THE WELLBEING ISSUE
06 // Advice: Overcoming Creative Block 08 // Cathy Sison: Dealing with Imposter Syndrome 10 // Interview with Creative Plus Business
18 // Interview with Design Recovery 22 // Industry Practices for Wellbeing 24 // Graduate Showcase
D I R I Nº09
THE WELLBEING ISSUE Cover Artwork // Robyn M-C, Shillington London Graduate
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O A L 2020 was a year for the history books. The world changed in ways no one could have predicted. Though, the last year has made it more obvious than ever that we need to look after ourselves. At Shillington, physical and mental wellbeing are at the top of our agenda. As innovators in design education, we know it’s important that curriculums and schedules should work around you—not the other way round. Our global team supports and is involved with initiatives and schemes that help improve mental and physical wellbeing in the design industry. In fact several of our teachers have undertaken mental health first aid training to be a first line of support for our students and staff. We also get involved with enterprises that encourage conversations around wellbeing, such as Manchester’s Design Recovery— who we interviewed for this issue. Elsewhere in this ninth issue of The Shillington Post, we’re opening up the conversation around wellbeing in the design industry. Our teachers touch on their top tips for getting some headspace away from the computer. We look into some companies that are developing the way they work around their employee’s wellbeing. Andy Judd, our Head of UK, shares his insights for getting over creative block—and the joys of mixing design and play. We explore the best apps for wellbeing. And, finally, we look into the importance of your creative practice itself on physical and mental wellbeing. So, pop the kettle on, pull up a chair and take a break whilst we work together towards an industry where contentment comes before content. Happy Reading! Andy Shillington Founder and CEO of Shillington
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WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE WAY TO GET A BREAK FROM THE COMPUTER?
JIMMY MULDOON FULL-TIME TEACHER, NEW YORK FRANKIE YOUNG PART-TIME TEACHER, BRISBANE I know I am the worst for getting myself away from the computer, so I try to get my green time and some headspace before I start in the mornings. Every morning, or as many as I can manage, I go for a run or do some strength training. It’s a great way to clear my head before sitting down at my desk. My Apple Watch is also great as it gives me prompts to stand up! I also have a glass of water on my desk that I get up and refill whenever it’s empty— that way I can ensure I stay hydrated and get mini breaks away from my desk.
Being a coffee snob, I like to make my own—weighing the beans, getting the right grind setting and measuring the water ratios to get the perfect cup. Reading a few chapters of my book is a great way to switch off. While I’m in that relaxed state, I find that ideas pop into my mind. Putting my phone away is important as, we all know, we can lose hours right before our eyes. Cooking has always been a place where I can still be creative, but for me. The perfect playlist is key so I can find that groove when I prepare and cook the meal. A cold beer or wine always helps too. Living in New York allows me to capture shots of so many different things. I find adventuring into different neighborhoods ignites the spirit of exploration in me.
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MICHAEL ZHANG PART-TIME TEACHER, NEW YORK Being a freelancer, working from home can be very draining. There’s no separation between work and play. While I do love watching Netflix and playing video games, I try not to be that person who says “So tired of looking at bad screen. Can’t wait to go and look at good screen.” I find the best way to get a break is to just go outside and take a walk. It feels good to move my body after sitting all day and I find that when I’m walking, I’m focused on the world around me and not on my work. These days, it’s easy to become a hermit stuck at home, but I think going outside at least once a day can be so important to recharging your creative battery and improving your overall mood.
MITCH REYES PART-TIME TEACHER, BRISBANE
NATALIA ZULUAGA PART-TIME TEACHER, LONDON
Finding time offline isn’t as easy for us ‘creative’ types. The majority of our life is spent in the digital world, so it’s vital that we are able to trade pixels for peace. Everyone will have their own approach for this, but here are two decisions I make every day:
In a high-pressure, high-efficiency society, taking a break from work— and by that, I mean taking a break from the computer—has become one of the most important tasks of my day! As designers we can spend hours designing, researching, looking for inspiration and getting into information rabbit holes … but that means that we can go on and on without a break.
1. Work out 2. Prepare a nourishing meal Firstly, ensuring our body is functioning optimally has a massive effect on our mind. You should set a time to work out, move your body! It doesn’t have to be fancy. Download an app, watch a YouTube video or go for a run. Just simply move your body in a different position that we bound our bodies to. And two: prepare a nourishing meal. Once again, it doesn’t have to be fancy. The power of going through all of the motions of cooking yourself a meal is unrivalled. It can be a meditative experience and one that your body will thank you for. Feeding your body with food that will give your brain the fuel to function optimally is essential in our line of work.
RICH TUCKER PART-TIME TEACHER, LONDON It seems that we are all constantly surrounded by small glowing rectangles, and stare at them all from a short fixed distance. Therefore, checking your phone or watching TV doesn’t constitute a screen break, so getting out of the house is the best way to fully escape and recharge. As a keen cyclist, I have a natural excuse to get out on a bike and head to the woods or hills. You are treated to infinite different sources of light and ever-changing focal points. Plus, having to suddenly dodge the odd unwary squirrel ensures your eyes get a nice healthy workout.
I have naturally a short attention span, so I have always taken short 10-15 minute breaks during the day to refill my water bottle or coffee and stretch my legs. But since the world started working from home, I started implementing a few ‘rituals’ to keep me from spending my whole life in front of a computer—I stand up a lot more from my desk and always keep a glass of water in front of me. I try to finish my working day at 5:30-6:00pm and I close my computer for the day. I then go for a walk to the park or watch something relaxing on Netflix. At the end of the day I always read around one hour before going to bed, and on a good day I might do 20min of yoga … but that is still a work in progress habit.
“ I find the best way to get a break is to just go outside and take a walk. It feels good to move my body after sitting all day and I find that when I’m walking, I’m focused on the world around me and not on my work.” 5 // Shillington Post
ADVICE // Tips for Designers
WORDS AND ARTWORK BY ANDY JUDD LETTERING BY CATHY SISON
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ADVICE // Tips for Designers
We’ve all been there: you’re happily working away, designing, writing, painting and then BAM! It’s gone. You’ve lost your creative mojo and you just don’t know where to go from there. Creative block is any creative’s worst nightmare, but I’ve developed some ways to get myself out of the rut.
