Image licensed via Shutterstock / By mentatdgt
It was the year that we’d gladly erase from memory. But now 2020 is firmly behind us, what can we learn from our collective experience?
We’ve spoken to creatives worldwide and draw out some common themes in the following article. Read on, as we bring you the biggest lessons of the last 12 months and the ways that creative professionals will be doing differently in 2021 as a result.
1. Let go and accept the reality
As designer, illustrator and animator
Mike Walsh, creative lead at
2. Be kinder to yourself
2020 was the year when simply by sitting at home and following some simple rules, you could help save the world. So why put pressure on yourself to achieve ‘great things’, when you already have? Instead, treat this year as one in which you’re kinder to yourself, you do work that you enjoy, and you stop worrying about what others think.
And here’s another way to being kind to yourself. “I’ve resolved to give myself more time,” says
Being kinder to yourself can also be about doing more things you enjoy. “I learned in 2020 not to be too precious, to experiment more,” says
3. Take yourself less seriously
Should we also take ourselves less seriously in 2021? “The one big lesson I learned in 2020 is to leave your ego at the door, thanks to a chat I had with Tash Wilcocks of Hyper Island,” says designer and brand strategist
“If there’s one word of advice, I could give anyone,” he concludes, “it would be to leave your ego at the door. Whether it be a new job, a new education, or in your personal life, always be open to learning from others, always be open to change, and most importantly, always be open to growth.”
Stepping away from your ego might mean a different way of approaching work in general. “In 2020, my practice shifted to focus on businesses and organisations that are serving their communities,” says illustrator and lettering artist
4. Switch things up
While most of us hunkered down in 2020, maybe 2021 should be the time to switch things up in our careers. “2020 has shown me that self-belief is vital, particularly when you are a minority championing for inclusion and equality,” says
Brand experience designer
5. Connect with creatives
Design is, in many ways, a solitary profession. But with our personal lives having shrunk so much in 2020, creatives everywhere have learned the importance of connecting with their fellow professionals.
“For me, the biggest lesson of 2020 was recognising the true value of people,” says Neil Sheakey, design director at Uniform. “The value of being sat together thinking and working, sparing and sparking thought, debate, and creativity. We’re wonderfully empowered by technology, but nothing beats the intimate experience of working physically alongside people.”
And it’s not just about seeking company, but advice and mentorship. “In 2020, I learned that there’s no harm in asking for support and guidance, professionally and personally,” says graphic designer and Fuse Birmingham host
6. Connect with non-creatives
Connections with people outside the design industry, of course, can be equally fruitful. And that’s exactly the experience that 2020 brought Ben O’Brien, aka
Specifically, after a chance Twitter encounter with Charlatans singer Tim Burgess, O’Brien went from creating a couple of illustrations for him to building his new online shop and swapping prints with some of his favourite musicians. “I’ve been so focused on paying the bills and family life in recent years I’d forgotten why I first started in the creative industry… to work in music!” Ben reflects. “This year, I feel like I made connections, even friends, and all over music, all because of that one thing we had in common.”
His advice to others in 2021 is to: “Connect with the people you have something in common with: I can’t recommend it enough. Moving forward, I’m keen to work more in the music industry, keep making music-related art prints and keep on connecting with the music lovers.”
7. Embrace the unexpected
No one knows what 2021 will bring, let alone 2022. So we have to learn to expect the unexpected, and indeed embrace it.
In 2020, for many, a sudden lack of income was the unfortunate result of lockdown. Take graphic designer and illustrator
“I’ve always been fortunate in that I receive a lot of enquiries through my website,” she says. “But at the start of lockdown in March, they completely stopped. It was a slow year for business, but my existing clients kept me afloat – and that’s something I’m so grateful for. New enquiries are only just trickling in again now, but I’ll never take repeat work for granted again.”
Designer and art director
Like many, she chose to accentuate the positive and worked hard to pivot her career. “It gave me time to focus on my artistic practice and collaborate closely with wonderful printmakers, from East Sussex to Dublin,” she recalls. “It gave me a strong desire to pursue my artistic journey, which I have put on hold for too long, favouring graphic design commissions. 2020 allowed me to connect further with the print community, which is a true family and makes me feel welcome and happy. In 2021 I’d like to take more risks in pushing my art practice, and printmaking collaborations and balance more equally my practice as an artist and graphic designer.”
In other words, 2021 is a great time to be open to pivoting. “Disruption is unexpected, so we must be human-centric in our thinking and predictive in our behaviour,” says Phillip J. Clayton, founding partner of