Creative Connections: Insights for the new normal
to keep our creative community connected, inspired and supported.
Times are uncertain and with feelings of separation high, we want to know how you are staying plugged in, what is keeping you creative and what might be getting in the way?
Ed Barrett, Executive Creative Director at Animade, answered:
Please give a brief introduction to Animade.
We’re an animation studio who love making the world a bit more characterful. Under regular circumstances we’re based near Old Street in London (UK), where our close-knit team of 26 hang out and create lovely things.
How are you?
Things aren’t easy in the world right now. We’re very lucky to be busy and well but our thoughts are with all those more affected by these turbulent times.
How is remote work going for the team? Are you keeping regular office hours?
We love a good chat at the coffee maker and we all used to take lunch together every day, so not being able to see each other in person has definitely been tough. As the team has matured over the years and families have grown, we’d already started introducing some flexibility for people to work from home. So when the Covid-19 lockdown hit we had a good idea of how best to respond so that everyone could access the equipment and files they needed.
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We’ve been busy with projects during lockdown, which we feel very fortunate about. It’s been a relatively smooth transition and we’re exploring ways we can continue to offer this flexibility to the team in the future. It is harder to be strict with start and end times when working remotely, but Animade has always had a culture that protects a healthy work/life balance, so we never actively encourage people to work late.
What apps are keeping the team connected?
Given the team’s love of socialising, sharing and general chit-chat, staying connected has been important. We set up a virtual water cooler on Slack for people to hop onto and catch up if they were light on meetings for a day. For all things wordy we use Slack and for the video fun it’s Google Meet. For off-the-record nerdy fun some of us hook up via Animal Crossing and Rocket League. We’ve also gone old-school and started an Animade Book Club, who meet up every couple of months.
How many video calls do you average per day right now?
Personally I average around 10 video calls a day, but my role requires a lot of communication over multiple projects. This number has increased since working from home and I think it’s because those little interactions you’d have at your desk now become full-blown scheduled events.
How do you stay focused when working from home?
I don’t really have any secret sauce. I find it hard (especially with two children at home) but I get my head down as best I can. It helps mostly having scheduled calls on my to-dos. If I’m on creative work and really struggling to stay focused, then music can help. I’m also lucky to have a desk area with a door to cut myself off from distractions.
What is the most hilarious thing you’ve seen that distracted you from work?
Mostly my children, although it tends to be more of a rollercoaster of emotions rather than just hilarious; frustration, guilt, surprise – it’s all distraction-worthy.
When you feel stuck, or need inspiration, what are your go-to’s?
The amazing team at Animade are pretty inspiring to me.
Can you recommend three general habits to improve workflow? Or list insightful do’s and don’ts.
For me it’s get up early, shower, put on smart-ish clothes, eat a good breakfast and then head to my desk – just as you would if you were heading out to work. Puts me in the right mindset to focus on my daily to-dos.
What Studio, Designer, Artist (dead or alive) would you want to have a Zoom meeting with?
This changes regularly but right now I’d really like to have a good chat with Playdead – the developers behind Limbo and, my personal favourite, Inside. From what I’ve read they run the studio in a really interesting way. Given the quality of the design and gameplay they put out, I’d love to gain a greater insight into their studio practices.
How do you balance client projects and passion projects?
We take our ‘play’ projects seriously as they’re such an important part of our working culture, so we schedule them in with producers just as we would with client projects. Of course, they have to take a back seat sometimes as client work ultimately comes first, but we work hard to keep the balance up.
The most creative use of emojis you’ve ever seen?
Not emojis, but our whole team started using GIFs in Slack every day as a means of saying hello/I’m off to lunch/bye at the end of the day. This gradually evolved into a competition for the best GIFs, with one of our more discerning team members awarding emoji ‘medals’ to the winner each day. Now we have teams of judges picking themes for the team to run with before the winners are picked, e.g. ‘drinks’ or ‘unexpected endings’. It all adds an extra bit of fun to the day – and a feeling of reassuring consistency too, in a way!
What other fun or creative things has the Animade team been up to in these unusual times?
We’ve introduced regular mini creative shares as a way for creatives to share a sneak peek on a project they’re working on, or one they’ve just finished. It’s helped everyone to see what the rest of the team are working on and feel connected. We also started a game of consequences in the early days of lockdown, which we’ve been gradually completing and passing on by post. Hopefully, we’ll have some strange and lovely pictures to put on the studio walls by the time we get back! Our studio manager has been incredible at making sure everyone’s okay and has what they need, as well as arranging online activities like Pictionary, silly games, quizzes and dressing up competitions that keep us all connected. He even sends us a piece of good news every day to keep our spirits high in these gloomy times!