practice, but it’s a really useful one.

Summary

I’ll stop for now, but in summary I would like to say that ‘just because you are good at something like being alone, doesn’t mean you enjoy it.’ For whatever reason I have spent huge chunks, years of my life alone traveling and working but I really prefer being sociable.
I have learnt to spend time isolated and learnt that it can be great fun especially as you develop confidence in being with yourself but, as Oscar Wilde (may have) said

“You are never alone with yourself, it is the best way to be sure of intelligent and witty conversation.”

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