feibisi / 2018年12月18日

From Checking Your Ego to Making Meetings Less Scary for Introverts: 99U’s 10 Best Ideas for Leaders

Being in charge means having a lot on your plate. Leaders juggle everything from managing bottom lines to overseeing top-tier team culture. We’ve heard it said that it’s lonely at the top, so we sourced some words of wisdom from iconic leaders such as Beth Comstock, Scott Belsky, and Tina Roth Eisenberg to help you out. From how to hire more authentic people to how to host more inclusive meetings, their advice will make you feel like you’re not in this on your own.

"Empathy before passion" is sage advice from Scott Belsky's new book, The Messy Middle. Image courtesy of Belsky.

Wise words from Adobe Chief Product Officer, Scott Belsky. Image courtesy of Belsky.

1. Don’t make decisions out of fear.

We all hit low points in the struggle to get our big idea off the ground. At those times, we’re prone to self-doubt and that is when we start to make knee-jerk decisions. In his recent book, The Messy Middle, Scott Belsky encourages us to put people first by “being empathetic with what the customer is suffering from, and [focus] on doing what’s right for the team.”

Ueno founder Haraldur Thorleifsson smiles at the camera. Image courtesy of Ueno

Ueno founder Haraldur Thorleifsson. Image courtesy of Ueno.

2. Amplify the voices on your team.

The design studio Ueno is vocal about social issues, driven by its diverse team of employees. Rather than fear a business fallout, founder Haraldur Thorleifsson has embraced speaking up on important cultural issues. “I have no idea if it is good or bad for our business,” says Thorleifsson. “But I really don’t think about it that way. If this will be our downfall, then that’s the hill that I am willing to die on.”

3. Build momentum.

Your big, world-changing vision deserves more than a few obligatory head nods from your team. It needs genuine buy-in from everyone working together towards a greater objective. Imagine It Forward author Beth Comstock says that a leader’s goal is to create a movement, not to strong-arm people into saying you’re right. “It can become about my idea versus their idea, and that’s often where things fall down in companies because it gets to be a bit of either turf war, function war, or ego war,” Comstock says.

The creatives at Mighty Oak pose for the camera. Image courtesy of Mighty Oak.

The creatives at Mighty Oak. Image courtesy of Mighty Oak.

4. Check your micromanagement meter.

A series of promotions into management can leave us far from the hands-on work we love. Don’t let that turn you into a micromanager. Mighty Oak Creative Director Emily Collins says, “I fight the inclination to micromanage by highlighting my most important duties for the day—and doing them well—before I consider meddling with someone else’s. If my duties include checking in with people I schedule a couple of check-ins, but I don’t do their jobs for them.”

5. Ask for a joke.

Tina Roth Eisenberg, CEO of CreativeMornings, Tattly, and Creative Guild, looks to hire people who bring their authentic selves to work. How does she find these team members? “When you apply for a job with us, we always ask to include a joke,” says Roth Eisenberg. The joke is the most telling part of the job application. Do people skip it? Drop inappropriate one-liners? Or do they land a stellar punchline demonstrating just the right amount of situational awareness, timing, and tact that will probably make them a great colleague?

6. Educate your clients as well as your team.

In the ever-changing world of work, employee education is important. But training doesn’t stop there. You are your client’s first touchpoint to understanding what is a reasonable request and what is just untenable. Keep your clients up to date on the shifts in your world of work or you’ll be managing a growing disconnect between how you work and what your clients think is going on behind-the-scenes. Pull back the curtain and don’t just explain your deliverables, explain the process that’s going into them.

7. Look for unlikely people creating unlikely value in unlikely places.

Corporate hierarchies don’t tend to surface the secret valuable players who punch above their weight with soft power skills. These are the employees who generate momentum and energy far beyond their scope of work. They’re great at getting to the root of an issue, creating informal connections, and encouraging collaboration. What’s not to love? But, according to the book Talent Wins, their power is being overlooked and underutilized in just about every organization. They’re out there. Go find them. 

Lisa Doberman, the leader of the design firm Doberman, leading a brainstorming session. Photograph by Emil Nordin.

Lisa Doberman, the leader of the design firm Doberman. Photograph by Emil Nordin.

8. Manage by trust.

Lisa Doberman, co-founder of design firm Doberman, invites all of her employees to join management committee meetings and make decisions that impact the future of the company. Doberman sees rich results from the participatory-steering mechanism. “What I get in return is people’s engagement,” she says. “I get their passion. I get lots of ideas. I get their sense of responsibility.”

9. Don’t respond to customer needs, anticipate them.

“The days of just showing data are over; it’s too static,” says Mailchimp VP of Design, Gene Lee. The new goal for leaders, according to Lee, is to combine the tools of AI and data to anticipate what a user needs before they know it themselves.

10. Get the buzzer away from the big talkers.

Todd Yellin noticed that his meetings at Netflix were being dominated by a few bombastic folks, waiting with their hand over the proverbial buzzer for others to finish speaking so they could go next. Yellin, VP of Product, set about rebalancing the power of meetings away from ‘me-first’ talkers. The team experimented first with hand raising, and then went deeper, circulating shared documents before a meeting so introverts could add their comments in writing ahead of time

feibisi / 2018年12月15日

What We Talk About When We Talk About Design Ethics

It’s hard to imagine a time when creatives had more tools and resources at their fingertips. Today, a website can be built in days, an audio file edited in minutes, an image socialized in seconds. But just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should. That’s the basis of design ethics, a subject that is becoming even more important at a time when technology continues to rapidly open new avenues for creatives.

99U recently sat down with Courtney George, Adobe’s Experience Design Manager, and Phil Clevenger, Adobe’s Senior Director of Experience Design, to learn more about the process of addressing design ethics and how maintaining design standards makes designers good societal stewards.

When we talk about design ethics, what exactly are we talking about?

CG: It’s really about the means that we use to achieve an end that we deem to be good. It needs to be something that is complementary to our own values, or our company values if we’re working at a company. It’s not like legal, which is a lot more black and white: You do something and it is legal, or you do something and it is illegal. Ethics is inherently more gray and flexible.

When we think about design ethics, especially in tech, it’s about slowing down and being more conscientious and intentional about what we are creating and what we’re putting out into the world. It’s thinking about what the impact might be on the people that we’re serving, people that our customers are serving, their well-being, their relationships, society in general, and the environment. It’s never-ending, and in some ways that can be overwhelming, but it’s also extremely important in this day and age.

Why is this such a big focus for companies right now?

PC: These conversations have been around for a very long time, but what makes them immediately relevant are these three issues: scale, velocity, and access. Right now we have the ability for people to push a button and create whatever they want in an instant at virtually no cost, whatever their intention may be, whether they’re selling tacos or they’re introducing viruses, or they’re engaging in political speech. Our actions are immediately impactful at a huge scale, at zero cost, and they’re potentially very, very hard to roll back.

Where do design ethics come into play? Is there a recent example that comes to mind?

PC: A perfect example is a project that Adobe unveiled at the 2016 Adobe MAX conference. It was a technology that enables users to quickly edit recorded speech using only a text editor and, given a large enough sample of the subject’s speech, create strings of speech that hadn’t previously existed.

Do we even own our own voice?

While the narrative that we presented at MAX was entertaining, it became clear that the technology could be used by bad actors. You could imagine the ramifications of something like that especially in the current political climate. There was a considerable amount of blowback, and rightfully so, from the audience and from the community at large.

