All industries are having to change, adapt and refocus. As designers and creatives, our livelihood depends on collaboration and communication, so we’ve had to adapt quickly – and at a time when the need for collaboration and communication is more prevalent than ever. 

So what has it meant for our work, our processes and our clients? 

The creative process

When it comes to creativity, everything feels different. For starters, we’re not crowded around a large table in a small room throwing ideas around quicker than you can say “Has anyone got the password for this Zoom call?”.

A ‘normal’ day would involve getting together almost constantly, feeding off each other’s knowledge and skills to explore every possibility and make sure the right client project gets the right ideas. But now we’re holed up in our bunkers on our lonesome, unable to do that, we’re adapting, and finding new ways to collaborate.

But ‘collaborating’ never meant simply sitting in a room playing Devil’s Advocate. It’s all about solving problems with clients and colleagues, pooling ideas and getting them down on paper. And as we’ve found new ways to do this in these fairly unique circumstances, I’ve come to wonder whether we’re now working more efficiently together.

All our efforts to adapt our approach and make each other’s lives easier have generated an interesting side effect. We don’t just have working relationships between colleagues or clients anymore – we have connections. We’ve been invited into people’s homes and, as a result, the relationships we have with each other have become deeper and more personal. It has become easier for all of us to see the bigger picture. We’re seeing solutions more clearly and developing creative that more effectively drives at the heart of real communications challenges, issues and objectives. It has made how we collaborate much more powerful.  

Better communications, better creative

The various reporting projects we were doing for our clients before all this happened were at different stages. Some had nearly published, some hadn’t gone further than a few forwarded emails.

Since then the landscape has changed daily, and we’ve had to constantly tailor what we’re doing in response. In a practical sense, tone of voice has inevitably shifted. The world is more cautious right now, more reserved and more humble – and all that’s reflected in the work we’re doing. But there is also a need to look forward, past this crisis, and see what the future holds.

The very best creative solutions always respond to something specific: perhaps a change in circumstances, a new insight, way of thinking, need or behaviour. Getting to this kind of stimulus relies on free-flowing communication with our clients to keep all ideas and possibilities open. That’s not so easy in a lockdown, but we’re used to briefs changing at the last minute or rethinking concepts at the eleventh hour. We’re out of our comfort zone but, then again, when was anything of real substance created anywhere else?

As the weeks have passed however, we’ve come to use more and more channels and collaboration tools with our clients. It has become smoother, simpler. More thinking and ideas are being exchanged, and more opportunities for better creative solutions are emerging. We’re currently working on a brief that requires us to move beyond traditional reporting timeframes towards more of a constant stream of thought leadership, for example. The focus is on being flexible and communicating timely and valuable content when we have something to say. The output is suddenly much more reflective of the ever-changing world in which we currently live.

In short: none of us has been in a situation like this before, but it’s a situation that taps into the core of what makes us designers and creative thinkers. We’re ideally placed to embrace these kinds of challenges and exercise fresh thinking and approaches. Our job is to listen to and understand the needs of our clients and find creative solutions that deliver on their objectives. That’s what we’ve always done – but today’s unique circumstances mean there’s huge potential for great work of which we can all be proud.

A personal reflection

It’s important to remember that this is a difficult time for everyone. We’re all working differently and with a lot more uncertainty about the future.

The main thing I’ve taken from my time working from home has been how well we are all coping and pulling together. If we have bad days, we know it’s not just us. I think we’ll all be glad of interaction with people outside the home once this is over, but the face-to-face nature of Zoom calls, the seemingly endless quizzes and general chatter has definitely been a major help to all of us. Every email I receive now seems to start or end with some form of “how are you getting on?”, and it shows that we realise how this affects us all.

Across the various communications channels we use here at RY there are messages of optimism and support, and a hope that things we’re learning will continue to be prevalent once we emerge from this. In the meantime, I’m pleased that we’re still doing great work, still providing a great service and generally just helping in whatever way we can.

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