School’s out, restaurants are shuttered, the MTA is running on a weekend schedule. As the coronavirus sweeps across the globe, the majority of people are taking a pause. But for some of us, the daily grind is still happening… just from the living room. Those of you who are new to remote working might be experiencing some of the benefits for the first time: the flexibility, the time saved on commuting, the non-existent dress code. But making sure that working from home is time well spent takes some diligence. Now that 32 states have issued stay-at-home mandates, it’s important for creatives to stay engaged and inspired in isolation. Here is a guide to a productive quarantine for designers and creatives.
Pick up some new skills
Take the advice of an astronaut who spent a year in space: You’re going to want to find something to do that isn’t work or a household chore. If there’s some skill that you’ve always wanted to pick up but you haven’t had the time… well, now you do. Here are a few ideas:
- Adobe is free for the next two months! Here are step-by-step instructions for how to get access to it. (And be sure to visit the virtual 2020 Adobe Summit. Tickets usually run around $1,500 per person, but this year, all the keynotes and breakouts are online for free.)
- Now that you have the Creative Suite, learn how to use it. Lynda is offering a free month of tutorials.
- If you become an AIGA member, you can get two months free in a subscription to Skillshare.
- Learn how to make variable fonts.
- Take a drawing class from Carson Ellis on Instagram.
- Learn how to make your own mask.
- Learn to dance like the modern powerhouse Yvonne Rainer.
You’ve certainly got the time now. One of these weekend nights, throw on some comfy clothes, pour yourself a glass of wine, and set out to update your online repositories. That means your portfolio, website, LinkedIn (yes, you should be using it), Behance profile—wherever your work lives online, put your most creative foot forward.
Start a movie night
There’s no better way to glean creative inspiration than by watching masters at work. Spend a little time watching design documentaries like these:
- Abstract: The Art of Design – If you’ve been telling yourself that you’ll finally get around to seeing this Netflix Original, now’s the time to make good on your promise. It’s a must.
- Helvetica – For the remainder of the COVID-19 crisis, Gary Hustwit—the director who’s also behind Rams—is making all of his design documentaries available online.
- Design Canada – Directed by the Vancouver-based designer Greg Durrell (with a star-studded roster of producers, including Jessica Edwards and Gary Hustwit), this film takes a dive into the nation’s identity through the lens of graphic design.
- Konstantin Grcic: Design is Work – Director Gereon Wetzel followed the acclaimed designer and his team for over a year, studying their creative process and capturing footage of beautiful furniture in progress.
- Architecture of Infinity – Get a tour of the transcendent work of Peter Zumthor, James Turrell, and Cristina Iglesias Ames, among others. This one’s directed by Christoph Schaub.
Get inspired while you work
There’s nothing like hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth. If you want to get a better grasp on how designers do their work, and how design thinking permeates everything from business to politics to our social interactions, check out these series:
- Live! is a new talk series broadcast on Instagram—where designers talk “to fight quarantine, boredom and instil hope.”
- Check out the past lectures on type design from the Letterform Archive in San Francisco.
- Face to Face, a new podcast from Dezeen, hosted by founder and EIC Marcus Fairs, features some of the biggest names in architecture and design, including Es Devlin and Hella Jongerius.
- The Design of Business, the Business of Design, hosted by Jessica Helfand and Ellen McGirt, looks at how design shapes industries and organizations, interviewing thought leaders across artistic disciplines. Start with the episode with the architecture and design curator of MoMA Paola Antonelli. Her charming Italian accent is a plus.
- Roman Mars’ 99% Invisible, a podcast which tells little known stories about design and architecture, will have you on the edge of your seat. Try this episode on the typeface Fraktur or this older story about designing signage for biohazard materials.
Curl up with a book
When you’re staring at a Zoom screen all day, you’ll welcome the still beauty of the printed page. Whether you’re in the mood to dig into design history or pick up an art book, consider supporting the bookmakers and sellers by buying directly from them. Here are a few ideas about what your next reading material should be:
- Explore the offerings of the magazine world by subscribing to Stack.
- Check out all the great design essays on Graphic Designs Readings.
- See what’s recently arrived at Printed Matter—like the 2020 edition of Osamo Sato’s Art of Computer Designing and The High Line : A Field Guide and Handbook by Ethan Hauser, Mark Dion, Jorge Colombo, and Naomi Reis.
- Pick up the Workplace Skills Book Set from Counter-Print, for a balance of business and design thinking.
- Pre-order a few of Phaidon’s spring titles, including Soviet Space Graphics and Bruce Mau: 24 Principles for Designing Massive Change in Your Life and Work.
- Check out the small publishing venture Unit Editions, and pick up their monographs of Herb Lubalin and Paula Scher, or Letraset: The DIY Typography Revolution, a history of the dry-transfer lettering system.
Volunteer your design savvy
If you have the resources, consider dedicating your skills to help the efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Companies are finding innovative, experimental ways of responding to COVID-19—like with these 3D-printed ventilator valves, reusable masks, and elegant infographics and quirky illustrations. If you’re looking for a way to get involved, get in touch with Design to Combat COVID-19.
Access important resources
Just because you’re in self-isolation doesn’t mean you should feel siloed. There are a ton of resources out there for those of you who are looking to stay engaged in the design community while you’re working from home. Here are a few forums of conversation:
- Check out this aggregated list of resources and opportunities for freelance artists in the time of COVID-19—and consider attending some of their free talks and panels.
- The Type Directors Club has also put together a list of everything a designer might need to weather the coronavirus pandemic—from financial advice to webinars and tutorials.
- Here’s a crowdsourced Coronavirus handbook for tips on remote working.
- If you’re on the lookout for work, try this unusually-formated, but expertly-curated list of job postings—and this list of job openings put together in response to COVID.
- If you’re a design educator, join Zach Lieberman’s “gone virtual” Slack for tips and resources while you make the shift to remote learning.
Set goals, and stick to them
Whatever you do to keep your creative juices flowing, just remember to set some goals. The best way to stay inspired is to have something to work towards—and to chip away bit by bit. If you’re looking for more tips on how to make goals and schedule your time, check out our series on remote working—where we dive into how to make good work habits and the tools you need for optimal productivity.