So Adobe has taken several steps back to examine it. We’ve been looking very closely at important questions: the cases we want to serve, the guardrails we want to put in, the high bars we want to set. What are rights issues around it? Do we even own our own voice? Do we have a remedy available if someone misuses our voice or our speech to harm people? And what if new solutions introduce new problems?

We’ve seen plenty of instances where even products created with the best intentions get used in ways we never imagined. When that happens, do we, as creators, ever have the ability to ever return it to what we thought it was, or is it a lost cause?

CG: You could have the best intentions and do everything right and there are still going to be unintended consequences. They’re  “unintended” for a reason. What is important is to be able to course correct, take accountability, and be mindful of the impact that it has had on people or on society. I think we do a decent job of that in the tech industry. It’s not like what you put out there is final and you never have to touch it again.

We must be respectful of our users’ time, intentions, privacy, and intelligence.

We’re good at iterating and optimizing, and I think that this is an important step, to constantly examine what’s out in the market, examine what you put out there, and keep your eye out for those consequences, so you can course correct in a timely manner.

Adobe Design is putting a lot of effort into getting the whole organization to abide by certain design ethics. What are some of the main principles?

PC: Well, this is a work in progress, but one solid principle is that we should recognize bias, knowing that bias is inherently neither good nor bad, and that bias is omnipresent. Where there are people, there is bias. The trick is to recognize the bias, understand its impact on your efforts, and to mitigate it as needed.

Another example is that we must be respectful of our users’ time, intentions, privacy, and intelligence. This is obvious enough that it shouldn’t have to be said, but important enough that it should be hanging from each of our desktops all the time. We want to make sure that we’re building tools and setting examples for our customers that ensure that we’re enabling them to be respectful of their end users across all those dimensions. If you’re popping up advertisements that get between your users’ intentions and their results, then you’re not being respectful of their time.

What are the questions that designers should be asking themselves?

PG: We are starting by asking designers to be mindful of what they’re doing, and to take stock of what they’re being asked to do. As seen through the principles we just mentioned, are you being asked to design something that perpetuates a negative bias? Are you being asked to do something that’s not respectful of your users’ time and intentions?

We’re here to try to make the world a better place for the people who consume the products we design.

Remember, we are user experience designers. We’re here to try to make the world a better place for the people who consume the products we design. And where those things aren’t happening or where your company’s values are in conflict with your own personal values  – you have to be mindful of all these dynamics. Take some time to articulate an opinion and make that opinion count. Have uncomfortable conversations, if you have to, with the people that you’re working with and the people that you’re working around. If you have to hand the work off, and if you’re uncomfortable with where it’s going, create an artifact to represent your opinion that can travel with the work. Stand up and have a voice.

It’s often said that good ethics is good business. Do you think companies will make this a bigger focus going forward, whether through setting up ethics departments, ethics programs, or something else?

CG: Yeah, I think we’re already seeing that happen, especially in the tech industry. You’re seeing it with Salesforce, which recently hired an ethics officer. You’re seeing it at many large companies, and Adobe is definitely one of them.

Regardless of what our respective companies are doing about this, we are challenging the design community overall to be thought leaders here: make sure you and your teams are stopping and asking these questions, and sharing the findings clearly at every step. Help your teams, your stakeholders, and your employers all develop best practices and principles in any way you can. It’s a huge challenge, and design can surely lead the way.

Interview edited for clarity and length.

feibisi / 2018年12月15日

Design Debate: Should You Work In-House or Freelance?

In our newest design debate, Gordon Reid, Melissa Deckert, and Mike Kruzeniski weigh in on the pros and cons of designing in-house versus as a freelancer. Ready, set, debate.

“Being my own boss, if I want to do something, I can make it happen.”

Gordon Reid, Art Director and Founder, Middle Boop

I love being my own boss at the studio I run, Middle Boop. I still have bosses, but they are clients. What I don’t have is that extra level of massive red tape that you get if you’re working in an agency or in-house.

As my own boss, whether an idea manifests into something or stays in the back of my head is all up to me. Coming from a long advertising background, one of my main frustrations was that I wasn’t being allowed enough creative input into ideas. At Middle Boop, it is just me and the clients. We’ll come up with a strategy ourselves, and we’ll collaborate. I always feel like I’ve made a difference to a client’s business at the end of a project. When you’re not your own boss, there are many layers of people to try to convince before anything takes off. Great ideas get lost. Probably 70 to 80 percent of the work I’ve done at agencies never saw the light of day.

At the end of the day, freelancing is worth the hassle, struggles, and worries because I get to properly put my own stamp on my work.

While working in an agency context, I would often look at the work and think, No one is going to know that I had any involvement. Except for maybe me pointing to a bus poster while I’m with a friend saying, “Oh, I did some of that.” At the end of the day, freelancing is worth the hassle, struggles, and worries because I get to properly put my own stamp on my work.

This summer, I took two months off to do a self-initiated projected called Weird World Cup. My intern Callum and I commissioned 20 illustrators and designers to create beer mats based around the artists’ favorite weird or humorous moment from a World Cup—then all the money went to charity and we got global press. You can’t do this kind of thing when you’re in a full-time job.

I occasionally take time to freelance as a consultant in agencies or in-house. Right now, I’m in-house at a large tech company, and it’s definitely a breath of fresh air. There are many perks—free food, free gym. The other day, my partner asked me, if the company offered me a full-time job, whether I would take it. I said no. The lifestyle of running your own business is just too good. I couldn’t work for someone else’s vision for a long time. I would get bored and feel like my time was being wasted.

“In-house experience was essential for starting my own studio.”

Melissa Deckert, Designer and Co-Founder, Party of One

I started working at Etsy almost right out of college. During my time there, the company grew considerably. As the brand grew so did our team—my experience scaled from small internal projects to large international campaigns. I became comfortable pitching and presenting work in front of a lot of people. I was able to travel extensively, not necessarily something I would have been able to do at that age. Working in-house was an important part of my growth as a designer and a huge learning experience. Ironically, it fueled my confidence in starting my own studio.

After some time at Etsy, it seemed the only way to grow at the company was by taking on a role in management, which I wasn’t interested in. I wanted to expand my practical skills, as well as experiment with my own style, which was at odds with in-house work.

When you’re working independently, your livelihood is deeply tied to what you produce, which places a heavier association between your work and your self worth.

Eventually, I decided to go freelance, which opened up a whole new world of adjustments. When you’re working independently, your livelihood is deeply tied to what you produce, which places a heavier association between your work and your self worth. There is also the constant fear of never getting another job. At the start of my freelance career, I worked from home which lent me certain freedoms, but ultimately felt isolating and devoid of community. I quickly realized that I thrived from having other people to bounce ideas off and craved creative kinship.

I began collaborating with my friend Nicole Licht, who had hired me at Etsy. She started freelancing around the same time as me, and, while I was leaning towards traditional design with an interest in things like lettering, Nicole was leaning towards illustration and paper craft.

After two years of regular collaborations we decided to form Party of One. By combining our skills, we now have the opportunity to do many kinds of work with a wider variety of clients. Together, we also keep one another from spiraling into thoughts of “I’m never going to get work again” and “I don’t know how much to price for this.” It was valuable to work in a big team in-house—to garner skills and learn what we liked—but, on our own, it is hugely satisfying to have our name behind what we create.