Play It By Ear
Have a Rummage
A major part of my practice is design by play. So, you’ll always find me playing around with this and that whenever I’m designing. Though, play is also a great way of smashing through your creative block.
When creative block strikes, I love a rummage in a vintage or craft store. You can find some amazing bygone pieces of pure joy. Whether it is a old milk bottle, a rusty sign, a vintage matchbox or a crazy unique painting by an unknown artist that never got the attention they deserve. It’s a great source of inspiration and finding a gem can immediately spark up your imagination.
The process of creative play gets rid any negative thoughts. There’s no more ‘Is this good enough?’ or ‘Will they like this?’ Play comes from a pure and innocent place that we all have. Just tap into your inner creative child and let your mind run free! Grab The Nearest Thing Running on from that, use whatever is in front of you to create some experiments. Do a charcoal rubbing over a drain cover, make some ink marks with a toothbrush or create a collage out of those magazines gathering dust in a corner. You never know, it could make it into your everyday work. For example, I was struggling to make a design work—the marks I had made were looking too flat and had no impact. I got to that point where I just didn’t know what to do. Then, I was at home putting off a DIY job and I looked at my tool box and saw black electric tape. One thing led to another and I started to play with the tape. The marks all of sudden had a life of their own and ended up playing a big role in the final design. Embrace The Awkward I run Left But Not Right, a left-handed drawing event and Instagram account, because I can’t draw to save my life. But, for some reason, the more I used my left hand and drawing badly I started enjoying it. It was a great way of getting out my comfort zone and I found it a really useful way to switch off from my design work and do something just for me. It also helped me overcome creative block as I learnt not to worry too much about the outcome. I’m not saying you have to start drawing with the wrong hand, but make yourself feel uncomfortable or take part in something you never thought you would. It’s a great way of making yourself feel comfortable in your day-to-day.
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Be a Keen Bean Have a niggling interest in something? Great! Do some research in to some weirdness and you’ll find a whole world of inspiration. The London Underground? Yep, that will work. A love for heavy metal but also a passion for pop music? That will absolutely work. Snake, that game on old Nokia phones? Of course! In fact, these are all niche interests of mine that I’ve used to inspire my work. Right now, I love Fruit Stickers who are making amazing prints using those stickers you find in your weekly shop. Just because I’ve always had a thing about the stickers you find on fruit and veg, and their seemingly endless designs. Stop, Collaborate and Listen Finally, another way to get over your creative block is to check out what other people are doing. It’s important to look at blogs, social media and what other designers are up to. Though, don’t get swept up in Imposter Syndrome—everyone gets creative block, even designers at the top of their game. Just appreciate other designers that have a similar mantra as you and know if they can do it, then you definitely can too. Mine at the moment are Tina Touli and Patrick Thomas—they keep experimentation at the heart of everything they do. These are obviously just a few of my own ways to break through creative block. They may not necessarily work for you, but don’t let that get you down—I’m sure there’s a million and one ways to do it.
OPINION // Imposter Syndrome
HOW I DISCOVERED I HAD IMPOSTER SYNDROME WORDS AND ARTWORK BY CATHY SISON
Cathy Sison talks candidly about her experience with Imposter Syndrome and how she copes with it today. I remember studying art in high school and researching artists like Vincent van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Georgia O’Keeffe and Francisco Goya. I was immersed in their works but also discovering their mental health struggles and heartbreaking stories during their creative process. “I put my heart and my soul into my work and lost my mind in the process”—van Gogh It then dawned on me that I had no desire to become a “struggling artist”, an extreme realisation I know, but the idea didn’t appeal to me. Yet, I still wanted to be part of the creative world. I started off studying illustration and then soon after signed up to study graphic design. Which appeared like a less daunting path, or so it seemed...
AND HOW I’M DEALING WITH IT EVERY DAY AS A CREATIVE 8 // Shillington Post
OPINION // Imposter Syndrome
How to combat Imposter Syndrome 1. Talk it out As someone that would hold their feelings in a lot, I found that talking through the negative thoughts or doubt I was having a release. Opening up to other creatives was also helpful —there may be others who feel like imposters too. It’s better to have an open dialogue rather than harbour negative thoughts alone. 2. The power of affirmations
Graphic design to me was more about problem solving and getting my head around the programs. It was less about my own personal work—it took a long time to really build on my style and aesthetic. Fast forward five years, I had become a senior in-house designer and then started to transition into a junior art director. It was an exciting time and I had always felt anxious in every role I took. But, when you’re a junior or straight out of college, I thought it was quite normal to feel ‘inadequate’ or inexperienced, because I was. Yet, here I was five years in the industry and I suddenly felt this overwhelming insecurity of “I don’t belong here”. My projects started getting bigger and opportunities that I had dreamed about were finally coming into fruition. I had slowly built my calligraphy brand Kyashi Writes which I always thought was just a hobby, but it became more than I expected. In 2016, I got my first calligraphy job writing for Westfield shopping centre for Father’s Day. I was amongst three other calligraphers and I remember seeing their work and thinking “Why on earth am I here?” They’re going to see I’m not that great at all and I’ll be sent home. I had no idea what these thoughts or emotions were. I think I always felt insecure, not just in my work, but personally. I’ve always dealt with a sense of awkwardness, shyness and low confidence growing up, so I felt that this was just my normal inner voice. I got a big promotion at work and then I started to have these negative, doubtful thoughts come back but this time it started to get physical. My skin broke out in rashes and I felt a sense of depression and anxiety every morning that I was not used to. On top of that, I was suppressing all these feelings inside. I finally got the courage to confide in a close colleague about what I had been going through and she asked me if I had ever heard of the “Imposter Syndrome”? Me ... what? Google Google Google! After much heavy deep research, I found myself in the depths of psychology articles about the Imposter Syndrome. It can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. Imposters suffer from chronic self-doubt and sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. (Harvard Business Review, 2018)
Signs of Imposter Syndrome: • Self doubt. • An inability to realistically assess your competence skills. • Berating your performance. • Sabotaging your own success. • The feeling you will get ‘caught out’. • Telling yourself you are a fraud. There was a sense of relief knowing that what I was feeling made sense to someone else—that it was real and not all in my head. But, then I started to question how did this come about? And how do I treat it? I started to research more and more and found out that even people I admired suffered from Imposter Syndrome. It’s now 2020 and a lot has happened within my career and life. I can’t say that I don’t ever get the waves of uncertainty and insecurity, it’s definitely something that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. However, what I can control is how far I let it affect me. This means being self-aware of the red flags and doing small things to keep me at ease.
