Blobs, Bottles, & Boundaries
This week on Overtime, blobs are everywhere in design! Meg and guest co-host Ryan Appleton of Co-Loop dissect this playful design trend and discuss why blobs took over in 2020. Plus, what’s the low-down on Pepsi’s latest redesign? Find out why PepsiCo decided to makeover their two-liter bottle for the first time in nearly 30 years. Then, stick around for an important chat about setting healthy boundaries with clients, and advocating for yourself when you’re not feeling 100%.
This episode was sponsored by:
- ASUS — Bring your creations to life with the power of the ASUS Creator Series.
- Remove.bg — The industry-leading solution for automated image background removal. Visit Remove.bg and use the code Dribbble40 at checkout. Offer valid until November 30 2020.
Links mentioned in this episode:
Meg: Well, hi there, little buddy, it’s me, your host Meg “Bananas” Lewis, and hi, welcome back to Overtime! This is Dribbble’s weekly podcast where I deliver design news and give you some tips to create your very best work. This week on Overtime, blobs are everywhere. They’re on my designs, they’re definitely in my home, I even have some blobs on my body. I’m talking about my boobs. Can I talk about my boobs on this podcast? I don’t know, but I’m doing it. We’ll be chatting about the blob trend and how blobs might be helping our world just a little bit right now. Oh, plus PepsiCo redesigns the two-liter bottle, a product I’m a big fan of. And I learned a lot about average hand sizes. Plus, how to set healthy boundaries with clients and advocate for yourself when you’re not feeling 100%. Let’s go!
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Well now, this episode is a fun and special episode because I have a co-host again. It’s been ages and it feels really good to have someone recording the whole episode with me. How comforting! For once, I have someone who will respond when I have questions. My co-host today is my agent and co-founder of Co-Loop, an artist-forward agency built on the foundation of collaboration, community, and Ryan’s favorite phrase, diverse creative content. It’s my buddy Ryan Appleton. Hey Ryan, welcome.
Ryan: Hey, Meg. Thanks for having me.
Meg: Yeah, it feels so great to have a co-host again. It’s been too long.
Ryan: I’m really glad to be here.
Meg: Alright, let’s dive into some news topics. I’m excited this week, because I feel like our topics are great. They’re really fun. The first one is particularly fun for me because it’s a piece from Vice recently that was titled, “We Need Blobs Now More Than Ever,” and I love it mostly because it’s actually not talking about graphic design or the types of design that most of us do [who] listen to this podcast, it’s talking more about interior design, which I’m super pumped about, because I’ve been so frustrated over the last few years with how brown everything’s been. And now, things are less brown and less minimalistic, I’d say. I think the article kind of discusses how the kinfolk aesthetic really ruled design trends for so long. Everything became rustic, everything became brown, everything was very minimalist and serious. And now, because people are stuck at home all the time, the article is kind of explaining how people are just looking to add more fun and play and excitement into their homes, which I love.
Ryan: Yeah, I was going to lead with saying, this must be a dream come true for you.
Meg: It is. It’s been interesting because, I mean, I don’t know what anybody thinks about my work when they think of it, but I would hope that one of the things that people know about me is how much I love blobs. So, it’s very exciting. And I mean whether or not this is a trend, I’m just happy that other people are into it because I’m so into it, and it’s really fun whenever something I like, people also can enjoy it. So I’m just mostly selfishly glad that [the] mass market is coming around to blobs, because that means that more stuff for me to purchase for my home will now become available and I don’t have to search for, you know, years to try to find one blob object deep within walmart.com somewhere.
Ryan: Right, and I mean, it’s really like, now you have products available that align with your taste and your own design sensibilities, whereas before, there [were] kind of these expected trends or styles that were being dictated by kinfolk or design elites so everything in your house has to be midcentury modern. There’s nothing wrong with midcentury modern, but if that’s not your taste, and you’re kind of forcing a square peg into a round hole, there’s nothing nice about that.
Meg: No, not at all, and I think too, even with the blob trend, I don’t think the blob trend is such a trend that if you go to like, I don’t know, West Elm or Target’s home section that you’re only going to see blobs. It’s not that invasive of a trend. But I do think that it’s a good sign because it means that we’re moving into a territory where people are open to being fun and more playful again with the way that they decorate their spaces. And I also think that that’s very much translated to, you know, digital design and art as well. I think digital design and art was there a lot longer before interior design, because I mean, you know, I’ve been designing fun, playful, personable stuff my whole career. And it was so frustrating trying to decorate and trying to find stuff for my home that matched my personal style, because no one was selling anything that was fun or playful. I remember, I used to have to go to children’s stores to find furniture. The chairs were so small.