“To do really big, ambitious work takes time and direct connection with a company.”

Mike Kruzeniski, Design & Research lead, Twitter

The entirety of my career has been in-house, except for a short time freelancing. From that brief experience, I found I got to work on a lot of projects, but it never felt like I could get into them in a deep way. I was attracted to the idea of getting very close to products and the companies that make them.

For a handful of years, I was a Principal Design Lead at Microsoft. Since 2012, I’ve been at Twitter, growing with the company over the last six and a half years. To do big, ambitious work takes time. By being in-house, you can get all the foundational information of what a company is trying to achieve and build on that in a multi-year way. You’re directly connected to the people that are building the products with you. If there is something I need to achieve, I can talk directly to our data scientists or to the marketing or engineering teams. I can work with them on projects over long periods of time. This is more difficult to do as a consultant.

You learn leadership and communication skills, organizational management—skills that you might not learn if you’re only working with other designers.

In-house, you learn skills from other people in other departments, too. A lot of time over your career, the things that you learn aren’t always just specific to your discipline. You learn leadership and communication skills, organizational management—skills that you might not learn if you’re only working with other designers. You can learn a broader set of skills by working with a more diverse group of people and disciplines.

One of the myths around in-house work is that there is no variety. In reality though, variety appears in different ways. Quite literally while at Microsoft, I would go from product to product. At Twitter, we also have a range of different products that people work on. We’ll have designers that will spend time on one of those, and then jump to another. Within the product itself, we put so much intense focus into all the different features that people will can move from designing video experiences, to conversations, to profiles, and those will feel like very different projects. Then of course we have products like Periscope and our advertiser products. So there are a lot of different areas to put your energy into.

As well as the product variety, there is also a variety in terms of roles. People will try on different types of roles during an in-house career. We’ve had designers pick up project management skills and then even gravitate over to the product management team. Similarly, we’ve had engineers that join the design team. There is not just a skills exchange, but also a sense of career fluidity. At Twitter, a designer might also help the company design a long-term strategy in a way that’s not typically considered design work—there’s no mock-ups for example. There is a role shift that can happen here, which is very interesting for a long-term career.

feibisi / 2018年12月13日

How Do You Know When It’s Done?

To an outsider, they appeared done. The goal was to produce monotypes of people wading in water, and here they were: black, white, and lonely, as intended.

But to Clara Lieu, the artist who made them, they were incomplete. “This is a strange thing to say, but I felt like I didn’t think about them enough,” she says. “I want my pieces to go through a cycle of thought and consideration, and with this, it was almost like the work got made faster than I was ready for it to get made.” Her feelings speak to an age-old dilemma artists and creatives face: the ability to determine when a piece of work is truly done.

Sometimes, the decision is driven by external factors: a deadline, the evaporation of funds, the death of the artist. Artist Alice Neel decided her 1965 portrait of a soldier headed to Vietnam was finished when the subject didn’t come back for a second sitting.

It comes down to a feeling: Either it’s done or it’s not.

But in the absence of external circumstance, the decision to put down the brush (or pen or chisel) has everything to do with the mind-set of the artist. When Rembrandt was asked why so many of his works look unfinished, he famously replied, “A work of art is complete when in it the artist has realized his intention.”

It comes down to a feeling: Either it’s done or it’s not. Lieu, who teaches as an adjunct professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, says it’s a sense that develops as you mature as an artist. She often advises her students to overwork at least one piece, just so they can better develop their personal litmus test. “I tell them, ‘You have to do one drawing that you just murder – that you just destroy and totally overwork.’ Once you’ve gone too far, it becomes easier to say to yourself, ‘Okay, that was overboard.’”

Sometimes, the decision that a piece is finished comes from a fear of ruining it.

For many creatives, knowing when a piece is done is almost never dictated by a feeling of overwhelming joy or gratification. New York City–based animator Yuri Fain says it feels more like the completion of a household chore. “I never step back and go, ‘Yuri, oh my gosh; that’s amazing!’ Until it’s done, I’m annoyed. And when it’s done, I’m, like, slightly less annoyed,” he says with a laugh.

Sometimes, the decision that a piece is finished comes from a fear of ruining it. Other times, the decision to end a work comes from just being sick of it. Artists and creatives often speak about how they start off being excited about a project and then lose interest or start to hate the idea along the way. “I’ve done so many things where I’m into the idea and it’s going to be so cool. Then the minutes and hours go by, and I feel more frustrated with it than when I started,” says Fain.

While emotion is a huge part of the process, there are also practical steps an artist can take in determining whether or not a piece is finished. Artist Nicholas Wilton, who runs creativity workshops and online courses through his company Art2Life, will sometimes snap a picture of a painting and save it on his computer to see what it looks like in thumbnail form. Doing this helps him get a bird’s-eye view of the piece, which helps him decide whether it’s complete. “There’s the close-up view and the 30,000-foot view. To make something really strong, I believe both of those views have to be satisfying and really powerful,” he says.

Mike Perry has one of the most fluid views of his work, sometimes adding new details or entirely painting over pieces he first painted years ago.

Other strategies are more obvious. Many artists find value in committing to a deadline, the way they would for any paid work. Many also find value in putting the work away for a period of time. Whether it’s two days, two weeks, or two months, an artist is bound to come back to it with fresh eyes. There’s no right or wrong answer; visual artist and designer Mike Perry has one of the most fluid views of his work, sometimes adding new details or entirely painting over pieces he first painted years ago.

External feedback may also be valuable. After Lieu created her unsatisfying monotypes of people wading in water, her husband happened to see the plexiglass plates she had used to print them and mentioned he liked them more than he liked the art itself. “As an artist, you don’t want to hear that the plates look better than the finished product,” she laughs. “But then I thought about it and realized he was onto something.” The plates, which had been sanded down and thus had a frosted, translucent quality, inspired Lieu to sand sheets of plastic and draw on them. Those became her finished product.

As an artist, the risk you take by giving others too much power over your work is that you end up with something that doesn’t feel like it’s your own.

Of course, outside feedback has its limits. As an artist, the risk you take by giving others too much power over your work is that you end up with something that doesn’t feel like it’s your own. Wilton says it’s ultimately about fulfilling your own vision. “I’m a human being and I like people to favor my work, but it is not at all the driving force. The driving force is what is a ‘yes’ for you.”

There’s beauty in the mystery of that choice. Two years ago, the Met Breuer museum in New York City hosted an exhibition called “Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible.” It contained nearly 200 artworks spanning 600 years, all of which were left incomplete for a variety of reasons. One of the gems was Jan van Eyck’s “Saint Barbara,” a 1437 metalpoint drawing that appears to have been intended as an altarpiece painting. The sketch is intricate, but the painting itself is half complete. In its review of the exhibition, The New York Times highlighted the piece, asking, “Is that what it was meant to be, an ultravirtuosic preparatory drawing waiting for paint to be added? Or was it conceived to be from the start what it is now — self-sufficient, done?”

Van Eyck signed and dated the piece. And maybe that’s enough.

feibisi / 2018年12月12日

Build Solidarity, Tackle Exclusion, and Redefine Success: 10 Ways to Use Design for Good

We looked around saw how design had a tremendous positive impact on society this year. From crafting new products aimed at accessibility to bolstering democracy, here are 10 inspiring ways creatives applied their craft to making the world a better place.