“ Imposters suffer from chronic self-doubt and sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.”
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At first I thought affirmations were cheesy but I realised how powerful they were. Starting the day being kinder to yourself really sets the tone of the day and any negative doubt seems to diminish. 3. Stop the comparison game This one was a hard one to adjust to. A lot of my Imposter Syndrome was rooted by comparing myself to other creatives and slowly building the narrative that I’m not good enough. In order for me to really stop comparing I had to let it go, stop following people on social media that triggered this feeling and start focusing on my own path. 4. Accept you’ll always be a WIP Something I have just realised whilst doing the inner work for Imposter Syndrome is letting go of being perfect or being of a certain standard. Knowing that I’ll make mistakes, both good and bad, but forever evolving and growing—not just as a creative but as a human.
INTERVIEW // Creative Plus Business
KEEPING ON TOP OF THINGS: CREATIVITY, WELLBEING AND BUSINESS WITH MONICA DAVIDSON, FOUNDER & DIRECTOR OF CREATIVE PLUS BUSINESS INTERVIEW BY AMY GARDNER
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INTERVIEW // Creative Plus Business
Monica Davidson is the Founder and Director of Creative Plus Business, an Australian-based social enterprise that educates creatives about business skills so they can find their feet in what can often feel like a minefield. A huge part of creating and sustaining a successful career in design is having a solid foundational understanding of best business practices. But, there is an unsung hero in the business game—the concept of wellbeing. We can all agree that finding the right balance is not always easy to do alone, especially amidst the global pandemic.
We caught up with Monica to talk about how our personal wellbeing is intrinsically connected to that of our businesses, how you can make setting short term goals the key to your success and why scheduling in regular Mental Health Days will keep both you and your business thriving and, importantly, sustainable. Before starting Creative Plus Business you worked as a self-employed writer, performer and filmmaker. What inspired you to start Creative Plus Business and how did your experiences as a freelancer influence your vision for the company from the offset? I’ve been freelancing since I was a teenager (hundreds of years ago) and everything I learned about business, I had to learn the hard way. I made lots of mistakes and, as I developed my own business skills, I started trying to help my friends and fellow creatives. After a while, I started running workshops and offering advice sessions, very informally and only as a side hustle to my film and writing work.
industries. I went back to university and obtained my Master’s degree in Screen Arts and Business so I had the right kind of qualification and Creative Plus Business was born in 2015. I really wanted it to be a one-stop-shop for any creative who needed business skills development because, had I been given that kind of support when I started my own creative business all those years ago, I would have been saved A LOT of hassle and heartache! What does the concept of wellbeing within the context of business mean to you? Creative practitioners need to take care of their mental health and emotional wellbeing, because creativity is a physical expression of the mind and heart. If our brains and bodies aren’t doing well, our creativity suffers. Add to that the stress and complication of running your own business or being freelance and wellbeing becomes of paramount importance. It’s at the centre of everything we do here, whether that’s running workshops and webinars or providing personalised advice for creative practitioners. If the mind and heart aren’t doing so well, creative business will always suffer.
I decided to close my production company in 2013, mostly so I could focus on a growing need for business skills development in the creative
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INTERVIEW // Monica Davidson
Particularly for recent graduates starting out in their careers, what are a few key business skills they should lock down from the beginning to build stable as well as sustainable businesses? I would suggest firstly becoming comfortable with the idea that you’re running a business. It may not feel like it and that may not be your goal, but to work professionally in a creative field means getting comfortable with the idea of freelancing, whether you like it or not. Freelancing is also known as being a ‘sole trader’ and it brings all the rights and responsibilities of business ownership, if on a small and personalised scale. Ignore that concept at your peril! Getting comfortable with business means educating yourself about all the things you don’t know. It means slowly but surely building up your confidence in topics like working out what to charge, invoicing, a little bit of marketing, client management and managing your own time. You’ll learn as you go and as you need more information, but you can also embrace self-employment and learn more about how to do it well—so you can enjoy all the freedom it can give you! Creative Plus Business has a huge amount of resources for creative professionals of every level. Can you tell us a little bit about the types of support you offer creative professionals? We educate creative people about business in every way we can think of. That includes workshops (we have 26 unique offerings!), which we run online and in person across Australia. We have free webinars at least once a month and a nifty online program called Deadlines, Dreams and Goals. We also offer confidential and personalised advisory services for creatives who want to speak with an expert about all the things they should be doing to get their creative business right. I have a team of 14 people, including 10 creative industries business specialists who are also practitioners. We’re all focused on helping creatives learn the basics of business in the most practical and fun ways possible. Creative Plus Business recently secured funding to carry on your free webinar series into 2021. Can you tell us more about the webinars and your plan for the series? Our series is called Creative Resilience and features panel-style interviews with a few fabulous creative professionals discussing their approach to their creativity, especially during Covid times, and how that impacts on their professional and financial lives. So far we’ve featured the broadcaster Benjamin Law, artist and designer Frida Las Vegas, actor/musician Joel Jackson and artist Jeff McCann. We have more coming up, so stay tuned! Out of the webinars, which have been your favourite so far and why? I Will Survive has been my favourite. That was our response to the Covid-19 crisis and it was very early. ‘Black Friday’ was 13th March and we ran that webinar on 25th March, 12 days later. Over 600 people have watched it so far and so many people have told us that it really helped them cope in those first few weeks when everything went mad. It’s still available to watch on our Crowdcast as well! We love that Creative Plus Business works to make the webinar series more accessible with Auslan interpretation. How did this come about and why? Also, can you share your thoughts on how more businesses can make their offerings more accessible? We value inclusion and diversity more than anything and that includes people living with accessibility issues. Delivering online made it easier for us to offer that support, so we always try to offer Auslan interpretation for live webinars and workshops, Closed Captions for our recordings and audio description for people with low eyesight. If you want to include everybody equally, I think it’s imperative
