Design Has Power
Who’s ready for a post-election pep talk? This week on Overtime, past Meg offers present-day Meg some words of encouragement and an important reminder that design is still important—no matter what happens this week.
Plus, Airbnb tries to help freelance illustrators, and it ends up backfiring. We’re unpacking why! Then, let’s take a look at how 2020 is making us more pragmatic through sustainable purchases in tech and fashion. Let’s go!
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Links Mentioned In This Episode
Meg: Hey little buddy, welcome back to Overtime, it’s me, your host, Meg “I Recommend Going Outside and Just Screaming at the Sun” Lewis. Hello! As you know, I know it, we all know it, but maybe it’s your first time listening, this is Dribbble’s weekly podcast where I give you design news and some tips to create your very best work. This week on Overtime, Airbnb tries to help illustrators, and illustrators are like, “No thanks, we’re good.” Oh, and how 2020 is making us more pragmatic in making more sustainable purchases in tech and fashion. Ooh, and pre-election Meg gives future, post-election Meg a pep talk. Will it age well? I don’t know. Let’s go!
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I got tipped off to this next news story because everybody was talking about it on Twitter [who] are designers and illustrators. And what this is about here is Airbnb launched a tool called Tyrus, and Tyrus is, this is quote, “A digital toolkit that helps freelance illustrators optimize their business so they have more time to focus on what they love.” I feel like I’m reading an ad, which I enjoy. I love reading ads, you have to hear them all the time. Do you like them? I hope so. Anyway, so Tyrus, this tool from Airbnb, teaches you things as a freelancer, like how to nail the brief, championing your personal style, that kind of thing, managing deadlines, getting feedback from clients. And [for] each of these sorts of lessons or section, they have PDF’s and templates and helpful resources for everything. So, see, it’s helpful, it’s useful, especially if you’re a new freelancer, this is going to be a great tool for you because who doesn’t love to learn and improve their practice?
Okay, but a lot of, and I don’t necessarily label myself as a freelance illustrator – yes, clients do pay me to illustrate sometimes, hmm, maybe I have a freelance illustrator – I think of myself more as a designer than an illustrator, but whatever. So, I felt like this wasn’t necessarily marketed towards me, because I’m definitely not an editorial style illustrator, but whatever. I don’t know if this matters. The critique that I was largely seeing was from creatives of all kinds [who were] just kind of retweeting the Tyrus tool and talking over it about how Airbnb has mistreated them in the past as a creative. A lot of people that got ghosted by Airbnb, apparently that’s happened to a lot of people. I’ve never worked with Airbnb, so I do not have anything to offer here. But a lot of people just saying, “How dare you try to help us when you screwed me over?” And I think with more and more people sharing their stories, it kind of just got a little bit gross looking after a while of like, “Come on Airbnb. What are you doing?”
I saw a lot of critique about how it feels a little icky when a corporation is reaching out to help. “Oh, poor little freelancers, we can help you.” That was a critique that I saw, which, totally, I get that. I totally get that. I think about this a lot because Dropbox Design, much like Airbnb design launching Tyrus, Dropbox Design does this stuff all the time. They have loads of little booklets and downloads and things to help the community, and I don’t feel like I noticed that much critique or negative feedback on the things that Dropbox Design does. And I kind of wanted to unpack a little bit of why that’s happening. I will say, I think Dropbox in general is less controversial than Airbnb; less headlines, less legalities and issues in the news. They’re not as controversial of a company, for sure. And then secondly, Dropbox design has been doing stuff like this for years. They’ve been helping the design industry for a long time. They’ve been very supportive of me and my work. They have hosted a lot of my events. They’ve just been so supportive, and I know they’re very supportive of the design industry as a whole. And they’ve been doing it for a long time through resources, through hiring people, through facilitating free events, they helped to host a free workshop that I taught a couple months ago. They do a lot for the industry constantly, and they have people dedicated on their team to do this full-time.
So, I think that that, in my head, is the difference here between why Airbnb just got totally picked apart for doing this gesture, whereas other brands are doing stuff like this all the time and that doesn’t happen to them. I think people are just asking, “Hey, Airbnb, why are you trying to help us now? Where were you before? What are you doing?” And looking through their about section, it looks like it was an initiative spearheaded by one person on their team, and wow, that is really sweet. And I love that because you know that person is just really passionate about this, and they’re like, “Hey, Airbnb, can we make this happen? You have a wide reach and a wide audience. Let’s help people.” And I think that’s absolutely beautiful. And I’m glad, I really am glad that they’ve made this, because people need the information, and sometimes that information gets to people in less than ideal ways. Okay, sure. But the information is still out there and it’s still helpful to people. And I think that it’s important that people have this information, open source sharing information with each other as people in the industry is really helpful. It’s been the number one thing that’s helped me throughout my career, people just candidly sharing what they do and what’s worked for them with me. And I try to do that for others all the time.
