It’s July 2020, already. Many companies have slowly found their way transitioning into remote working over the last few months and people are getting accustomed to working from their couch at their leisure. International remote work expert Laurel Farrer says; like everything in life, working from home has a honeymoon period. At first, things are new, exciting and novel, we get to play with new tools, have fun strategising and see all the money we are saving. But after a while it starts to get difficult, this excitement wears off and suddenly you have to make it work to work. Keeping remote work sustainable becomes the real problem.
So how do we get over this? The best thing to do is you work with someone who has already implemented a sustainable system, understand how they overcome obstacles. It takes time, but you’ll get there, eventually.
We spoke with André Harris, Jr. the Head of Graphic Design at Photobox, London to understand how they implemented a sustainable system of remote working for design teams.
“Every creative brief is a ticket to a destination – a destination reached after a creative journey. Some journeys follow a precise route to perfection, others rely on spontaneously taking the path less-travelled.
When it comes to creative journeys with me at the helm, it’s more than just where we’re going…it’s about how we get there.” – André Harris, Jr.
Could you share a bit about Photobox?
Photobox is Europe’s leading photo-personalised gifting company that helps turn photos – from the everyday quick snap to the precious, once-in-a-lifetime event – into the most thoughtful gifts. Every year, millions of people enjoy a Photobox canvas, calendar, mug, phone case, or one of our beautiful photo books. I am the Head of Graphic Design within the Product Innovation team, where I oversee and art direct all print design for customer-facing physical product and packaging across Europe, Australia, and New Zealand – creating and curating on-trend graphic assets and designs to help accentuate and expand Photobox’s product catalogue.
Is your team working from home at the moment? How have you found the transition?
Currently, my team is all working from home and will be for a bit longer. The transition was actually quite simple because as an international business we have already been set up to work remotely as travel was normally required. We also are fortunate to have a bit of flexibility, where working from home is normally an available option when necessary.
What does a typical day look like with your remote team?
Even with working remotely, a typical day is never just a typical day haha! The constants include video meetings, emails, and instant messages for communication, but that’s where ‘typical’ really ends. My team can be working on anything from designing graphics for upcoming occasions/holidays, to running our Wedding Book Design Service where we design-to-order wedding photo books, to quickly pivoting to develop and launch personalised face masks given what has become our collective new normal. There is always something fresh and new to get involved in at Photobox.
What pain points do you currently have when it comes to remote work? How are you overcoming them?
The biggest pain point we are experiencing as a creative team is around finding inspiration. I tend to find inspiration by being out in the world, observing everything from fellow commuter fashions to adverts on public transit to even the packaging on products when casually strolling around a shop. We as a team have overcome this by leaning a bit heavier on the bigger social channels made for inspirational content (i.e. Pinterest, Instagram), and have also used an internal “Designspiration” channel I created where all creatives across the business can post designs, articles, blogs etc. to keep those creative juices flowing.
What tools are you and your team using on a daily basis to stay productive?
The team and I mainly use Atlassian/JIRA for productivity and organisation, but we have also used Trello in the past. It’s interesting because I initially signed up with GoVisually as we use it in our Wedding Book Design Service for customers to review their albums and request edits/changes directly within the album (it is an integral part of our operation.) Because of the ease and functionality of tracking drafts and amendments offered by GoVisually (or as we’ve now abbreviated it, Go-V), I’ve begun using it to showcase design drafts and to get signoff from key stakeholders. It has added to my productivity because I can receive feedback and signoff in one place without needing to rummage through diaries to find a half an hour where everyone is available to give said feedback.
How do you track work and assign deadlines?
Our work is tracked using the Kanban board functionality of JIRA as it is a standard across other teams in the business. Deadlines are assigned mainly based on other teams’ timelines and priorities, as the graphic design is a small part of a bigger effort to get a product designed, manufactured, tested, and launched to market.
Being in the creative field? What’s your go-to source for inspiration?
I mentioned above that just being in the outside world is my go-to for inspiration. I love just walking around different areas and just looking ‘up and away’: up and away from the sidewalk, up and away from the phone, up and away from my normal line of sight. Outside of that, I do like to keep my finger on the pulse of what is happening by looking at trends across multiple design disciplines besides just graphic (particularly fashion and interior), and I always do enjoy going to vendor fairs/expos and on competitive shops just to see what’s on the market. I also always find it fascinating to see what newer designers are up to because they have such pure points of view that represent the future of design.
How has your journey been as the head of Graphic Design at Photobox?
My journey as Head of Graphic Design at Photobox has been fantastic and rewarding. It was a new role that I was able to come into and really lay the groundwork for showing the value of graphic design to the business. It challenged me to gain commercial thinking and to develop new ways to use graphic design to further support our customer in getting the best gift possible for their loved ones. Each new brief is a different and engaging challenge, and there really is no week that is the same as the week prior. Photobox has allowed me to learn, take risks, and really diversify my skillset which will help me continue to be an ever-growing creative leader.