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INTERVIEW // Monica Davidson
to make sure that you offer as many different methods of access as possible. And, in all honesty—once a business makes that commitment, it’s not too hard to figure out the practicalities and find the money to make it happen. I think more businesses just need to make the commitment and step up. If Creative Plus Business can do it as a small social enterprise, anyone can! Networking is a huge part of making a creative career work. We love that networking is encouraged during the live webinar sessions. Alongside attending events like yours, what are some ways for new designers to generate strong networking connections in their industry, especially right now? Networking is hard right now, but it’s not impossible (and we no longer have to put up with gross sweaty handshakes, for which I am very grateful!) I would suggest joining as many online groups as you can, especially on Facebook and LinkedIn and making the time to stay in touch with people that you’ve already met in your career. Join lots of mailing lists from industry organisations so you can find out what’s happening. Accessing online education, webinars and workshops is also a great way to make connections with people. Even a simple coffee can help! I wrote a blog post on our website about that recently for more information. Can you suggest some resources for freelancers and creative professionals who are trying to not only maintain the solvency of their businesses right now, but also to move towards growth for the future? I am a huge fan of regular habits and processes to bring a business-like approach to your creative work. I would suggest two things to begin with— coming up with a clear and practical set of short-term goals (3 months is a good start) and instituting some kind of regular check-in with yourself to practising better business habits. We have two free webinars that people can access for more information: The Goal Matrix and Monday Morning Meeting. We all know that even though having a strong business is important, we must also consider our personal wellbeing. What are some fun or unexpected ways you like to keep a sense of balance and wellbeing in your life? I have regularly scheduled Mental Health Days and I urge all creative freelancers to do the same. I try and have one day per fortnight, one a month if we’re busy. On that day I don’t answer emails, or my phone or do any work. I just do whatever my mood dictates. Sometimes I lie in bed all day binging TV, other times I have lunch with friends or just play in my house. It’s always on a weekday so I feel especially privileged. It’s magic and I always feel rested and rejuvenated afterwards! I’m also an avid gym-goer and I will take any chance I can get to hang out with my hilarious family and drink too much wine. Do you have anything else coming up at Creative Plus Business that you would like to share? Surprise us! Yes! We have a super exciting online program launching called Creative Start-Up. It will be a free online course specifically designed for people who are completely new to creative freelancing, and it will cover all the basics in an online and accessible way. We can’t wait to bring it to the world. So stay tuned! A huge thank you to Monica for sharing so many incredible resources and insights with us on how to maintain, boost and diversify your business during challenging times. Go to creativeplusbusiness.com to find out more about their business resources and explore their webinar series.
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“ I have regularly scheduled Mental Health Days and I urge all creative freelancers to do the same. I try and have one day per fortnight, one a month if we’re busy. On that day I don’t answer emails, or my phone or do any work. I just do whatever my mood dictates.”
ADVICE // Lessons Learned
Making a mistake in your design career is something that happens to all of us. Seriously. These stumbles
along the way are more than just that though, they’re learning curves. To back this up, we’ve teamed up with Mistakes I’ve Made, a series of anonymous design confessions and other design education resources curated by Irish designer and Shillington Online Teacher Fiona Martin, to bring some blunders that five of our own Shillington teachers have made over the years.
My first job as a designer was for a local college. I sent out a press advert for basic Maths and English courses for adult learners. The publication had a print run of about 100,000. Instead of it saying “Improve your Maths and English skills”, I had typed “Improve you Maths and English skills”.
We’ve kept them all anonymous to protect identities and reputations—and, remember, we’re laughing with them, not at them.
Know your sh*t
A step too far I designed a ‘Guide to Cashmere Care’ mini fold-out brochure for a client. It was all going well but was then printed and folded incorrectly— so the brochure started on Step 4. Over 30,000 of them were sent directly to 48 of the brand’s retail stores for their point of sale stands.
Stuck in a rut
Mustn’t grumble I didn’t eat before a client presentation and every time there was a silence my stomach made a noise like a trapped cat. To hide my embarrassment, I spent the next hour very secretly tearing bits off the back page of our presentation document and swallowing them with water.
Oops, I did it again I put the wrong date on a huge billboard for a Britney Spears tour poster. It cost the studio £300,000 to reprint it.
It was my first job interview in a new city. They were a really well-renowned design studio so I was very nervous. I was on the escalator at the station about to head over there. As I was going up, I had my foot right at the base of the step while thinking “I wonder if my shoe could get stuck in there?” It definitely could. My shoe got stuck. In a total panic getting closer and closer to the top, I tried to take it out but couldn’t. The ragged metal teeth at the top of the escalator tore a big chunk off my shoe and the whole thing stopped. I went to the interview and tried my best to hide the tennis ball sized hole in shoe by standing with the other foot in front. I got away with it and got the job.
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ARTWORK BY FIONA MARTIN
RESOURCES // Apps for Designers
10 APPS FOR YOUR WELLBEING Whether you’re a newbie or have your own wellness practice, the power of a daily ritual is an important part of maintaining a sense of wellbeing, especially during times of stress. We’ve rounded up a list of ten apps to bring a dose of zen to your wellness routine.
1. For Meditation: Headspace
6. For Journaling: Mood App
Headspace has become one of the most popular apps on the scene. It’s the perfect tool to learn visualisation and meditation techniques to improve your focus and relieve stress.
