Global perspectives on a post-pandemic world

We chatted to the creative leads from our Sydney, London and Shanghai offices to find out how they’re dealing with the Covid-19 crisis and how they envision the world post-pandemic. Keep on reading to see what they had to say.

By Shannon Bell, Creative Director - Re

Jun 2020

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Where are you working and what's happening there?

Shannon: I’m in Sydney and working from home. The mood here is becoming more positive in terms of COVID. We’ve ‘flattened the curve’ and restrictions are relaxing a little. I would say I’m cautiously optimistic that things are starting to get better.

Darren: I’m working from home in central London with my wife and two kids. Remote working is fine for both my wife and I. Home schooling, less so. But if this is our generation’s greatest test – to stay at home, socially distance, using more tech and binge Netflix – I may just be able to do my part.

mOjo: I’ve been living in Taipei for the past two months. With the exception of the compulsory face masks in crowded public spaces, sanitisers and temperature checks in every shop you walk into, life is fairly normal here.

Where are you going for ideas and inspiration? 

Shannon: I struggled with this question because I haven’t been going anywhere for inspiration. I’ve admired other people’s creativity in the face of crisis, but on a personal level I’ve been too swamped. I’ve had thoughts of things I could do, but with everything else going on (home schooling, video calling, vacuuming, staring into the void etc.) there’s been no time. 

Or maybe it’s just that most of my creative thinking has been focused on my family rather than work. I’ve done more art projects, more home cooking lessons, more ‘making isolation fun’ initiatives, more finding simple ways to explain a very complex world to my kids. It’s been a silver lining of all this to have the time together. And in this I’ve definitely been inspired by my mum. I keep having flashbacks of her coming up with ideas for how to keep my sisters and I entertained as we grew up. I am exhibiting so many of her signature quirks that it’s scary – but they’re pretty much all that’s getting me through this.

Darren: I’ve abstained from most social media for over a year now. I still use LinkedIn partly for networking, but also for industry updates. Breaking the bubble is hard. One nightmare/benefit of the home schooling is having to try and explain the world to young minds. I’ve visited so many science, maths and history sites. It’s given me a childlike thirst for learning that I hope to maintain. I think it’s a creative imperative to break the cycle of reference. Although there are more platforms and means to consume, the content seems to centre on narrow themes.

"I've visited so many science, maths and history sites because of homeschooling."

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mOjo: Pretty much anywhere. Although I’ve been here a few times and lived here for several years as a child, Taipei is still relatively “new” to me. I enjoy walking around town, exploring the alleys, streets and numerous Taoist and Buddhist temples dotted all over the city.

What brands do you think are adapting well to the new world? 

Shannon: More than ever, it’s the brands that find a meaningful role to play in people’s lives that are doing the best. The ‘corner store pivot’ has been great to see. I’m spending a lot of money on new speciality products stocked by my local cafe.

It’s also been a ‘back to basics’ time for lots of people. The brands that are doing well get the fundamentals right. For example, our local florist has been winning a lot of new business by focusing on personalized service. She even knows my name and my kids’ names. Long story short we now buy flowers weekly and I also own a terrarium.

Darren: Amazon. It’s brilliant and horrific in equal measure of what their convenience model has proven. My smiley brown-box-tinged lockdown recycling is testimony to my own reliance. To offset this, we’ve found ourselves searching for and celebrating the ‘side hustle’. I’m loving the closed restaurants that have become brilliant fresh food sellers, clothes shops becoming fresh coffee vendors and butchers and fishmongers never being busier and offering great serving accompaniments.

If Amazon will throttle high street retail, I’m hoping that local trade shops will embrace their valued side hustles more. But it’s not just the side hustles of local shops, what will it do for other industries and conglomerates that have found new verve in new capabilities?

mOjo: Obviously, digital first businesses like TikTok, Netflix and Amazon are doing very well. With these types of businesses going crazy, digital payment players will no doubt be growing their market shares - something we’ve already seen in China over the past few years.

Surprisingly, a friend of mine who’s involved in the 3D business also said there has been a huge boom in this sector over the past couple of months. With the film industry on lock down, everyone is turning their attention to what they can produce without physically being out there.

How do you think creative businesses will change as a result of this?

Shannon: Video conferencing has been around forever, but it’s taken this situation to finally normalise it. Now that Zoom is just another tool we use, we’re collaborating much more regularly and effectively with colleagues in other offices and time zones. This will definitely continue.

Having said that, I do really miss in person collaboration. Serendipitous connections and casual conversations are such an important part of creativity, and work has been a little less fun since we became socially distant. I can definitely see us continuing to use online collaboration tools when we’re back together, but right now I am very keen to work with real people again.

Darren: Hard to say. If time has taught me anything, it’s that it’s wrong to assume that monumental global events will change everything. This is rarely the case. “We’ll never work from studios and offices again” is a big statement. I think it’s affirmed the value of being around people for inspiration, productivity, fun, empathy and support.

But we have found close adaptions that can mimic proximity which will be useful in future commissions, collaborations and remote client workshops. Will corporate travel demand ever the same? It’s proven that “can’t” is never true. Applying enough creative thinking and permission to try different things can prove fruitful and possibly long-lasting.

mOjo: The creative business has been changing for the past decade. As technology can now support us from any corner of the world, we’re moving away from a centralised approach to a more collaborative model. The pandemic merely helped accelerate this change.

What's the biggest thing you've learned? 

Shannon: Technology is the best and worst thing in the world.

Darren: People have become adept to virtual technology dependant lives. But, by our very nature, people need to be with people. Take that away and we’re not the same. I wonder what we would have learned if we had to “technology distance”.

mOjo: That we as a society need to redefine what ‘normal’ is. I really hope that we don’t just go back to the way things were before the pandemic, but that we change our habits and behaviours for the better. Pollution, waste and excessive consumerism should never have been normal in the first place. I feel like this is the time to wake up and truly start taking responsibility for our planet, building on the progress that has been made over these past few months.

Fora x WIRED

When we started working with Fora, a premium workspace with sites across enviable UK locations, the challenge was clear: how can we refine a brand that repositions and redefines co-working.

By Shannon Bell, Creative Director - Re

Nov 2020