Ryan: And it’s something you’ve talked a lot about in Full Time You and your Finding Your Personal Style courses over the last year plus two, is this idea of being comfortable embracing your own tastes and your own styles in your life and your design work and your spaces and things like that. So, this new kind of wave of embracing friendly, personable design is your taste, but you’ve fully embraced that for a long time.
Meg: And I do wonder, especially with the blob trend, I think about it a lot because as it’s become such a trend in the digital design industry, I think a lot about, because a lot of people that happen upon my work are like, “Oh, she’s just adhering to trends,” and it’s interesting because I think back to the first time I ever put blobs on a client brand, which was, I mean, not that long ago, I think it was maybe 2014 or 15, and at the time, it was very unusual and very fresh or different for a consumer facing brand. And I remember when we launched that brand, people were like, “Wow, it’s so fun.” And we used blobs for a very specific reason, it was this event that we were designing that was supposed to be about play and ambiguity and exploration and not conforming to labels. And it was this wonderful event. And we put the blobs on the brand, and then people were excited about it.
But then, immediately, other events and other brands started putting blobs on things. And I truly don’t think this has anything to do with me. I don’t think I invented putting blobs on things. But I think maybe we came to a collective decision, me and the world at the same time, so other brands started putting blobs on things. And I remember my client at the time was like, trying to shut them all down because it looked like they were all copying us, but I don’t think they were. And then at a certain point, this brand I was working for stopped trying to shut all of the blobs down because they became uncontrollable. And now they’re everywhere.
Ryan: I did want to mention that this article about blobs and the intentions behind them did make me realize that we took some of the same design sensibilities when you helped design the brand for Co-Loop.
Meg: Yes, that’s true. That is true. There’s, I mean, I don’t know how to do anything else. But there’s, some blobbage, there’s some ambiguous shapes happening. There’s some organic form going on.
Ryan: I mean, I gave you the brief of we wanted our core logo to be friendly and personable and approachable. And then you designed what we’ve coined “the squishy.”
Meg: Yes, there’s nothing like the warm embrace of a shiny, squishy shape that looks like it just wants to envelop you and its comforting blobness.
Okay, so for the next story, I want to talk about this because I know you have strong opinions. This is all about PepsiCo releasing a brand-new design for their two-liter bottle, which sounds like not exciting news, but I think for you and me, it is.
Ryan: I’m eager to hear why it’s exciting for you, and then I can dive into my distaste.
Meg: Okay, I can’t wait. So, it’s exciting for me because I’m just a huge fan of the two-liter bottle. The two-liter bottle, just, I associate it with good times.
Ryan: I think the two-liter bottle is perfect as is. I think it’s already achieved its most ideal form, and it feels like something that is very much of my childhood and youth.
Meg: Oh, I see what’s happening here.
Ryan: That very cylindrical full body…
Meg: Well, let’s explain what it looks like now. So, if everyone can imagine what a two-liter used to look like, it was kind of, mostly until the neck of the bottle was basically about the same width and circumference. And now, their goal, apparently, was to create an easier grip and balance in your hand, which I find to be fascinating, because I just now know all of these big-handed people are holding it from the bottom in their palm and pouring it that way? My hand is so small. That would never, I’ve never once been able to hold a two-liter with one hand. Can you?
Ryan: Um, maybe, but I also have small hands, so that’s neither here nor there. But yeah, it’s a strange choice, I think, to redesign the bottle purely for its holdability, its ergonomics. How much time do you have the two-liter bottle in your hand for that to be a design necessity?
Meg: The top-heaviness now seems like it would be even harder if you had a massive hand told from the bottom, but they say it helps with grip balance. I don’t know. They also do, in the article, mention the average hand size, which I found really fascinating and I went and measured my own hand. So, they say that the average hand size is between seven to 8.6 inches. And I measured mine and my hand is six inches. So, I’m below average for sure, so I’m definitely not their target audience, I don’t think, because I have atypical hand size.
Ryan: Okay, so they were designing for the masses.
Meg: Yes, yes they were, as most do with hands. I mean, I can’t even use most computer mice because they don’t fit my hand.
Ryan: Interesting. I like how our conversation’s devolved from Pepsi to hand size.
Meg: Yeah, let’s talk about Pepsi now because you hate Pepsi.
Ryan: I do.
Meg: Let’s hear more.
Ryan: I am a lifelong diehard Coca-Cola fan. So, I think you can only have one or the other, right? It’s like Star Wars and Star Trek. I have enjoyed the carbonated beverage of Coca-Cola since as long as I can remember, and so I have a strong hate, I’ll use the word, for Pepsi.