Through the app, you’ll get access to their journaling tools to track your moods over time, along with access to community support. 7. For Mindfulness: Inscape
2. For De-Stressing: Happy Not Perfect Your go-to app when you’re feeling overwhelmed. After identifying your mood, you’re taken through a seven step process to help you feel recharged. 3. For Calmness: Ten Percent Happier Through guided meditations, talks and videos, you’ll gain practical skills you can apply to your daily life to bring a sense of calm. 4. For Daily Self-Care: Sanvello Using cognitive behavioral therapy techniques, you’ll be equipped with tools to manage whatever comes your way to feel empowered through their coaching and peer support. 5. For Sleep: Balance This meditation coach is personalized to your needs based on your answers to their daily prompts with the goal of bringing more awareness to each day and improve your sleep.
If you’re looking to make mindfulness a part of your routine, Inscape will help you improve focus and reduce stress through content that’s personalized to your daily goals. 8. For Fitness: Glo Take the studio to your home through online yoga, meditation and pilates classes, allowing you to tailor your practice to your schedule. 9. For Self-Improvement: Remente This holistic app is aimed at providing you with the tools to start living a healthier life. You’ll not only improve your focus, but also learn how to improve your work/life balance. 10. For Inspiration: Motivate You’ll discover inspiring speeches from popular speakers, watch motivational videos and have access to curated playlists to help you develop positive habits.
WORDS BY DINA SHIRIN 15 // Shillington Post
ARTWORK BY NIKITA PROKHOROV
INTERVIEW // Design Recovery
AN INTERVIEW WITH
Created and run by
What sparked the idea to start Design Recovery?
designers Rachel Cook
We were both attending a lot of design events and talks across the city and we noticed there were a lot of designers who were coming through and saying “I’m really struggling at the moment, this is really hard, I’m working all the time, falling out of love with it, lack of confidence”, etc. We realised from talking to people that it is something we have all been through. Though, there wasn’t really much of a talk event about mental health, and people didn’t feel comfortable getting up and talking about it.
and Jordan Yates, Design Recovery is a free, all-inclusive event which acts as
numerous events—in person and online—throughout
So in partnership with Design Wellness, a launch company for therapists and counsellors, we started to discuss creating an event that talks about and tackles mental health. We were happy to take this on as event hosts and it’s a really nice partnership. With every event we have now, Design Wellness will point us in the direction of a therapist.
Manchester where speakers talk about mental
So you have therapists at every event?
a safe space for people to open up and talk about their mental health. After starting in 2019, it has held
wellbeing and how to nurture it.
Yes. We have therapists available to speak to on the night and also contact at a later date if people want to. Therapists will speak about their process at our events and, along with other speakers who we have found, it has opened people up to talking about mental health. They realise “Oh! Having therapy isn’t a taboo, it doesn’t sound as scary”.
INTERVIEW BY NICK SMITH ARTWORK BY RACHEL COOK
We always want the event spaces to be cosy and comfortable. If at any point anyone feels uncomfortable or want a breather, we ensure there is a space for people to go to if they need. What do you want to achieve with Design Recovery? Our biggest aim with Design Recovery is to get people talking more, whether that’s to us—which we’re not expecting—or to their parents or people around them. That’s basically our biggest goal. We’re both in the creative industry, and we’ve both gone through our own struggles with mental health and our confidence in design and the industry, because it can be a really tough one to be in. We want people to be able to speak the same way we do openly to a wider community. It’s about making mental health seem less of an alien subject, not taboo. We want people to feel like this is a space where they can talk openly if they wish to admit that “I’ve really struggled with design, art or my journey”.
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INTERVIEW // Design Recovery
Is it tailored solely towards the design industry? Our network is primarily creative, but it is all inclusive, so anyone can come along or speak. There’s a lot of other mental health resources for a variety of industries but I don’t think the creative industry is represented well. Especially considering that the industry has one of the highest levels of mental health issues. So, it’s important that it resonates with a lot of creatives but we would never tell somebody who’s not part of the industry they can’t attend. What experiences have you had with mental wellbeing as designers? We are called designers, but we are artists as well. We pour a lot of our personality and take pride in our work so when it gets cut down you can take it quite personally. When I was struggling with my mental health the most in my life, I was probably the least creative. I just remember thinking, “I’m broken”, “I can’t be creative” and I didn’t have the confidence in terms of where my career would go. So, in my head, it was like “what’s the point?” If I can’t be creative when I’m supposed to be expressing myself, I’m never gonna make it.
I just feel like that was such a harsh thing to tell myself because, actually, sometimes you need to rest, you need to breathe and you need to have a break. You also need to step away from social media and look after yourself and you will come back in with a completely fresh perspective. What has the response been to Design Recovery? Well firstly, we have been blown away at the absolute confidence when people do come to speak. The people who stand up are so strong, you can plainly see the confidence it gives the audience. We’ve had a few people come up to us and just say “this has given me the encouragement to go and speak with a friend or my parents” and that is incredible to hear, it’s something so important. The first event was also the first talk we’ve ever done publicly and the minute we got off stage, someone came to us and said “I’ve never admitted to this to anyone in my life. I’ve got depression. And, because of tonight, I’m going to go home and I’m going to tell my girlfriend”. It was then we just realised that Design Recovery is going to do something.
