The shape of success

Earlier in the week I stumbled across an old personal note which triggered an everyday epiphany. The note was written in a very pragmatic Q and A format around 2018, after some years of disappointing freelance work. One question in particular caught my eye, it read What does success [in my work] look like to me?. I’d outlined five simple fundamentals:

  • autonomy over my work
  • feeling intellectually challenged
  • cooperative working relationships
  • being able to pass on knowledge through mentoring
  • being relatively financially comfortable

Returning to these fundamentals, so explicitly articulated, it dawned on me that I can count myself successful.

I never imagined that I would work anywhere other than small, boutique design studios, but sometimes, often, our abstract projection of success is incongruent with our granular definition of it.


Pandemic policy update: 15 December

National pandemic policy, in place from 15 December:
Status: Strict Lockdown

• work from home, unless that is not possible
• masks to be worn in indoor spaces
• public transport should be used for essential travel only *
• no more than 1 group of up to 2 visitors to your home in one day *
• no more than 2 people can form a group outside the home *
• no alcohol sold after 8pm
• food and drinks establishments are closed, takeaways excepted
• all retail stores, museums, zoos, cinemas, amusement parks and other public spaces are closed *
• do not travel abroad and do not book trips abroad until mid-March *

*revised from the previous policy update


Let the image do the talking

Last week I was at I Heart Studios in Amsterdam to photograph a project that has been in the works since April: a series of design prototypes for the Food industry using sustainable packaging.

From the outset I was really impressed with I Heart’s professionalism. In particular, their proposal outlined responsibilities (ours and theirs) throughout the process (clarity on a platter! 🙌🏻 ). We met in person to discuss the detailed brief I’d developed, which was followed by a half-day test shoot to determine final shot list, camera positions, lighting and background colour. Curiously, their standard practice is to insert a background colour in post, rather than shoot with a paper background, as it provides control of colour reproduction and better consistency between shots. Meanwhile, my colleague MP and I shared responsibility for sourcing all of the necessary props – from vessels to fresh food to blank label sheets and rolls to representative source material.

Over the last few years, a number of ‘envelope’ collections have been made by Avery Dennison for the Wine and Spirits segment. The materials featured are typically premium with strong aesthetic qualities. Hence, the photography focused on design, texture and print finishing.

In approaching this shoot, I wanted the images to play a pivotal role in telling the story of the sustainable materials featured – in relation to their material composition and performance capability. For example, rMC, made from FSC-certified paper and 30% post consumer waste, was propped with shredded newspaper and office copy paper. While rCrush resists rupture or significant change in appearance when wet, so was sprayed to show water droplets on its surface.

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Pandemic policy update: 17 November

National pandemic policy, in place from 17 November:
Status: Loosened Partial Lockdown

• work from home, unless that is not possible
• masks to be worn in indoor spaces
• travel as little as possible *
• maximum of 3 visitors to your home in one day *
• no more than 4 people can form a group outside the home *
• retail stores closed by 8pm
• no alcohol sold after 8pm
• all food and drinks establishments are closed, takeaways excepted
• museums, zoos, amusement parks by staggered appointment *

*revised from the previous policy update


Suffering like Sadie

In her essay ‘Suffering Like Mel Gibson’, Zadie Smith more eloquently argues what I was hacking at in ‘What we’ve lost’. In short, she suggests that the acknowledgement of suffering can be seen as an act of self-care. She writes, ‘suffering has an absolute relation to the suffering individual’ and therefore no-one has the right to judge the severity of another’s discomfort. Extracts pieced together here as a summary.

The misery is very precisely designed, and different for each person, and if you didn’t know better you’d say the gods of comedy and tragedy had a hand in it. The single human, in the city apartment thinks: I have never known such loneliness. The married human, in the country place, with partner and children, dreams of isolation within isolation … The widower enters a second widowhood. The pensioner an early twilight. Everybody learns the irrelevance of these matters next to ‘real suffering’…

Early on in the crisis, I read a news story concerning a young woman of only seventeen, who had killed herself three weeks into lockdown, because she couldn’t ‘go out and see her friends’. She was not a nurse, with inadequate PPE and a long commute, arriving at a ward of terrified people, bracing herself for a long day of death. But her suffering, like all suffering, was an absolute in her own mind, and applied itself to her body and mind as if uniquely shaped for her, and she could not overcome it and so she died…

…when the bad day in your week finally arrives – and it comes to all – by which I mean that particular moment when your sufferings, as puny as they may be in the wider scheme of things, direct themselves absolutely and only to you, as if precisely designed to destroy you and only you, at that point it might be worth allowing yourself the admission of the reality of suffering.

Zadie Smith in Intimations, pg 29


All eyes on the presidency

Over the last four days I’ve been unusually attached to my phone, regularly refreshing The New York Times to note leads, margins and the percentage of reported votes.

First stats showed strong support for Trump – at face value looking as though the polls had got it all wrong. Again. Cue flashbacks to the 2015 EU referendum and the 2016 US and 2019 UK elections. But pandemic disruption in 2020 has impacted voting methods too, with an unprecedented proportion of ballots being lodged by mail. Those inclined to vote by mail for reasons of social distancing tend to be science-led and Democratic-leaning, located in more densely populated counties which take longer to tally. Hence, the widespread approach of counting in-person votes first and mail-in votes second created a false sense of ‘count manipulation’, or as Trump would call it ‘voter fraud’, as Arizona and Nevada, and more critically Pennsylvania and Georgia slowly turned blue.

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Pandemic policy update: 4 November

National pandemic policy, in place from 4 November:

Status: Tightened Partial Lockdown

• work from home if possible
• masks to be worn in indoor spaces
limit travel travel as little as possible. Travel by bicycle or on foot for short journeys if possible.
maximum of 3 visitors to your home in one day have as few visitors to your home as possible, maximum of 2 per day maintaining 1.5m of distance from each other *
no more than 4 people can form a group outside the home no more than 2 people or 1 household can go somewhere or do something together, not counting children under 13 *
• retail stores closed by 8pm
• no alcohol sold after 8pm
• all food and drinks establishments are closed, takeaways excepted
museums, zoos, amusement parks by staggered appointment all public locations must remain closed. This includes: restaurants, cafés, bars, cannabis cafés, libraries, cinemas, concert halls, all kinds of music venues, theatres and similar cultural venues, museums, presentation venues, heritage sites, zoos, amusements parks, casinos, amusement arcades, swimming pools, tour boats and sex establishments *

*revised from the previous policy update