Meg: It’s fascinating to me, because my whole life I’ve never, you’re going to hate me, I’ve never been able to tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi.
Meg: I just, I never cared enough to learn. I love them both. I’m sorry, Ryan.
Ryan: Right, I do not like that at all. There’s a stark difference between the two.
Meg: Well, but that’s the problem though. I mean, whenever you get used to only doing one thing, then once you try to do the other thing – I remember when I first started stopped drinking soda and I tried to drink a La Croix, it tasted absolutely awful to me, and then I started drinking water more often. And then once I got used to drinking water more often, I started drinking La Croix and was like, “Oh, this is fancy water. This is nice.”
Ryan: This carbonation is really hitting my palate.
Meg: Yeah. Do you have any other thoughts to add to this redesign?
Ryan: I think it was pointless. I think they should have left it as is, but I’m glad, you know, Coca-Cola is keeping true to their history.
Meg: Wow, okay. Well, I’m excited to try this new two-liter bottle, and I’m excited to see how the grip is and how the balance in my hand feels.
Ryan: Right, and a quick note from the article when I was reading it before we did this podcast, is they do say in there that this was not an environmental decision. Like, it uses just as much plastic as it did before.
Meg: Huh. Well, you can’t give them that then.
Ryan: Yeah, it leads me back to my statement of just, why? Why did you do it?
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Meg: Alright, let’s talk about creating healthy client boundaries. So, you do this professionally, for a living, you are an expert in creating boundaries with clients. I am 100% not, as I’m sure you know, because you have to do it for me. But I will say that I know a lot of creatives, a lot of people out there are struggling right now, very specifically right now, because this year has been really hard. And the more and more people I talk to that are also creatives, they’re just like, “Meg, I can’t. I am just done. I’m so burnt out, I feel terrible. I can’t keep doing this.” And there are so many factors, and a huge factor of that is, I think, because we can’t really leave our homes anymore, people are taking less time off, they are working more hours than usual because they’re working from home and their computer’s just there all the time. And there are, of course, a lot of other reasons why people might be struggling and not performing at 100%.
But what I want to talk to you about, since you know so much about this, is maybe how to, if other people are struggling with this, how to advocate for ourselves a little bit better when it comes to talking to our clients. And this advice might also work if you’re talking to your boss, but how do we create some boundaries if we’re in the middle of a project, or sort of going into a project, to let our client know that we might not be at our peak performance?
Ryan: Yeah, I think my immediate answer to that is just recognizing that we’re all human beings, like we’re all breathing the same air, feeling the same feelings, doom-scrolling as a distraction. And that’s never been [truer] than it is in 2020. And so, I think when you’re approaching any client relationship, it’s important to keep that in the back of your mind and be conscious of that from the very beginning. Because I think the entire stage is set in that first, you know, email reply, that first phone call, where if you’re approaching the client as an adversary, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where you’re going to approach everything thereafter from an adversarial point of view, right? If you need to advocate for yourself, or you need to then set healthy boundaries, you’re doing it from the strange position of, “I’m the good guy, they’re the bad guy.” Whereas, they’re in this, ultimately, in the same boat as you are, right? You’re both working on the same project, you both have the same end goal in mind, whether it’s a piece of design or creative content for a campaign, you want to achieve the same thing. So, there’s no reason you should be butting heads in the sense of good versus evil, or I need to defend or fight against a client in that kind of way.
Meg: That’s a really good point, because I have, you know, dozens, if not hundreds of times, made the mistake of pretending like I’m a machine to my clients where, you know, at the beginning, I’m just like, “You need it? I’ll do it. I got you.” And I’ve been in so many client relationships where the client has been like, it’s 8pm, and they’re like, “Hey Meg, I’m logging off to go home now, but just so you know, I’ll be around until about 1am tonight in case you want to send anything,” and I’m like, “Oh, I guess that means I’m working tonight because they sent that message.” And so, then I’m like, “Okay, I’ll cancel my plans and just become a machine again.” And that’s not good because I made the mistake of setting up the project wrong, treating myself like a machine from the beginning. And then if you treat yourself that way, they’re also going to treat you that way as well.
Ryan: Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to put all the onus on the artist, but like, if you’re setting the stage, if you’re establishing these precedents of, “Yes, I respond to emails at 9pm. Yes, I will send deliverables over at 1am. Oh, you sent me a text message, and I’m going to respond on a Saturday morning,” It is then not the clients fault if they take advantage of that, or they have this awareness of, “Oh, Meg must work weekends, or she works nights, that should be when I communicate to her.” So, I think just being aware of, you know, they also have a home life, a family, other things that are going on for them as well as the same as you do, and kind of establishing a working relationship that will pair well with what you have going on personally and setting those realistic boundaries.