So, any kind of opportunity where that can be facilitated, I think is a good thing. And like everything, this is very nuanced. It’s okay to critique it, to mention some things that are maybe negative about it, because there are positives too. Like, everything in this world we live in is so complicated. There are things that are bad about this, things that are very good about this, and that’s okay. But if you’re really interested as an illustrator, as a designer, as somebody who wants to be freelancing, or just starting freelancing and need a little bit of help, maybe in addition to checking out Tyrus, it’s at tyrus.design, [that’s] the URL, also check out Hoodzpah’s “Freelance, and Business, and Stuff”. It’s a book, I have the physical book myself, it’s also a digital book if you don’t like physical paper, and it’s also an online video class as well. They have lots of ways for you to learn about freelancing, and it definitely goes at least 1,000% into more detail than Tyrus does. So, give Tyrus a little tickle, do a little internet tickle of Tyrus and see if you like it, poke around, and if you do, if you’re really interested in this information about freelancing, go check out Hoodzpah’s “Freelance, and Business, and Stuff,” best title in the world. Let’s move on.
When perusing through news stories to talk with you about this week, I came across two that I wanted to address. And I’m kind of just smushing them into one because I think both of these things are so fascinating, and they kind of have to do with one another. Fast Company has an article titled “Tech’s Age of Excess is Done. Welcome to the New Pragmatism,” which definitely caught my eye and I couldn’t wait to read more. And basically, what Fast Company is outlining here is a major trend in hardware that’s happening this year, and you know, the recent past, and will definitely happen as we go through the next year, is that companies like Apple, Nest, Xbox, Google with their Pixel phone, they’re definitely all doing this thing now where they have at least two versions of each product: one that’s a little bit pared down, that has a significantly lower price that’s much more accessible to a wider audience. And then they’ll have something that’s nicer and more expensive.
So, we saw this with the iPhone SE which is that iPhone that was, like, the throwback design. You know, the one that has a home button and an actual headphone jack? But apparently 22% of iPhones in the first quarter of this year were sold as that phone, which is a lot. That’s surprising to me. And it had a cheaper price as well, I think it’s smaller too from what I recall, I did a minimal amount of research on this one. I was reading the article only, so there we go. But also, if you think about it, Nest, the thermostat, they also have a cheaper version where the materials maybe aren’t as nice, but its design is still beautiful. Xbox is doing that as well. Google Pixel phones do that too, where the design is still beautiful, maybe it just has slightly less features, pared down features, and the materials are different, but they’re still putting an emphasis on design.
And I really appreciate that because I think in the past, what you think a corporation might do is make the cheaper model just ugly, like visually look like they just don’t care about it and they don’t want anybody to buy it, and that’s not happening anymore. And I think about that a lot. I’m not a corporation, of course, but I think everybody always should be thinking about this whenever they have a business or are offering any kind of product or service, to offer your things at different price points so that they can be accessible to different kinds of people with different budgets. So, for me, I do this with teaching online content or online classes. I always make sure that I have different versions of that course and that content available at all different price points. I always have one that’s available for free, so that you can have a little, let’s say tickle again, a little tickle of Meg’s content for free. I make sure that it’s extremely valuable, I don’t want it to be like a clickbait thing, where I’m just like, cut off in the middle of a sentence, and then I say, “Now, pay to hear the end of that sentence.” I don’t do that. I make it stand-alone; I make it very valuable, and it’s free. And then I’ll have one version that’s a little bit more content, a little bit higher quality with the way that I’ve produced the content, I make it a little bit more, and then I have something that’s way more hands on, you get way more of my attention. It’s much more work for me and I make that more expensive. And I think that approach is really smart, because everybody deserves to have access to tech. Everybody deserves to have access to information, regardless of what they can afford. Of course, of course, that’s the world I want to live in. That’s for sure.
So, I think we can learn a lot from this example that tech is leaving us with. I know they’re not perfect and there’s a lot of critique that we can have there. For sure. We do that all the time, don’t we? We do. We really do. But also, Fast Company mentions that this is happening sort of in the fashion industry as well. So, they had a separate piece titled “Four Fashion Insiders Reveal how COVID-19 is Altering the Industry.” And I thought that was really exciting to me, because I’ve been so curious to know, because nobody’s buying footwear anymore, you know, we’re all just wearing soft pants, and soft materials and kind of living this utilitarian lifestyle with the pieces that we wear, because we just want our faces to have a purpose now that comfort is such [a] key. And so, we’re all living this minimalistic lifestyle right now, at least I am, and I know a lot of other people are too.
And so, with that, as we know, with fashion trends, fashion is totally like a pendulum. It just constantly swings back and forth, things come back around. It’s cyclical as well, of course, definitely. But what’s happening right now is that I think as we’re all inside all the time, we’re alone with our thoughts all the time now, I think we’ve learned a lot this year, and people are sharing information in a new way this year as well. And we’re kind of learning about a lot of things together. Of course, we are. And I think that people are really interested in sustainability right now, and I think we’ve educated ourselves a lot over the past year, or couple of years, about sustainability and how incredibly harmful the fashion industry can be and the impact that it has on the world. It can be very bad, especially when we talk about fast fashion.
