EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR
ELMWOOD, NEW YORK NY
Meg Beckum is a designer, writer and creative director at Elmwood New York. Meg has worked in publishing and branding for 20 years, developing corporate identities, campaigns and experiences for some of the world’s most recognized brands including Heineken, Kimberly-Clark, GSK, American Express, Verizon, Bank of America and Volkswagen. Through imagination, craft and storytelling, Meg helps businesses uncover and cultivate authentic brand narratives and expressions. Her work has been featured in Fast Company, GDUSA, The Drum, Creative Boom, and Print Magazine. Meg earned an MFA in design from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia. She previously served as a board member of AIGANY. While brand development is her focus, Meg is most proud of her work with organizations empowering women and children — including the Girl Scouts of the USA, Planned Parenthood, WIC and Teach for America.
Has the pandemic changed your workplace and your workflow? Do you expect to return to pre-pandemic ways of working or will any changes become the ‘new normal’?
My workplace has changed dramatically. I’ve moved from our Elmwood studio in West Chelsea in Manhattan to a small garden shed in Westchester. (My dear husband helped me convert an old, dusty shed in our backyard into a lovely home studio.) While I’ve changed locations, our workflow and process have remained remarkably consistent throughout the pandemic. Is this good or bad? It’s a bit of both. It’s good, even great, that I’m able to spend more time with my family and less time commuting. But there’s no replacement for the energy of a busy and buzzing creative studio. I miss the war room critiques, coffee chats in the kitchenette, and working lunches with colleagues. Our team has done an amazing job staying connected, but we’re looking forward to an in-person reunion.
Still, I don’t expect that we’ll fully return to our prepandemic ways. We’ve realized that we can be efficient and productive working remotely. The 9-to-5, tethered-to-your-desk workweek has been a long time dying. It’s an archaic work model. This year has stripped down the artificial barrier between work life and personal life. We’ve seen our colleagues’ living rooms. We’ve met their children and partners. We’ve seen pajamas, bad haircuts, faces sans makeup. I think it’s a positive. We’re starting to see each other, not just as co-workers, but as humans. Maybe I’m overly optimistic, but I’m hoping the pandemic will create new ways of working — more flexibility and freedom for employees and their families. Lord knows, we could all use more balance.
What do you expect 2021 to hold for graphic designers and the design business? Have the challenges of 2020 changed the way you think about your job and career or the role of design?
Let’s be real. I’ve witnessed this year — the pandemic, racial injustice, and environmental disasters — from a vantage point of privilege. Many of us — designers, marketers and brands have played it safe, stayed neutral, and avoided difficult conversations. If this year taught me anything, it’s that I need to show up, face into the discomfort, and have a point of view. In branding we talk a lot about values, but I wonder if we truly walk the walk. As a creative industry, I think we need to make more decisions based on those values, and be prepared to defend them.
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