My day starts with a breakfast with my family before I go upstairs to my office. Not a day is spent the same way. I move constantly between my work as a professor, my research projects and activities related to my two daughters more present these days due to COVID-19. In between that busy time, I take an hour to walk with my dog Roxy, a black lab who helps me empty my head or fill it with new ideas! Since summer started, I am also spending quality time on my paddle board as we live close to a river. I never have a specific agenda of my day, more a general understanding of where I want to go, which I find more creative and fulfilling.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a creative research project implementing the practice of social design in elementary schools. With a group of colleagues, we are working on a publication, a tool box for teachers and students after developing a year of workshops in collaboration with a school and kids aged 11 to 12. Fine tuning our initial discoveries is a very stimulating process.
Have you found any helpful tactics or strategies for staying focused and productive?
Diversifying my activities during the weekdays is crucial as well as staying connected to the nature. As a professor and a freelancer, I focus on working out a personal schedule to free up and organize my work and my activities to feel more efficient. Being creative demands a certain amount of freedom.
How do you combat feelings of isolation or disconnect from your team?
I have to say that I rarely feel isolation or disconnection at all. I guess it depends of your personality. I take the situation as it comes, without frustration with an aim to adapt and gain from the new experiences and understand new opportunities to do things differently. In my mind, I feel it is temporary so I do not stress about it.
If applicable, how are you approaching working from home while your partner/family/roommates, etc. are also home?
I embrace it, even if sometimes I miss my time alone during the day. My partner only worked from home for 10 days at the beginning of the lockdown period. I take advantage of having lunch with my teenagers every day… Maybe they would have a different answer if you asked them!
Have you discovered any advantages or disadvantages to working from home? If so, what are they?
I was already working from home quite a lot as it is also my studio and my school home office from time to time. We live next to a national park, so our environment is not a burden at all. Overlooking the river or the forest while working is a real advantage. Having the time and the place to nest and re-evaluate how you do things is a great opportunity to reinvent part of yourself.
Do you have a favourite playlist or podcast that you’ve been listening to while working from home?
Not really! I like to decide by day, by mood and depending of what I am doing. Having my two daughters at home, we’ve been sharing playlists. I enjoy discovering new stuff with them. We are not musicians but music is a big part of our daily life. At night, I always turn to jazz and especially Chet Baker for whom we have a huge collection of records. Radio-Canada Première is another medium that I have been enjoying listening to while working, especially in the morning.
Though seemingly contradictory, social distancing and community are intertwined. Do you have any thoughts or insights you’d like to share with other designers during this time? We’re all in this together.
Yes we are! It is the reason I named my non-profit organization: la tribu grafik. We are more connected than ever, even in this time. We are a voice! We should put our creative talent to help others and to make our voice more prominent. COVID-19 is an example of how our community work together, even when apart, to make a difference. Posters have been created to support health workers, like the initiative of Poster House
in Times Square and many others initiatives across Europe
, in Montreal
In difficult times, we should be on the front line; this is a unique moment to demonstrate the power of design and how designers are able to invest their talents to inform, translate and raise awareness when information is needed for clarity and uplifting creativity. United we stand by transcending and investing in every platform available to us.
Valérie is a doctor in semiology, an associate professor-researcher of graphic design at l’École multidisciplinaire de l’image (ÉMI) - University of Quebec in Outaouais (UQO) and a member of La Plateforme Socialdesign in France. She started her career in advertising in Paris, and later developed a practice focused on social and cultural aspects of graphic design in Quebec. In 2014, she founded la tribu grafik, a non-profit organization. la tribu grafik conceptualizes, researches and produces innovative projects that decompartmentalize design practises and redefine the uses of design.