So, I think two things are happening once; this fact that we’re sitting inside all the time, making very conscious decisions about what we’re wearing for the sake of comfort and utility, and we’re becoming more educated about sustainability with the things that we wear and the things that we consume. So, whenever you combine both of those things together, I’m hoping that we have a larger trend emerging. And that’s what Fast Company is saying, is that we definitely do, we’re leaning much further towards sustainability in our fashion choices, now more than ever. And the question is, will this stay as soon as the world opens back up and we can freely purchase because we’re making more money? Will we go back to buying patent leather pants, for example? Hmm, maybe we will. I think we will eventually. But I’m hoping that this sustainability trend sticks around for a while, and eventually we can have a beautiful middle ground where we have sustainable patent leather pants that if I dig a hole and I throw my patent leather pants into the ground, maybe a tree will grow. Um, that is the beautiful world I’m hoping for, but a very specific example. I should never be allowed to just willy-nilly improvise anything on the show, but unfortunately, everything I say has not been planned. Alright, let’s move on.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this election that just happened. It’s over. Is it over? I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter where you are in the world, because I know a lot of you are listening from other countries outside of the United States, but this presidential election in the US is affecting everyone. We are a powerful country that does have an effect on the health and safety of the world. And so, I’m here recording this episode a few days before the election, I think four days before to be exact, and the election is happening in four days, so I’m going to give some thoughts from past Meg to future Meg – from past me to current you, because you’re current, I’m past. This voice you’re hearing is coming from the past, from prior to the election. No, actually, I would love to know what you know, right now, four days before you. Anyway, so you’ve been at home more often than ever, and you’ve lost a lot this year. You have less distractions in your life, more time with your own thoughts, and your thoughts definitely destroy you sometimes. They dig into your brain and just pick away at you. And sometimes they’re directed at yourself, other times, they’re directed at what you can’t even control. And this election is exactly that: it’s largely out of your control.
So, did we find the results of the election last night? I don’t know. I can’t know. I’m just past Meg. Are you sitting there wondering what’s going to happen? You have a little bit more information today, but the next few months, are they still uncertain? Are you scared? Are you worried for the safety of some of the people that you love? Now, this year has been hard, and you’ve been dealing with so, so much. So, you don’t deserve this, the world doesn’t deserve this, and while we still, no matter the result of the election, have months of uncertainty to bear ahead of us, I know you and I know you will make it out the other side, having grown, having learned so much about yourself and the world around you. By the end of this year and the months that follow, you will be a completely new and evolved, completely different person, than you would have been if all of this hadn’t happened. And sometimes, I know that feels incredibly bleak, but it’s also beautiful. It’s totally that classic scenario of a fork in the road, so if you choose the easy route, if you would have chosen that route, you know, that route felt more comfortable, and you would have likely ended up in a predictable place at the end of the road. But that road was not chosen this time. We didn’t have the option to choose at all. We printed out MapQuest directions – who even still uses those? We got our directions printed out, we’re holding them in front of us while we drive down this dark, winding, terrifying road. It’s like that scene in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure where you’re driving in the pitch dark, you can’t see what’s ahead of you, and you have a criminal in the passenger seat. That’s what’s happening this year. You don’t know what it’s going to look like when the sun rises in the morning. You don’t know what state the world will be in when it does rise. And you don’t know who you’ll be when it rises.
Anyway, compared to all of this, design seems totally unimportant, I know it can. But remember, it’s no more or less important than it ever was. The fact is that, no, we’re not literally saving a life with our hands. We’re not emergency responders, we’re not frontline workers, we make things beautiful and functional and we make people feel things. And that in itself is quite powerful. You chose to do something with your life that can be used for so much good. So, no matter how you’re feeling today, I want you to use what you have to make yourself feel better, to make others feel better, and just use it to make the world a better place. Ahhh, Meg, hi future Meg, this past Meg. How are you? How are you doing? Are you okay? Are you drinking water? Are you taking full breaths? (Takes a full breath) Yes. If you’re feeling great today because maybe this election has gone in your favor, and the world is suddenly looking optimistic, enjoy it, enjoy it. But if things are uncertain, or bad, or dangerous, or scary, remember that everything is temporary. This is temporary. And you have the power to make this world a little less scary. Okay, okay, pep talk over.
Yowwww, that’s it for this episode of Overtime. I’m so glad that I was maybe able to be your companion, to distract you a little bit today if you’re feeling distractible maybe. Again, this is past Meg, I don’t know what’s going on this week. What’s in store for me next week? Hmm, we don’t know, I don’t know, you know, but I don’t. Anyway, wow, if you’d like to take this conversation onto the internet, use #DribbbleOvertime, or tag me, tweet me, call me, text me, message me. Boop me, bop me. Bop me, twist me. Follow me, yeah, my handle is @yourbuddymeg. Okay, bye, hear me next week!