Meg: Absolutely. And I’ve definitely found that my favorite client relationships are the ones where they seem to really care about me as a person and ask me about how it’s going in my life. Maybe they follow me on the internet, so they might ask me questions about that thing that I did yesterday. And it feels so much better because then I feel a lot more comfortable coming to them if I need extra time or extra space or just have any concerns at all, then I feel much more comfortable. And I think that’s definitely on them to do that for sure, but it’s also on us to make sure that we’re keeping that relationship light and personable as much as possible.
Ryan: Yeah, and not to toot our own horns or toot my own horn, but we’ve gotten very positive feedback [from] clients on that kind of working style, of being a little bit more, balancing that professional and personal, and being a little more transparent with what is possible in a week, what kind of turnaround times are realistic given real life also going on while work is going on. And I think people are more aware of that this year than maybe anytime in the recent past, just because a lot of that is bleeding over with each other; working from home and navigating a global pandemic and everything. But really, I just think it comes down to setting those intentions from the very beginning.
Meg: Definitely. It truly does help right now, because we all have this shared experience and we’re all struggling together, which is not great. But also, it’s good in this regard, because people are very empathetic to one another right now in a way that they, I don’t think they’ve ever been before. So, I’m hoping that that empathy sticks around past just this year, next year.
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the week before last, if that was any indication, I would say 99% of our client calls got rescheduled because of the election. Everyone was going through this shared experience of, “We cannot focus on work right now. We have other things that are kind of distracting us, and rightfully so.” And so, it was super easy to communicate, “Hey, do you mind if we push this call to next week? Or can we deliver these revisions on Monday as opposed Friday because we’re actively watching CNN or whatever?” And they were fine with that. Like, if you communicate your needs in a way that is more transparent and honest like that, more often than not, they’re going to be heard and accepted.
Meg: Yeah, exactly. I think some people, I mean, we all know this personality type that does that all the time, like more often than not, where they’re just like, “Nah, can’t get it to you.” And they do that usually, not sparingly, and I think you know, that’s kind of, you have to ask yourself what the balance is of how often you are asking a client for a little bit of slack here and there. Because I try to do it as sparingly as possible, and I wait until I really, really need it. And I try to push through I think I can push through. But it’s definitely, I’m getting more comfortable with advocating for myself when I absolutely, definitely need it.
Ryan: Yeah, I mean, the election week example was kind of the outlier of where you’re rescheduling or asking for more time or raising those concerns after the fact. I would say it’s more important to set those kinds of boundaries and be honest upfront, right? So, if they’re saying, you know, we really need you to turn this around in a week, but you know, for whatever reason, personal, professionally, burnout, etc., that that’s not realistic for you, you set that expectation up front. You say, “You know, actually, I would need until the following week, I would need two weeks realistically to get this done.” And more often than not, I find the client is receptive to that.
Meg: Yeah. And I do definitely think that whenever I am thinking of myself as a machine, even asking, you know, if they say we need this on, you know, tomorrow, breaking out of machine mode and saying, “Actually, no, I can’t, it has to be Thursday or whatever,” that is so hard for me to do. But every time I do it, they’re like, “Oh, okay.” It’s not as bad as I [thought]. Like, the perceived outcome of how much of a disaster I think it will be if I push back on their deadline, it never happens. They’re always extremely understanding.
Ryan: It’s not going to be the end of the world if you ask for an extra day or an extra two days. And if there, for some reason, is that tight of a turnaround, they are also going to come back and be very honest with you of, “No, actually there is a drop dead date, there is a hard deadline of we have to go to print or go into production or something.” And then you can account for that.
Meg: True. And I think another thing that I’m trying too, past Meg is never that great to future Meg. I’m kind of present, I’m like a present person all the time, so I never really think about my past self or my future self, which sometimes means that I do not set my future self up for success. And I think a lot of what we’re talking about is trying to advocate a little bit more for your future self. Because you are, whenever you’re talking about design projects, you are having to look to the future. And I think, especially now, we’re at the end of all of our collective ropes, it’s good to start thinking ahead a little bit; what does the rest of your year look like? What are the next couple of months in 2021 going to look like for you? How can you set yourself up for mental success as much as possible? Rather than what it feels like I’ve been doing all year, just taking it one day at a time, which I think is good and we all should kind of do that. But I also think it’s very important that we set our future selves up for the least amount of stress as possible.