1. Don’t expect a user to be satisfied with the status quo.

ELIA is a free font that low vision and blind users can learn in—purportedly—an afternoon. It’s just one of a constellation of products, like text-to-speech technology, aimed to bring more assistive technology than the single option of Braille to the U.S.’s eight million blind people. “We are focused on helping people achieve greater independence and literacy,” says founder Andrew Chepaitis. “It’s been really challenging. But I’ve had faith that this initiative is the most worthwhile I could spend each day.”

Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of Joyful. Image courtesy of Fetell Lee.

Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of Joyful. Image courtesy of Fetell Lee.

2. Fill overlooked spaces with joy.

IDEO’s Ingrid Fetell Lee believes the aesthetics of our surroundings—like bright, happy colors—are a powerful tool to enliven a community. She’s developed a syllabus of joyful design that she hopes will be a resource that brings aesthetic delight to overlooked spaces like nursing homes, public housing, and schools in underserved neighborhoods. “I’d like to see the places that house the people who are most vulnerable designed with as much aesthetic sensitivity as the places that house the people who have tons of resources,” says Lee.

3. Volunteer to redesign your government.

The Center for Civic Design brings the elegant solutions of design to the complex needs of voting. Simple gestures like directions that say ‘turn ballot over’ or text that works for assistive apps can have a profound impact on our democracy. “The potential role of design in government is to change how government works,” says Civic Design’s co-founder Dana Chisnell. She suggests designers bring their much needed skills to the table. Get started by volunteering as a poll worker in your next local election to see the kinds of challenges and questions voters have.

Carmen Herrera photographed in her New York studio. Image courtesy of Herrera.

Carmen Herrera in her New York studio. Image courtesy of Herrera.

4. Prioritize long-term fulfillment.

The world whispers ‘money’. Your clients demand your creativity and hard work. But you, and only you, are the one who makes room for fulfillment. That means developing muscles around taking a step back and applying a healthy dash of perspective. According to lifelong designers who have been around the block a few times, one secret to a fulfilling career is seeing the big picture—thinking in systems, not pixels; in decades, not deliverables. Or, as abstract artist Carmen Herrera, who got her first Whitney Museum retrospective at age 101, says: “Patience, darling, patience.”

Image of the iconic Rainbow Flag. Photo by Ink Drop.

The iconic Rainbow Flag. Photo by Ink Drop.

5. Make a banner for people to gather around.

The history of identity-driven banners got a colorful new chapter when Gilbert Baker developed his iconic Rainbow Flag, which celebrates LGTBQ culture. Baker “created a symbol of hope and inclusion for an oppressed minority at a time when their efforts at liberation were new,” recalls Baker’s estate overseer, Charley Beal. Create community and impact with symbols that help people trumpet their identity and their solidarity.

6. If you’re in the room where it happens, influence what happens for good.

Naresh Ramchandani and the Pentagram team at Do the Green Thing believe creatives can have a powerful positive influence on their corporate clients. Use the access of being in the room to expand a corporation’s idea of what success means. “Too often, commercial creativity is self-serving for a corporation and their P&L,” says Ramchandani. “Put something good into the world.”

Designer Marie van Driessche presenting on World Interaction Design Day in New York City. Photo by Joe Anastasio.

Designer Marie van Driessche presenting on World Interaction Design Day in New York City. Photo by Joe Anastasio.

7. Provide choice.

Not everyone thinks or functions like the person designing a product. People take in information in all sorts of different ways—whether due to preference or ability. One choice can’t suit everyone’s needs. To design for all, inclusive designer Marie van Driessche advises colleagues to make sure their products include multiple options for how to engage.

8. To tackle exclusion, find a place outside your comfort zone.

Automattic Head of Inclusion, John Maeda, went all the way to Appalachia to break out of the comfortable grooves of his usual mindset. The goal? Find how people were being excluded from Automattic’s product, and then design for them. “How do we find exclusion?” Maeda asks. “It’s by being in environments unlike the ones we’re used to.”  

9. Create space for joy at home in order to bring joy to work.

Your company’s culture, not just its work, should reflect its mission. Jason Mayden, founder of healthy play startup Super Heroic, makes sure that the spirit of prioritizing imaginative play for children extends beyond the office doors. “We have an open, healthy dialogue that’s focused on promoting work/life balance,” says Mayden. “We have to play with and enjoy our families in order to embed joy in the work that we do. It’s imperative that we live what we speak.”

Indhira Rojas is the founder of Anxy, a magazine about creatives' inner worlds. Image courtesy of Rojas.

Indhira Rojas is the founder of Anxy, a magazine about creatives’ inner worlds. Image courtesy of Rojas.

10. Remember, you’re human.

There are times where you’ve hit the sweet spot. The world is onboard with your passion. The planet is throwing opportunity your way. Care for yourself as thoughtfully during the boom seasons as the low times. Don’t let opportunity get the better of your health. “When you want to create impact, it feels like the sacrifice and the hard hours are all worthwhile,” says Anxy founder Indhira Rojas. “And then you faint in the subway and you remember that you’re human.”

feibisi / 2018年12月8日

What Digital Creative Agencies Can Expect in 2019

Digital creative agencies are traditionally known for being disruptors. But they’re the ones now being disrupted.

Today, agencies are striving to succeed in a highly-complex, tech-driven ecosystem comprised of consultancies, product design studios, venture labs, and in-house teams, according to the findings of the latest annual SoDA Digital Outlook Report released by the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA). In this increasingly challenging environment, the report suggests that companies and business leaders embrace collaboration, agility, transparency, speed, and a deep commitment to customer experience.

All of that is easier said than done, of course. “Clients are expecting end-to-end solutions, the agencies are fighting the consultancies, and everybody seems to be racing towards the middle,” says Wesley ter Haar, SoDA board member and founder and COO at global creative agency MediaMonks (left in the above photo). “That’s a difficult spot for a lot of people.”

In the interview below, ter Haar shares his views on the state of the industry and where it’s headed.

The SoDA Digital Outlook Report for 2018/2019 is out. Do you feel like it is an accurate reflection of the state of the industry?

Yes, it feels like everybody is racing to the same spot, so it’s getting as compressed and condensed as I think it’s ever been. I think we are seeing that reflected in some of the SoDA numbers, but also in the general turmoil in the network part of our industry. There are a lot of new lines of competition, because of everything that has been blurring over the last few years.

What is happening in the industry that is making 61 percent of agency leaders re-evaluate their business model? Is this healthy?

It is healthy in the sense that your hand is being forced because so much has changed in terms of how clients expect their businesses to be serviced. While it’s not helping people sleep well at night, I do think it is healthy. It’s no longer just about the work we do, but also how our clients expect us to execute that work.

The report says 30 percent of digital agencies are working with voice, AI, and physical experiences. Is this a stretch for shops who built their reputations on websites and apps?

There is definitely growth there. You just need to be hyper-aware this is that decision-making point where you have to decide if you are going to go after something. If so, is that actually going to be a long-term, scalable, commercial opportunity?

Right now innovation is a shiny thing. It’s more about the perception of innovation and getting PR around something rather than it being genuinely innovative.

The Googles, Facebooks, and Amazons of the world are going to solve a lot of the heavy lifting, and we will be working with APIs like we have always done. Anything impacting at scale will not need custom solutions in time.

