By Jenny Kimura, Collaborative Designer
As we in the publishing industry enter into a new year like no other, it’s worth taking a step back and considering how the events of the past year have changed our creative processes, and how COVID-19 has left its mark already on the year to come. While the publishing industry has thankfully been able to continue its operations—with many of our colleagues switching to a work-from-home lifestyle—there are key aspects to the industry that will never be the same: the book festivals and publishing conferences, book tours and end-of-year parties, networking and meetings and offices that have either ceased to exist or have been reformatted to a digital workflow.
But what impact, I wonder, will the COVID-19 pandemic have on the creative process, not just on the publishing industry, but on how creatives represent our world now that such a monumental shift has occurred?
Recently, I worked on a school brochure for a client to advertise a new yearly kindergarten program, and as I was choosing photographs to use, I stopped to wonder if the kids in the brochure should all be wearing masks, or if I should use only photos from the pre-pandemic time, in an effort to make the brochure evergreen, able to be used again and again. It was a question I eventually asked the client, but to me it posed deeper philosophical questions about being a creative in a pandemic world: If I am striving to show the world in my work as close to reality as possible, should my work reflect a COVID-influenced world? Should every person be wearing masks, standing six feet apart? Or do I adjust reality and show a world that is pre-pandemic, and pretend nothing extraordinary occurred this past year—that we don’t wear masks, that Times Square was full on New Year’s Eve, that subway cars are packed so tight, we can barely move?
If I was a contemporary fiction writer, crafting a workplace romance, would the nature of the two main characters’ meet-cute have to change? Would they meet over Zoom, fall in love over email exchanges, see each other for the first time from six feet apart? Or should we deny COVID-19 the ability to cast a shadow over our fictional escapes, and hope that in two years, or five, that 2020 will become a distant, if unpleasant, memory?
Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer, and I suspect each creative will have to ask themselves going forward what feels right for the work at hand.
So, tell me—all you creatives who read this—what do you think?
Jenny Kimura is a book designer by day…and also, a book designer by night. She has worked from home in Brooklyn for nine months now, and while she loves not having to commute to Manhattan every day, she misses going to bookstores and examining new books up close. Jenny works at a Big Five publishing house and is also a collaborative designer with Indigo: Editing, Design, and More. Her portfolio can be found at www.jennykimura.com.