Gordon Kaye On The Pandemic Pause

This “Letter From The Publisher,” written as we all struggle with the coronavirus and its ramifications, will appear in the upcoming April 2020 print and digital editions of Graphic Design USA magazine, now in production. Photo: Field Hospital in Central Park NYC by Surie Rudoff Sugarman.

‘I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul.’ So goes the classic poem Invictus.

I wake up most mornings confident that my destiny is in my control. It is a comforting and constructive way to frame my existence. I know deep down – we all know – that the control-your-destiny thing is part truth and part illusion, but it works most of the time. This notion of control empowers me to write regular columns in GDUSA on the belief that I have agency and, thus, may have something, at least marginally, relevant or influential to say about the latest this or that.

Today, in the face of this invisible invasion of our health and well-being, and the economic and social consequences that flow therefrom, I have nothing.

This event is so immense and challenging that it should humble the arrogant and silence the bloviators. Will it? Not a chance. Pundits and politicians and celebrities of all stripes have no shame and, generally speaking, are too shallow to understand their limitations. I can be shallow, too, but I do know when I am out of my depth.

So, I am going to step aside and use the rest of this space to reflect back to you what you are telling me, in hundreds of much-appreciated emails, letters, phone calls, social messages and the like.

 Here is what you are saying or, at least, what I am hearing:

Work Is Worship.

For creative people, the legendary Massimo Vignelli once said, “work is worship.” Many of you ascribe to this view. You are using this strange interregnum productively and mindfully – for your company and for your clients – to prepare for the opportunities of the rebound to come. This includes rethinking your internal practices and promotional efforts and, importantly, communicating with customers about their needs for now and for what comes next.

Remote Working.

I get my news and entertainment on a transistor radio, so you can imagine how steep the learning curve has been. Yet, I have trial-and-errored my way to a viable stay-at-home solution. The vast majority of you see working remotely as the right decision today, and you’re committed to enhancing and expanding the practice going forward. This means more technological infrastructure and improved methods of collaboration; however, you worry about the loss of personal contact and what that will mean to creativity.

Healthy Mind and Body.

Maintaining a healthy mindset, and body to match, is high on your agenda. You are sharing tons of good advice about daily exercise, structured routines, moderate eating and drinking. About limiting social media, avoiding “slit your wrist” alarmist media outlets, and being kind to yourselves and one another.

Social Distance Does Not Mean Isolation.

You are highly aware of the ironies inherent to this situation. There is unity in being apart. Social distance does not mean behaving distantly. The design community is outdoing itself in bridging the distance – sharing thoughts, ideas, experiences, and connections. And what a community you are: humor, empathy and resilience abound.

The Value of Communication.

Communication and information during this crisis has been spotty. When this mess is over, there will be a clear understanding that effective and responsive communication is central to public health, yes, but more broadly, to the success of our entire complex and dynamic society. You are uniquely positioned to raise the bar because great graphic design means distilling the essence of things. This is an uplifting way to think about how valuable your contribution is – can be, will be – in the aftermath.

Embracing the Downtime.

For some of you, this is a moment to take personal inventory, reassess who and what is important to you, catch up on long-delayed projects, and spend time with loved ones. This is largely a positive experience, but it can be a double-edged sword. Several of you noted that calls to divorce lawyers are rising; a fact-check confirms this to be true.

Gratitude and Hope.

You are grateful to the health workers, first responders, and essential services workers who are keeping us safe, fighting the good fight and reminding us that we are better together. They provide an example that you respect and aspire to: hope leads to action, and action to hope.

We welcome your comments on your own thoughts, experiences, reactions to the coronavirus crisis. We will gladly publish them on this website and, if room allows, in the GDUSA June print edition. Rough guidelines: 100-300 words and, if you can, a photo of yourself or team or anything appropriate, jpeg or tiff.  Send to… editorial@gdusa.com