Why do 70 percent of client-side marketers list “brand differentiation through innovation” as the single most important strategic factor driving success for their business?

Right now innovation is a shiny thing. It’s more about the perception of innovation and getting PR around something rather than it being genuinely innovative. For example, I don’t think it necessarily means that you did a cool AR project, or that you have a chatbot. Real innovation is more about working out the opportunity that these new platforms have and then matching it against our products, services, and business.

“How big can you get before you become bad at what you do?”

Real innovation lies in learning how to start matching your products and services to evolve with user behavior. You have to be aware that, although innovation work doesn’t always return an instant ROI, the most important thing is what you learn from it.

Marketing automation was listed as the top emerging technology for 2019. How are creative-led agencies involved in this?

I think it’s an opportunity more than a risk. Marketing automation used to be stuck with the IT integration side of the business. There was a lot of heavy lifting and, in some cases, it was seen as too far a reach for creative shops. Today, with some of the APIs, a creatively-oriented company can add in what they are great at, which is understanding user behavior and adding a level of empathy to what is possible from an engineering perspective. They can leverage the platforms for more of a user story that actually resonates at a much higher level than the integration partners were able to do.

The sweet spot is the mix between the practicality of being a smaller, digital-first indie shop and knowing how best to use the data.

Marketing automation should be an underlying data set with an ability to target that makes the user experience better. So much marketing automation goes with the lowest common denominator and doesn’t add any actual value. It’s either creepy or underwhelming.

As an industry that differentiates on creativity, why is there this shift towards “strategy, data, and technology” which has traditionally been the backbone of consultants who have entered our market?

There will always be shops that focus on that and there is an interesting conversation around whether you need to be literate when it comes to strategy and data, or a specialist. I do think a lot of the SoDA agencies needed to extend into some of these things so they could have a recognizable conversation with clients. It’s not just the things we do, but also about making those things something people will buy, which means it needs to meet these industry expectations. The sweet spot is the mix between the practicality of being a smaller, digital-first indie shop and knowing how best to use the data.

Your company, MediaMonks, has announced it is combining production with content, data, and media. What is behind this big shift, and are you worried that this is going to change the culture of the company?  

As an industry, there has been so much focus on making everything quicker and cheaper. We are aware of that and trying to get past those issues. More and more it is about the effectiveness of the work and showing that we impacted the bottom line. To do that well, we think there needs to be an extension into media and data because it closes the loop. We can create the work, we can place it, we can measure it. It gives us more ownership. When we get learnings about the impact of a piece of work, we can bring that back into our next projects.

The second part is that our business is talent-driven, and it is always going to be about people doing good work. There is the recurring question we ask ourselves: “How big can you get before you become bad at what you do?” I think adding that element of measurement is going to be interesting for our current and future talent.

feibisi / 2018年12月7日

Mas Subramanian Set out to Make a Semiconductor and Ended Up with a New Blue Pigment

Materials science professor Mas Subramanian wants to set the record straight. First off, the Oregon State researcher did invent a new blue pigment, a feat that no person, laboratory, or corporation has been able to accomplish in about 200 years. It’s a big deal, and not just because of the “Oh cool, a new pigment” factor.

Secondly, and in a passionate plea for sanity, he did not invent a new blue color. Ignore the incorrect label on his TEDx Talk – a title he surely didn’t give it. Colors, or shades, are inherent to the light spectrum, which isn’t something one can create. But he’ll explain that more later.

And thirdly, even if he did, which he didn’t, that’s not what’s so cool about his new YInMn Blue. This pigment – remember, not color – is vastly different than other pigments on the market and has the potential to shake up the multibillion-dollar world of pigments. Yes, that’s billion, with a b. This is a huge industry because we interact with pigments every day. They are on our walls, in our clothes, on our cereal boxes, in makeups and sodas, and, well, everything. And the pigment industry continues to find new uses for its products every year.

Blue does not exist in nature – no, really.

“The global pigments market is expected to reach revenues of $34.2 billion by 2020, due largely to extraordinary growth in the Asia-Pacific region, according to a 2016 Ceresana report titled Market Study: Pigments, 3rd Edition.

To dive into the how, why, and what is going on, Subramanian wants everyone to take a step back first. Before we get carried away with a shiny new pigment that’s easy to visualize and understand, it’s important to be grounded in the science.

Blue, as he was told during his 21-year-plus career at DuPont, is one of the hardest pigments to create. In fact, blue does not exist in nature – no, really. There’s no debate about it. Well, then, what about, say, Frank Sinatra’s blue eyes? Not blue.

To claim you made a new color is like the scientific equivalent of Columbusing – “discovering” something that’s been around forever.

In the case of eye color, blue is actually the lack of a pigment. What we see is one of nature’s many tricks. The color is entirely structural. Sinatra types actually lack the eye pigment melanin, such that when a “blue”-eyed person moves their eye, the color we see changes slightly. And blueberries: Just rename them berries, ’cause that blue part is a sham.

But we do see blue. You’re not crazy. When we see blue it’s because of the inherent properties of light. When light travels, it moves in waves. The size of the wavelength determines what, if anything, we see. The difference between a blue, a green, or an undetectable infrared is just the frequency at which the light wave moves. So when Subramanian says you can’t create a new color, he’s technically correct, because the wavelength is out there already. To claim you made a new color is like the scientific equivalent of Columbusing – “discovering” something that’s been around forever. And he doesn’t want to be the pigment world’s Christopher Columbus.

The visible spectrum, from color purple to red.

Image by Julie Campbell.

So then, what’s a pigment? A pigment is what gives something else its color. It is what makes that white bucket of paint at Home Depot or Lowe’s turn into a color like RAL 2053 or whatever else, after the paint-mixing machines squirt a few inks – pigments – into it and give it a good shake.

The professor’s discovery is a new squirt. And that gives manufacturers a range of new possibilities – and possibilities mean money. “The biggest inorganic blue is ultramarine blue,” says Mark Ryan, marketing manager for Shepherd Color Company, the sole distributor of the new pigment. “Ultramarine is similar in shade to YInMn blue, but not nearly as durable, because it has acid stability issues. YInMn’s stability opens it up to a marketplace where the rival blues can’t quite compete.”

YInMn, or Mas blue, gets its name from the three core elements in addition to oxygen: yttrium, indium, and manganese. It’s only the third inorganic blue pigment ever discovered, following Prussian blue and cobalt blue – the newest having been created in 1802. (Ultramarine doesn’t quite qualify as a discovery, as it’s a synthetic version of something that’s been used for 6,000 years.) But this creation is more than just a new, more vibrant blue. The blue is made through a process that hasn’t previously been used to make pigment. The result of this process gives YInMn blue special properties that could make it a game-changer for how cars, homes, and even roofs are made.

Mas blue was discovered in 2009, more than 100 years after cobalt blue.

Image by Julie Campbell.

For one, it’s very stable. That’s a common hallmark difference between organic and inorganic pigments. It’s not a universal truth, but typically inorganic pigments have greater stability. “When you think of organic, it means it’s carbon-based, not that it’s from Whole Foods,” Ryan says. The most common blue is phthalocyanine blue BN, and it is organic. It has a lot of tint strength. It weathers okay; it’s inexpensive. But if you’re looking for something that will last decades, especially lighter blue shades, it’s not the right choice. Rather, phthalocyanine blue is used in quickly disposed things, like plastics.

