“Without A Song Or A Dance What Are We?” *

During the first lockdown, I attempted to process my thoughts through regular ‘posts of positivity’ which I placed on my Instagram grid. This was mainly due to the sudden disappearance of all creative projects overnight. I had been working with a sports academy and was hoping to embark on a brochure design but of course, with no sporting events happening, no brochure was required in the end. As an independent designer, I am well used to the concept of not having a guaranteed income but pulling the rug from under our feet financially also takes it’s toll on ones creativity. There’s no room in your head to design anything, when all the other anxieties and pressures of Covid 19 are taking up residence and squeezing out the ability to let creativity breath. My design skills define me in many ways but there are often moments of self doubt about my ability to produce great work and be paid my worth. The posts of positivity allowed me to express in words all the things that fed the anxiety, but they didn’t really give me anything tangible to work on visually.

Admittedly, most mornings I awoke to such dark days that even getting out of bed was a monumental challenge in itself. Just how had we got here? What had gone so wrong that we seemed to have regressed far deeper than at the start of this nightmare last Spring. As the mornings lightened, then so would my mood but without some time at the mac, well I guess, I felt I was disappearing a little. I’ve always worked with a radio on, coming from that era of designers for which that was always a pre requisite in the studio. Perhaps now, the industry has become more silent. As most individuals seem to have pods plugged permanently into their ears, there is an insular work ethic ever present. Teams of bearded hipsters hot desk-ing over complex digital motion graphics has usurped the era of fun filled studios full of cut ’n paste, stinky magic markers and the daily pop quiz. There is a small resurge of designers exploring the traditional crafts of letterpress and ink on paper and reassuringly, I have encountered nerdish Instagram ‘lives’ with designers discussing vintage logo forms and the beauty of a well turned serif, but it’s all a little staid.

Having been trained typographically, I have never lost my love of type so I decided that without any pending projects, I could afford a little experimental time to explore just what I could do in illustrator without the boundaries of a brief. With the pandemic
literally stripping us of all life’s pleasures, everyone is feeling nostalgic. We cannot help but draw comfort from the dreamlike world of our ‘past lives’…when hugs were second nature and partying was legal!

So I sat with the radio on and set myself a task to design a small range of cards based on lyrics from some of my favourite records from my youth. Bowie came first, as I’d recently binged the fabulous Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes series. That iconic video
of Bowie in his Pierrot costume strolling along the beach with some well recognised ‘Blitz Kids’ just summed up ‘my era’. It’s easy to sound like your parents when you say, music today is not like it used to be, but the fact cannot be disputed. ..the late 70s
and 80s saw the most eclectic mix of genres from disco, soft soul and New Romantics to punk, Ska and even a mod revival.

I enjoyed re-visiting the records, took comfort in the heady nostalgia, downloaded font after font and experimented with colour. I looked to stage costumes, retro fashion, ageing pop acts and pop stars (some no longer with us!) and basically, reminded myself as to why I trained to be a designer in the first place. I have no desire to return to the 80’s but I hold it fast in my heart as ‘my time’ and I will never apologise for dancing round the hoover to ‘We are Family’ even when I am in my dotage. It’s not always healthy to live in the past and as a dedicated yogi, the moment, the present, is really the most engaged and recommended state to be in but it’s evident that we are all hankering now for a more immediate past. Just one year of Covid and it seems like normal living was a lifetime ago. I’ve loved designing the cards and it seems that others enjoy them too.  There are so many songs swimming round my head that I am sure to continue.

If they speak to you too, they can be purchased from my Etsy shop:

*Björn Ulvaeus | Benny Andersson