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INTERVIEW // Design Recovery
How can Design Recovery help combat this? We have seen some really strong renowned designers show some of their worst work, which is great because it shows a sense of vulnerability—that even the best designers have the same struggles. Imagine if Paula Scher shared some awful logos she had created. Everyone would applaud as it’s great to see some sort of reality and that even the masters are human. Design Recovery can be a place where we shout and scream about that what you are going through is what everyone else is actually going through as well. It’s not just you. It just seems like it’s opening up a much wider conversation already. It’s giving us more and more confidence with it each time. I just hope that we always manage to lift people’s spirits and give people confidence too. Any tips for people who are about to embark on a career in the creative industries on how to deal with their stress and wellbeing? No matter what stage you’re in, whether you’re a graduate, ten years into your career or a freelancer, you should always ask for help. Whether it’s your career or your mental health, by admitting that you’re vulnerable and you need some help, people will always be willing to help. What kind of speakers do you host? We have a real mix of speakers. We’ve had heads of agencies wanting to come and speak, we’ve had a lot of freelancers appear, students have presented too and they have all presented some very hardhitting information. So it covers the varying roles of a designer, whether you are a freelancer, work in a studio or a student. We’ve also had therapists and design psychologists come along and talk. So far all of our speakers have pretty much volunteered and, on the whole, they come to us because you know, it’s such a difficult topic to talk about but people are passionate about sharing their experience. You mentioned earlier about how many designers have similar issues with stress and their mental wellbeing. Can you elaborate on that? Over time we have categorised it into three types of designers. First, we have the ‘Busy Bee’—the designer that is constantly working 24/7, constantly feeling like they need to push things on social and keep up the hustle, when actually the quality of the work— as well as their state of mind—is compromised. Secondly is the ‘Inner Demon’—the sort of person saying ’I’m not good enough. I’ll never be good’. Essentially, people with Imposter Syndrome who compare themselves to other designers. Finally, there is the ‘Lone Soldier’—these are particularly freelancers who feel they just constantly have to be on the go and take everything on their own.
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If you try to do everything on your own all the time and work long hours, your work will suffer and you will reach burn out. You must be willing to have downtime. Also, if you are just starting your career, don’t put all the pressure on yourself to know everything. If you’re going in somewhere as a junior designer, agencies and businesses will know that, they know you’re just starting out. You’ll learn as you go and they will teach you what you need to know. When applying for jobs, it’s not all about your work either. It’s about you as a person too. Don’t put all your pressure on just your portfolio. It’s about you as a person and how you will fit in with a team. Studios and companies want someone who’s a team player— you don’t want a team full of amazingly talented people that don’t get on. I truly believe that if you do feel like you’re in a negative position in your company, because you’ve got mental health conditions, it’s really not the right company for you. Or the company need to reconsider their structure because I don’t think, going forward, anyone should feel like they can’t express themselves.
INTERVIEW // Design Recovery
“ No matter what stage you’re in, whether you’re a graduate, ten years into your career or a freelancer, you should always ask for help.” Will the current global pandemic impact the way designers work? Hopefully there will be a better balance. We are already seeing that working from home works well and that allows people to be more flexible without impacting productivity. In fact, people are becoming more productive. Even the stress of fitting in private matters (dentist appointments, walking the dog, etc.) becomes easier to manage as people are being more flexible with their time. The anxiety of such simple matters is actually reduced as day-to-day life is easier to manage.
We have plans to develop a podcast to go alongside the live and online talks. A lot of people can’t come to our events as tickets sell out very quick, so we plan to bring the speakers back in for a podcast and just talk through their presentation with them. We’d also like to make Design Recovery a resource library for mental wellbeing. Keep an eye on Design Recovery’s Instagram @designrecovery for all their upcoming events. Or, if you want to reach out to them directly, drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What are your plans for the future of Design Recovery ? During lockdown we hosted a live event for up to 500 people and the response was amazing! We had the chat feature on Zoom and suddenly all of our speakers were getting all these amazing live comments—we’ve never been able to facilitate that in a live event before. We were literally watching it come in and everyone was just so nice about each other and the speakers. It became a lot more interactive as we introduced a Q&A session too.
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INSPIRATION // Industry Practices for Wellbeing
INDUSTRY PRACTICES FOR
The ways in which the practice of design intersects with that of wellbeing are as unique as each discipline. The concept of wellbeing is not simply a spiritual or esoteric practice. It is a very real and rigorous ideal for finding balance, health and stability in one’s life and creative practice. Following this logic, wellbeing is as much a practice of the mind as it is for life. When we see it as a throughline in creative practice, it offers a way to integrate and balance the relationship between one’s business, culture and community.
WORDS BY AMY GARDNER ARTWORK BY KIM MELVIN
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INSPIRATION // Industry Practices for Wellbeing
There are many incredible creative organisations and individuals whose practices offer excellent examples of what can happen when the concepts of wellbeing meet creativity and design. The creative professionals we would like to introduce you to are all working with and for their communities from the desire to move towards a paradigm shift. Read on to learn a little more about the variety and depth of practice that occurs when great design joins forces with the culturally stimulating concept of wellbeing. Naj Austin Naj Austin is the founder and CEO of Somewhere Good and Ethel’s Club, two social enterprises centering on people of colour through a focus on art, community and culture. Ethel’s Club is an online and in person social and wellness club, with the brand ethos of “For Us, By Us”. The organisation’s work focuses on celebrating and bringing together BIPOC through events, workshops and social initiatives. To continue this cultural renaissance with people of colour at the forefront, Naj developed and launched Somewhere Good—an alternative social media platform specifically for championing the work of Black and Brown creatives. Andy Wright Finding balance in your work day as a designer can often feel like a juggling act of competing priorities and that’s where Andy Wright, one of Australia’s design heavyweights, comes in. He’s been making waves with three unique projects that focus on wellbeing. Streamtime is a project management software which encourages healthier creative businesses. The program can cater and adapt to the particular user, offering a fully integrated platform to manage all your business needs. Never Not Creative is a community organisation and podcast that focuses on the subject of wellbeing. With a focus on foregrounding community and conversation, NNC works to improve the wellbeing of everyone working in the creative industries.
Need help defeating procrastination and becoming a veritable Jedi master of productivity? We all know a little accountability goes a long way and Side Project Sessions steps up to the plate every time. The methodology is the brainchild of Madeline Dore and aims to help people carve out space and time for those projects, big or small, that they have been putting off. Initially started as an events series, SPS has adapted into a shared methodology, assisting people to make the time and commit to their projects.