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that that kind of approach, you know, ideally is what we’re doing all the time. But I know, it’s sometimes harder than others. Like you said, at the beginning of 2020, it was really one day at a times and us feeling out what this new reality and workflow looked like, but I would say if you’ve been lucky enough to continue to work in some capacity, but you still have these lingering feelings of burnout or anxiety around what 2020 has brought, maybe take the end of the year off. I know a lot of the artists Co-Loop works with have the intentions of taking the last two months off of the year to kind of just reset.
Meg: Yes, and I think that brings me to my next point, is that the only way that you truly can take time off is if you’re thinking about your future self enough to where you save some money, or it would be like what I tried to do, and I know a lot of the other artists on the Co-Loop roster do, is I create forms of passive income. So that way, even whenever you do take time off, you still have money that’s coming in from somewhere. Start to sell products, start to offer downloads, put stuff on Creative Market, that kind of thing, so that way, you have some cash coming in, and you can feel comfortable taking, you know, emergency time off, or just scheduling some downtime in your schedule.
Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, what passive income affords you the luxury to do is either one of those things, right? Like, if there is an emergency, if there’s some unforeseen circumstance, like a global pandemic, you can have this little bit of cushion where you know, for the most part, that passive income is not going to be greatly affected and you can rely on that. Or it allows you to be strategic in caring for your future self and saying, I want to take two months off, but I know that I’m fine in doing that because I’ve set up these systems, I’ve set up additional revenue streams that allow me to continue to earn in some ways while I’m relaxing.
Meg: Yes. And this has all been so helpful, because I’m sure that, and me before I started working with you, I would have thought this way, a lot of creatives are probably listening to this right now, they’re like, “Okay, if Ryan says I should do this, Ryan’s an agent, Ryan knows what he’s doing, then that is what I’ll do.” Sometimes it just takes a professional’s opinion for me to finally take something a little bit more seriously and actually start implementing that. So hopefully, your words can be the excuse that people need to advocate for themselves a little bit more.
Ryan: I don’t know if I have that much weight, but I appreciate it. And just really quickly, some of the ways I talk about passive income are a little different than a lot of people, I think. I often refer to it as diverse creative content and not necessarily pursuing passive income streams. So, if you’re a creative person, like most people listening to this podcast, you know, your traditional medium, illustration, design, photography, so on, is only one aspect of your creativity. Whereas, you know, authoring books, hosting workshops, virtual or in person, doing speaking events, recording podcasts, producing educational courses are all various forms of expressing your creative voice and your creativity, and they also serve as passive income. So, it’s kind of two birds with one stone, you can pursue all these different creative avenues, right? And also have them back you up. So, I think if you can approach it from, “What different types of creative output can I leverage? What other things am I passionate about?” Those will ultimately be the generator of that passive income.
Meg: Ooh, yes. You’re singing the words of my favorite song. It’s called diverse creative content.
Ryan: Maybe a buzzword that I coined; I’ll take credit for it. But I do think it’s really important, in 2020 and beyond, thinking of content in that way, different creative outputs in that way. It’s important.
Meg: Absolutely. I mean, this is kind of how I formed my career, but I have a fear of putting all of my eggs in one basket in any way in case that basket gets taken away from me, and this year, many of my baskets did get taken away from me because of this pandemic. And so, luckily, I have so many other baskets full of other eggs, so I’m not hungry. It’s fine. I never ever, ever do metaphors. And every time I do, it just feels very unnatural for me. And this is what happens, just many eggs, many baskets.
Ryan: I like the metaphor of, “I have a basket full of many different eggs, so now I’m not hungry.” But what that made me think of, and maybe this is where we end the podcast because it’s going to be a really strange question: does the Easter Bunny eat the eggs that he collects? Because that’s a really weird visual, right? Like the Easter Bunny walking around with a basket full of eggs. And he’s not hungry either, because he’s eating all of those eggs.
Meg: Thank you, Ryan for being here.
Ryan: Thank you, Meg.
Meg: Where can everybody find you on the internet?
Ryan: So, I’ll list the Co-Loop handles, I think that’s applicable. [It’s] @coloopco on Instagram [and] Twitter, and our website is co-loop.co.
Meg: Excellent! Bye-bye, everyone.
Ryan: Bye, everyone!
Meg: And that’s it for this episode of Overtime. Boopity boop! If you like this episode, if you like any of the episodes, if you like me, if you don’t like me, make sure to leave a review on Apple Podcasts today, and/or use #DribbbleOvertime if you want to continue the conversation on the internet. Also tweet or tag me, my handle on the internet is @yourbuddymeg or head to meglewis.com for more. Woohoo! I’ll see you next week. Bye-bye. Hear me next week.