But when you have an application where you need the color to last, a different blue is necessary. Something like car colors, or roofs, which are sometimes blue in industrial settings. These are times when YInMn could really make a difference, Ryan explains.

Another big difference is its special material properties. Anyone who has sat in a black car on a summer day knows the basic principle of how color works, whether they realize it or not. The darker the color we see looks, like black, the more light it absorbs and the hotter it feels when we touch it. But not this blue, or the colors made with Subramanian’s new process. In fact, this blue pigment reflects light very similarly to the way white does. So how we think about keeping our spaces cool may be entirely rethought.

As remarkable and potentially profitable as this discovery is, the truth is it was a sort of mistake.

Pigments and colors are one of a number of very basic material properties that we all sort of understand, but the general public doesn’t truly know what’s going on, says Patrick Woodward, a solid state chemist at Ohio State University. “Color is somewhat unusual in that everyone inherently understands what color is, and to a first approximation you don’t need any instrumentation to determine the color of a substance. You can’t say the same thing about piezoelectricity or superconductivity or even magnetism. The other thing people don’t understand is that not all colors are equally easy to produce,” he adds.

And it doesn’t take a degree from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Economics to guess that rarity can translate into profitability quite quickly. If pigments are hard to produce, an inorganic blue may be only second in covetability to an inorganic red. As remarkable and potentially profitable as this discovery is, the truth is it was a sort of mistake. Subramanian isn’t, or wasn’t, a color researcher. He was in the semiconductor game.

Mas Subramanian holding a piece of YInMn blue in the lab.

Subramanian holding a piece of YInMn blue in the lab. Image courtesy of Oregon State University.

“We were looking for a semiconductor and got blue,” the Oregon State researcher says. “Now we are looking for a pigment, and I’ll probably find a semiconductor! You can never plan for what happens. There’s so much unknown in science. We think we can do everything by prediction or computer simulation. Once you create something you can explain it, but doing it the other way is harder. You need to have a more broad-minded approach, [or] you may miss something more interesting.”

Science, especially materials science, is filled with accidental discoveries that have changed the world. It’s a badge of honor to be able to accidentally discover something great and recognize it’s more than just a mistake. When Mas’s team heated yttrium, indium, and manganese oxides to about 2,200 degrees Celsius, the result was a blue powder. Shocked at the outcome, Subramanian told his team to run it again. And for a second time, a vibrant blue was created. So like any good researcher would, he ran test after test after test.

YInMn blue didn’t fade. It didn’t absorb light like a blue typically does. The process is able to be tweaked to yield other colors. The only current downside is the cost. But that may be a limitation of the times we live in, rather than an inherent problem. At $720 a kilogram, it’s not going to have wide market penetration.

Getting the EPA registrations can take anywhere from 90 days to never.

The big problem? Yttrium. This element just isn’t used much beyond some computing applications. And it’s also not easy to get, because it’s only found with other elements in compound form, never freely existing. But at least it’s not rare. It’s the 28th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust – 400 times more common than silver, a fairly everyday item.

But with a ramped-up effort to mine, extract, and process yttrium, the price could drop. Take, for example, silicon. At the dawn of the computer era, the cost of silicon wafers was sky-high. There just weren’t many companies extracting, purifying and making silicon wafers. But now, there are plenty of companies making it and silicon is used everywhere, and as such the price has dropped dramatically, making it possible to have a computer in every home and a phone in everyone’s pocket.

“In the beginning it’s always kind of challenging,” Subramanian says. It’s difficult to get industry to ramp up, because the few players in it are incentivized to keep the competition low and the margins high. But the demand is growing, and there is a tipping point. Eventually, the industry will be forced to increase its yttrium production.

On his first try, he made blue. So now the hunt turns to the big fish: red.

Already, Subramanian has signed a deal with Shepherd Color Company to make his blue commercially available. “The economics are definitely challenging,” Ryan says. “Also, getting the EPA registrations can take anywhere from 90 days to never; it’s a process. Right now we have a conditional approval for industrial use.” He added that Shepherd is well poised to make the pigment, because specialty pigments is the niche they are in. They, unlike Subramanian, can make it in high quantity and have a network of buyers in their orbit who can get YInMn into the market. 

And while Shepherd works on getting it used for things like roofs and large-scale industrial applications, Subramanian is back in the lab. Not making more blues, but taking his yttrium-based technique and expanding it to other colors. On his first try, he made blue. So now the hunt turns to the big fish: red.

If, or when, he does succeed, another billion-dollar market will open up and he’ll have the likes of Ferrari lining up to have a bright pigment that doesn’t absorb energy like colors typically do, doesn’t use hazardous elements (as reds often do), and doesn’t fade.

feibisi / 2018年12月6日

Weighing the Risk: What’s in a Name?

Welcome to our new column that explores the one element that almost every career decision is affected by—Risk with a capital “R.” Since every choice we make carries a risk, Good F***ing Design Advice co-founder Brian Buirge is going to examine both sides of the equation behind the decisions that creative entrepreneurs have to make. And joining him in this column is GFDA co-founder Jason Bacher who will be designing the visuals that accompany each piece. (Fittingly, the duo lead a workshop in The Art of Risk-Taking.)

In this second installment, Brian reflects on that time he and Jason decided to put the F-word in their company name and how, as years passed, what impact that has on GFDA’s client business. 

***

For the first few years of running Good F***ing Design Advice, I cringed whenever someone asked me what I did for a living. Telling someone you’re an entrepreneur can be a bit like saying you’re a future American Idol.

Good manners and social normalcy then, of course, bring about the inevitable follow-up question, “Oh, well, what’s the name of your company?”

My answer was always a sheepish, “It’s uh…good f***ing design advice.” Which, in sticking with the analogy, was the equivalent of adding, “but, you know, I’m just scrubbing toilets until they call me back.”

I was naive in many ways as a young business owner, but, despite a few detractors, I was never ignorant of the stigma attached to the company name. While it clearly served its purpose of waking people up and getting them to pay attention to the messaging of our products, both my co-founder, Jason, and I constantly grappled with how to handle the name on the much more politically sensitive, client-facing side of our business.

More often than not, we found ourselves accepting suspicious, demanding clients, low budgets, and lengthy payment terms.

Additionally, since we’d grown considerably in a short time, some parts sprouted into maturity while others lagged behind, causing our voice to crack and our feet to trip over themselves at the most inconvenient moments. The awkwardness of our growing pains occasionally left us with limited prospects in our client relationships. Although we had achieved international recognition in one arena, we were complete amateurs in others. More often than not, we found ourselves accepting suspicious, demanding clients, low budgets, and lengthy payment terms (One client took upwards of three years to pay the balance of an invoice, but what professional creative doesn’t have that all too familiar story?).

Since the majority of our early design consultation work was primarily acquired through referrals, our stopgap solution was to present ourselves simply as Brian and Jason — two guys who were getting their careers started. Thereby omitting any mention of GFDA for fear of losing the client. It was an exhausting recurrent problem.

For both legal and practical purposes, we discussed creating a separate entity for our client work, and even stumbled through some terrible conceptual ideas for how that entity could be branded. However, as the saying goes, the cobbler’s son goes barefoot. Ultimately we never actually addressed the issue directly. Fortunately, as time moved forward, it became clear that splitting ourselves was not necessary, and perhaps even ill-advisable.