Sabrina Dorsainvil is a civic designer, artist and illustrator who works as Account Director of Civic Design, in the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. Her vast practice, ranging from playful drawings and public art to strategic design and urban development projects, delves into complex issues such as housing, urban design and human rights, responding creatively to strengthen and initiate connection within communities.
Not satisfied to stop there, Madeleine produces several podcasts set to switch up your mindset by connecting you with how other creatives are finding their way through the minefield of everyday creative practice. In the Routines and Ruts podcast, she interviews creatives about the ups and downs of living a creative life, normalising the experiences and offering a touchstone for anyone who might need some relatable content. Theo + Theo Centring human-centred design, Theo + Theo is a future-focused brand innovation and design studio supporting organisations to develop innovative products and services for a positive social impact. A project which offers a perfect example of their innovative approach is the development of Cora, an empathetic AI for post-injury psychological first aid which the Theo + Theo team developed for TAL, a leading Australian insurance specialist. Developed with a foundation in community-based support, the Cora platform guides people through their recovery journey, following an integrated back-tohealth program.
Ruby Allegra Ruby is an artist who works predominantly in communicating their lived experience as a queer, gender fluid, disabled person. Their work offers a smorgasbord of colour, wit and humour, infused with a no-fucks given, vibrant creative approach to sharing their story and those within their community through art and design. Lucy Simpson Last but certainly not least, designer and Yuwaalaraay woman Lucy highlights the history and story of her country and people. A transdisciplinary designer, artist and maker, Lucy founded her company Gaawaa Miyay in 2009. Her creative process led design practice is focused on creating spaces, branding and experiences which speak to country, cultural memory and notions of exchange.
Jocelyn K. Glei Jocelyn is the host of Hurry Slowly podcast and creator of unique online courses like RESET, focused on guiding people towards better practices around work and life. Overall Jocelyn works to help people find creativity and meaning in their everyday lives. Bisa Butler
Last in this mighty trifecta, Mentally Healthy is a biennial industry survey investigating changes within the design industry, with a focus on mental health. Following the initial 2018 findings, Never Not Creative and UnLtd joined forces to launch the Mentally Healthy Change Group, working to approach and overcome mental health issues in the design industry.
Her 2019 mural Allston, I really love you!, was created in collaboration with DEAF Inc., the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and the Massachusetts State Association of the Deaf. This community-focused project invites locals to connect, encouraging a celebration of diversity and the local deaf community in Allston, the neighbourhood of Boston in which the mural was installed.
Bisa’s incredible quilted portraits blend the modalities of craft and fine art to celebrate and canonise the rich depth of Black life, cultural identity and history in America. Here, wellbeing is cultivated with story and creative mastery, to provide greater representation and empowerment of African American communities.
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While this is by no means a comprehensive list, we hope you enjoyed our tasting menu of change makers and culture shakers who are bringing the mighty worlds of art, design and wellbeing together in their practices.
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DARSH SENEVIRATNE @darsh.work
Darsh Seneviratne is a graphic designer with a background in fine art who studied part-time in Sydney. He is interested in creating visual identity systems, posters, publications and brand campaigns for freelance clients.
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NNEKA NJOKU @by_nneka
Nneka Njoku is a Nigerian-born multidisciplinary designer and artist who studied part-time in New York. She has a background working as a staff writer for the arts platform BlacQurl and supporting the communications for the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. As a designer, she ignites introspection through her work and connects people from different cultures with an approach that is playful, curious and empowering.
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KATIE VICARY @katiev_icary
Katie Vicary is a Londonbased graphic designer who graduated from our part-time course. With a background in both advertising and translation and a degree in modern languages, she made the transition after realising design is where she truly belongs. Her work draws on personal illustration and printmaking and she loves getting to grips with branding and packaging.
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INSPIRATION // A New Way to Work
MIXING UP WORK SCHEDULES
THE NEW 9 TO 5:
While alternatives to the old school presentee-ism of the 9-5 office culture have been making news lately, for many organisations these notions were outlandish until recently. Of course, for creatives or designers, some of these approaches to work have been the norm for a long time. So, when the world suddenly turned upside down, many companies were forced to make these unique work culture alternatives their new reality.
FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
WORDS BY AMY GARDNER
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INSPIRATION // A New Way to Work
The Early Start Are you an early riser? This one is for you. The Early Start initiative is certainly made for the early birds among us, rather than the night owls. However, starting your work day early—say at 7am for a cheeky 3pm finish—can offer you the chance to take advantage of the most productive and lucid hours of your waking day. Imagine—two hours of uninterrupted productivity before the day kicks off “for real”. In this article, we invite you to take a short stroll with us through some of the different ways businesses and individuals are shaking off the shackles of the workplace status quo by integrating these alternative cultural formats. Working from Home/ Remote Work Before Covid barrelled through the world, most companies sat somewhere between somewhat reluctant to vehemently opposed to the concept of their staff working in a remote setting. Not that we need to remind you, but following the strict lockdowns induced by the pandemic, our collective and essential transition into working from home— while at first a slight culture shock—turned out to be hugely successful. The benefits were across the board, from office communications becoming more efficient, meetings more effective and using your time more productively. Following this, several organisations— including, most prominently, tech giant Google— have extended their employee’s right to work from home on into this year. This not only allows teams the ability to better plan for the future, but also to continue to produce great work from the comfort of their own homes.
Another sneaky advantage may be, if you’re into it, that research has shown that managers have a little bit of a bias for those early risers. They see them as more productive and to be more conscientious team players. And last but not least, either side of the coin, you miss the rush hour commute. Which sounds like a win to us! The 9 Day Fortnight
The Five Hour Work Day
The 9 day fortnight is an initiative some organisations are taking with their full- time staff, which offers the opportunity to take one day off every fortnight while maintaining full-time hours and responsibilities otherwise.
What if we told you you could work five hours a day and still get the same work done? Sounds impossible? In reality, this magic equation comes down to being a guru of time management. Digital marketer Felicia C. Sullivan offers up her experience with this practice to show how she tuned up her usual eight hour work grind into an efficient daily five hour boom of productivity. Firstly, she suggests you track the way you work currently, looking for the attention sinkholes and ways you waste time. Once you’ve got a sense of when and how you work best, it’s time to create a weekly time block, where you break down your tasks into clear time blocks.
One design studio putting this approach into action is Accept and Proceed, a London-based design studio shaking things up. Their team takes every other Friday off to delve into new worlds and bring back fresh, unexpected ideas and visions. In this way, the company is able to support the creative energy of their team and offer their clients more radical creative solutions. So maybe it’s time you ask yourself, is this what I need to bring the spice back into my work?
The 4 Day Work Week The 4 day work week offers something many of us dream of, 4 days of work and a 3 day weekend. Sounds dreamy right? The concept was originally road-tested by a New Zealand company called Perpetual Guardian in 2018. The company reported an increase both in profitability and overall revenue, so have continued the initiative on as part of the regular workings of the business. Another organisation that saw incredible results was Microsoft Japan. After their staff cut back to 4 days without losing their full-time salary, the proof was in the pudding when the company reported a massive productivity boost of 40 percent.
Now you have your beginning, you need some secret weapons. From using your Sundays as the time you gather inspiration and mood boards, all the way to employing the Hemingway Method—which means leaving your work in the middle when it’s right in the flow. There are many tricks to using your time more wisely, so you can carve back some of that thing we are all so poor of: time. Lastly, a non-negotiable and something we heartily agree with for this method is Sullivan’s proposed “thinking and planning walks”. Not only a way to get our mind and body up and active in the early morning, you are also allowing yourself precious active downtime to reflect, get stoked and find inspiration before jumping right into making the magic happen. These are obviously just a few of the ways you could shake things up at work. There’s a little something for everyone, with every option offering a unique change that could offer the magic you need right now. If you’re ready to shift gears and shake off the work cobwebs, there’s no better time to bring long lasting and unprecedented growth and creativity to your work game with one of these unique approaches to the traditional work setting.
Overall, while the applicability may differ by industry and organisation, those companies taking on this new reduced working week now house staff who are reportedly happier, more creative and approaching their workloads with greater gusto, all of which are yielding awesome results. Who knew having more free time would be so good for business?
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RESOURCE // Mental Health Support
THE IMPORTANCE OF POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH WORDS BY CLAY ALLISON
Mental health is a part of us all, there’s no dispute in that. It doesn’t apply to a certain group of people, it’s a part of us in our everyday lives—just like our arms or our legs. To quote yoga pioneer B.K.S. Iyengar, “Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit”.
If you need any extra help or support, here are some amazing charities and organisations in each of our campus countries that can help with mental health issues:
The sooner we all realise that we need to treat our mental health just as we do our physical health—the world will be a better place, right?
• Lifeline is a long-standing 24/7 mental health hotline for anyone who needs support. It is also a suicide prevention hotline. They can be reached on 13 11 14.
• Samaritans aims to provide emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope or at risk of suicide. They can be contacted 24/7 365 days a year on 116 123.
Whilst you might eat a carrot to make you see in the dark or spinach to get big Popeye muscles—there are so many measures we can take to improve our mental health. Though, we either tend to overlook or ignore these entirely, in turn pushing them under the surface. You might want to build more activity into your daily routine, do something you really enjoy more, practice breathing exercises or yoga, change your diet, but the main thing to remember is to speak to somebody. Reach out to a friend, a trusted colleague or mentor—remember that being vulnerable is the first hurdle. It maybe the hardest to overcome but it is the most powerful tool to help you through your mental health issues. It’s important someone that understands and knows about Mental Health is able to signpost you in the right direction, without feeling responsible and under pressure to provide a solution. Last year, myself, as Shillington UK’s Experience Manager, alongside Andy Judd, Head UK, and Nick Smith, Senior Full-Time Teacher, undertook a Mental Health First Aid course. We were able to learn about the benefits of positive mental health, but also to be able to notice signs of mental ill health. You can then have a profound effect on somebody by openly acknowledging your awareness of their distress, expressing your concern and willingness to help them explore solutions. One of the main techniques we were taught about, which has been incredibly useful—is the ALGEE technique: A—Approach, assess and assist with any crisis. L—Listen and communicate non-judgementally. G—Give support and information. E—Encourage appropriate professional help. E—Encourage other support. A world where we can all recognise warning signs of mental ill health, offer a hand of support and the chance to talk is the world we all want to live in. We just need to make sure we’re aware of how to find out what they are.
• Head Space is a youth mental health service providing tailored and holistic mental health support to 12—25 year olds. • Beyond Blue provides information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live. They can be reached on 1300 22 4636. • Mentally Healthy tackles the mental health issues affecting the media, marketing and creative industry.
• The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against suicide. Every week 125 people in the UK take their own lives. And 75% of all UK suicides are male. CALM exists to change this. You can call them on 0800 58 58 58. • Switchboard is a LGBT+ helpline. They are a safe space for anyone to discuss anything, including sexuality, gender identity, sexual health and emotional wellbeing. They can be reached on 0300 330 0630.
United States • T he American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a national charity that supports research and care, helping to understand the causes of suicide and provide support. • The Trevor Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQ youth through research, education and crisis intervention. • Mental Health America promotes mental health as a critical part of overall wellness and addresses the needs of those living with mental illness through advocacy, peer support and outreach. • HelpGuide is an online organization dedicated to helping people help and empower themselves. You can discover information about health and wellness topics and HelpGuide equips you with basic information to start living well.
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• A nxiety UK is a charity for those affected by anxiety, stress and anxiety based depression. Whether you have anxiety, stress, anxiety-based depression or a phobia that’s affecting your daily life, they’re ready to help you. Their helpline is 03444 775 774. • The Mental Health Foundation is a charity who want to promote good mental health for all and they want help people understand, protect and sustain their mental health. Their website is full of amazing resources to help. • Beat is the UK’s eating disorder charity. Their mission is to end the pain and suffering caused by eating disorders. They have some fantastic resources and helplines on their website.
RESOURCE // Mental Health Support
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