Does GFDA miss out on a clients because of the name? Absolutely…but, then again, who gets every client they go after?

Against all probability, it was possible for a business with the F-word in the name to develop into a state of maturity. The brand strategy grew with the business, and we did a better job of understanding and embracing who we were. That resolve began attracting clients who appreciated the skill and guts that came with our approach, and who genuinely wanted deeper insights into their cultural identities and practical applications of risk-taking in their work.

Nothing is more attractive than having the confidence to be yourself. That’s a risk worth taking.

Does GFDA miss out on a clients because of the name? Absolutely…but, then again, who gets every client they go after? No matter what our name is, we have to be a good fit for our clients or the work suffers and everyone is miserable. It saves a lot of time and money to figure that out as soon as possible. Besides, nothing is more attractive than having the confidence to be yourself. That’s a risk worth taking.

More importantly, our workshops have helped so many other people discover their own cultures, and live up to their own visions, that I now look forward to saying that I run Good F***ing Design Advice. It’s either going to start an interesting conversation, or preemptively end a boring one.

feibisi / 2018年12月5日

From Creative Bridges to Copyright Cash Cows: 99U’s 10 Best Entrepreneurial Ideas

A good entrepreneur mixes creativity, strategy, and smarts. From uncovering under-the-radar gems to the hard science of Gee whiz, how the heck do I price this?, we gathered some of the brightest ideas from 99U stories this year to help us put our entrepreneur thinking caps on.

Design Army co-founder Pum Lefebure in Design Army's new creative co-working space. Image courtesy of Design Army.

Design Army co-founder Pum Lefebure in Design Army’s new creative co-working space. Image courtesy of Design Army.

1. Create an experience.

Design isn’t just cosmetic fixes; it’s savvy business strategy that gets to the structural heart of a problem. When a real estate client asked Design Army to create a one-page magazine ad for its new condos, co-founder Pum Lefebure had a better idea: make your own magazine. The slick glossy profiles creatives and business in the developer’s neighborhood, with ads for the condos in the back pages. It’s a recurring win for both creative and client.

Metajive's Dave and April Benton deep in paperwork. Photographed by Franz Steiner.

Metajive’s Dave and April Benton deep in paperwork. Photographed by Franz Steiner.

2. Set a standard pricing formula.

Ask 10 people for their pricing strategies, and you’ll receive 10 different answers. Which is best for you? The one that works for you. So ignore what other businesses are charging or how much you think your client can afford to pay. Instead, focus on the value of you and your work. “We ask ourselves how much time will it take to do a good job, then multiply that by our hourly rate (cost + desired margin) and add in a 5 to 10 percent buffer for unexpected events,” says Metajive CEO and founder Dave Benton. “We use this principle no matter if the client is a 20-person company or a 2,000-person company.”

Lumi focuses on making the best looking packaging around, such as these bright orange shipping bags for Cotton Bureau.

Lumi focuses on making the best looking packaging around, such as these products for Cotton Bureau. Image courtesy of Lumi.

3. Search for opportunities where others aren’t looking.

“Usually, people starting businesses, and entrepreneurs in general, are very interested in looking cool and being cool people,” says Jesse Genet, co-founder of shipping supplies company Lumi. Instead of going for the glitter, ask yourself: What does everyone overlook? Packing tape, anyone?

4. Engage in creative hallucinations.

A designer is never executing the status quo. Good designers are always moving forward. Many people have great jobs, but they don’t change the way people do things; they don’t envision a different world. “Zero designers are just operating in the existing world,” says Jon Hirschtick, founder of computer-aided design software giant SolidWorks. “You have to see something that doesn’t exist. You have to engage in creative hallucination.” Visions and hallucinations look the same until you try to build them.

Blue Bottle Coffee founder James Freeman makes coffee in the early days of his company. Image courtesy of James Freeman.

James Freeman makes coffee back in the early days of Blue Bottle Coffee. Image courtesy of James Freeman.

5. Embrace your constraints.

Art is about constraints, right? When Blue Bottle Coffee founder James Freeman started out he had a cart and a 250-foot kiosk. Those constraints meant he couldn’t have a lot of extra stuff, so he had to be very pared down. And Blue Bottle’s hallmark design became recognizable for what is not there. “I don’t like things arranged on shelves, for example. Shelves are for books or dishes. They are a tool, not a decoration,” says Freeman. “After working on 40 cafes now, we mostly think about what shouldn’t be there.”

The World Character Summit in Hanyu, Japan. Photos by Chris Carlier, for his blog Mondo Mascots.

The World Character Summit in Hanyu, Japan. Photos by Chris Carlier, for his blog Mondo Mascots.

6. Make it cute.

This tenet sure doesn’t apply to all projects. But it’s hard to argue with the booming Japanese mascot market. “Simple, colorful, symmetrical designs tend to work best,” says artist Chris Carlier on what we can all learn from mascot design. “And don’t shy away from silly, absurd ideas—those grab the most attention.”

7. Don’t get sidetracked by other people’s best practices.

Having a lay of the land is important. But too often, overemphasizing industry averages, generalities, and best practices reveals a lack of trust in your own instincts. Remember, you’re the expert in the nuances of the problem you’re trying to solve. “Tasty little morsels of detail swim right in front of us every day,” says Jay Acunzo, author of Break the Wheel. “If only we’d use that information to inform our decisions.”

Radim Malinic's Book of Ideas is filled with his insights on the design life. Image courtesy of Radim Malinic.

Radim Malinic’s first Book of Ideas was so successful, he decided to publish a second volume. Image courtesy of Radim Malinic.

8. Treat your side hustle like your day job.

If Radim Malinic had treated his side hustle, the recently-published Book of Ideas, Volume 2, like a passion project, he’d still be writing today. Instead, he approached the project like a daily commitment. “There’s always an hour at the beginning or end of the day where you can do something for yourself,” he says.

A kitchen scene from Meow Wolf's immersive art installation that bridges the real and imaginary world. Photo courtesy of Meow Wolf.

Meow Wolf is an immersive art installation that bridges the real and imaginary world. Photo courtesy of Meow Wolf.

9. Build a bridge between creativity and capital.

Vince Kadlubek is a role model for turning a scrappy arts experience into a successful business with his art experience Meow Wolf. Now, he’s out to bridge the Grand Canyon-sized gap between creatives and business. The first step? “End this narrative that there’s such a thing as selling out. That’s what keeps creatives broke and powerless,” he says.

Delphine Diallo photographed holding boxing gloves outside in her Brooklyn neighborhood. Photo by Frances Tulk-Hart.

Delphine Diallo photographed in her Brooklyn neighborhood. Photo by Frances Tulk-Hart.

10. Copyright is your cash cow.

Photographer Delphine Diallo has plenty of prestige publications like The New Yorker and Esquire knocking on her door. But those shoots don’t pay all the bills. The real financial foundation of her business? The royalties that come in for usage of photos—on T-shirts, coffee mugs, and more—from big campaigns or celebrity projects. “I own the copyrights for my images for multiple years, and it can be renewed,” says Diallo. “These provide for me well beyond any editorial job.”

feibisi / 2018年12月1日

Working Remotely from Antarctica to Albania

It takes a while to get the end of the world. Helen Glazer would know.

Three years ago, Glazer left her cozy, three-bedroom home in the suburbs of Baltimore for the frigid climes of McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The trip took nearly two days and involved stops in Dallas, Sydney, and Christchurch, New Zealand.

When she finally flew into Antarctica on a military transport plane, dressed head-to-toe in special cold-weather gear, she was exhausted but thrilled. “I was just like, ‘I can’t believe I finally got here!’ I just put so much into this,” she says.

Helen Glazer stands in the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica in 2015.

Helen Glazer stands in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica in 2015. Image courtesy of Glazer.

Glazer was part of the National Science Foundation’s Artists & Writers Program, which sends a handful of artists, illustrators, filmmakers, writers, and musicians to Antarctica each year for exploration and creative work. She lived out of a research base for nearly two months, photographing ice and rock formations while learning things she’d never before thought about, such as how to tell when ice is too thin to walk on and how to set up a tent in freezing weather conditions. It was an experience that shaped her profoundly. “I had no idea what I was getting into, really, but it was even better and richer than I had expected,” she says.

While in Antarctica, Helen Glazer photographed the dream-like lake ice at Cape Royds.

While in Antarctica, Helen Glazer photographed the lake ice at Cape Royds.

Glazer’s feelings echo those of so many creatives who have experienced life off the beaten path: It can be a hassle, but the rewards often outweigh the inconveniences.

For wildlife artist Deborah Ross, who has spent years bouncing between New York City and Africa, the allure of living and working in remote locales is strong. Much of her work has been based in Madagascar, where she’s worked on a variety of projects, including illustrations of lemurs and workshops for students. She estimates she’s been there at least six times over the past few years, and will spend another four months there in January. The only part she dislikes is the travel itself – it takes about 20 hours in the air, and another eight to 10 hours driving before she gets where she needs to go. “Dramamine is a wonderful drug,” she jokes.

From a creative perspective, Ross feels the wildlife is unbeatable. She describes it as a sort of “candy land” full of friendly animals and incredible insects. The moths are her favorite – there are bright purple ones, huge golden ones, and tiny spotted ones that she says look like Kandinsky paintings. But what she also loves about spending time in Madagascar is that it allows her to use all of her skills. “When I first went there, I was amazed that it was somewhere that used everything I had. I had to use my wits, my talent, my humor, my people skills. I found the country just delighted me,” she says.

The African countryside, with its open roads and lush vegetation, photographed by Deborah Ross.

The African countryside photographed by Deborah Ross.

That’s not to say her experiences have always been easy. Ross remembers being asked to do an illustration for a river cruise. She didn’t realize it was mandatory to paddle, or that she would have to dig a hole anytime she needed to go to the bathroom. It was all so labor intensive, and she was so consumed by the whole process that she didn’t even have time to paint, which was the whole reason she was there. “It was ridiculous,” she says.

One of the major things that have changed over the years is her ability to work efficiently. Most of that is a result of technology. When Ross first began going to Madagascar in the late ’90s, it was a hassle just to make a phone call or send an email. She recalls the process of working with the German Primate Society on an article – she would use someone’s computer to write out a message, and then the person would have to drive into town to find a dial-up connection so the message could be sent.

Nowadays, she doesn’t have to worry about any of that. Her post at Stony Brook University’s Centre ValBio, in the northeastern rain forests of Madagascar, has hot showers, fresh sheets, and – most important – high-speed Wi-Fi. “I just hook up my computer and scanner and I can do tons of work,” she says.

I would talk to my husband once a week on the phone, which was nice.

For Glazer, living and working in Antarctica also proved to be a relatively smooth adjustment. She describes life at the research station to be somewhat like college – she had a roommate and ate in the shared cafeteria. While the internet service was somewhat limited, she was able to start a blog to keep in touch with people. And she was actually able to make local calls to the U.S., as the line was routed through Denver. “I would talk to my husband once a week on the phone, which was nice,” she says.

Helen Glazer's photo "Skua" captures a frozen Lake Hoare in Antarctica.

“Skua,” Lake Hoare, Antarctica circa 2015. Photographed by Helen Glazer.

The creative benefits of working in Antarctica exceeded Glazer’s expectations. It wasn’t just a flat, white landscape, as she initially imagined it would be. In having the freedom to learn the land and live in a vastly unexplored territory, Glazer found all sorts of geological structures and patterns that blew her mind. She remembers, for instance, walking around a permanently frozen lake where the ice was evaporating and refreezing into an array of intricately etched designs.

“I still don’t know if anyone else has photographed those things, but I was fascinated by all of it,” she says. Upon her return, Glazer recapped her experience through more than 30 framed photographs and several sculptures in a solo exhibition called “Walking in Antarctica” at Goucher CollegeWhile she was ultimately happy to return to her family and friends in Maryland, and the creature comforts that came with it, the experience of living and working there continues to stay with her three years on. In fact, she’d like to go back. “I have my feelers out to see if there’s a way to do it,” she says.

To my parents, what I’m doing sounds completely weird. For me, it works perfectly.

While Madagascar and Antarctica are extreme places to live and work, there are creatives all over the world able to pursue their craft in regions outside of well-trodden locales. The explosion of technology has been instrumental in making the world much smaller than it once was, and it has fostered a culture of remote workers that continues to grow. Right now, more than two-thirds of people around the world work away from the office at least once a week, according to a recent survey by Switzerland-based serviced office provider IWG.

The trend has also been a boon for freelance workers. By 2027, the majority of the U.S. workforce is expected to be freelance, according to a 2017 report by freelance marketplace Upwork. The beauty of it is that much of that growth is by choice – 63 percent of those surveyed by Upwork said they started freelancing by choice, not necessity, up from 53 percent since 2014.

For people like visual designer Vasjen Katro, the ability to work remotely has opened up many opportunities. Katro, 29, lives and works in his native Albania but does 98 percent of his business all over the world. With clients such as Adobe, Apple, Facebook, and Converse, he’s often juggling multiple gigs spread over multiple time zones. That sometimes means conference call at 3 a.m. “To my parents, what I’m doing sounds completely weird,” he says. “For me, it works perfectly and it’s why I love the internet.”

Vasjen Katro photographed in his studio, which is located in Albania.

Vasjen Katro photographed in his studio (right), which is located in Albania (left). Image courtesy of Vasjen Katro.

Katro, who lives in the capital city of Tirana with his girlfriend and their dog, finds working with international clients not only creatively inspiring but also financially rewarding. He generally earns higher rates than he would if he were to work only with local clients. And he’s able to save more than he would in many other places: In a recent cost-of-living ranking of 100 cities in Europe, Tirana came in at No. 86, while more established design hubs such as Geneva, London, Oslo, and Berlin were in the top 10 of cities with the highest cost of living.

Aside from the late-night conference calls, much of Katro’s day-to-day life is the way it would be in any other city. He starts his day with a coffee and a 10-minute trip to his studio, where he works on client assignments and “Baugasm,” a personal passion project that involves creating a poster a day and showcasing each one on Instagram. He also makes it his business to travel often for conferences and his own pleasure – recent trips include the U.S., Canada, Austria, and Italy.

“[Travel] is what keeps me alive,” he says. “Albania is a small country. I wouldn’t stay here more than two months without going somewhere.”

While he has no immediate plans to leave permanently, he says he’d like to live somewhere else for a while – not only for a change of pace, but for a bit of added convenience. “I would love to just order something from Amazon and get it the next day,” he says with a laugh.