As the COVID pandemic swept across the world, we all found ourselves in a situation we’d never imagined we would face. Seemingly overnight, we went from a busy, bustling, face-to-face world to staying in and trying to fit our entire lives into the confines of our homes.

For a look at how creators around the world were spending their time at home, we ran a community contest that asked designers to illustrate postcards showing how they’d been spending their time in quarantine. Each entry showcased its designer’s unique style as well as their resilience and creativity.

postcard that says "wish you were here"
Illustration by 99designs

The four contest winners weren’t alone in their sentiments during the pandemic. In our report, Design Without Borders: The Freelance Revolution, we spoke to more than 11,000 freelance creatives from 147 different countries who shared similar personal stories of living and working through the pandemic lockdowns.

Meet four designers from around the world. Take a look at the postcards they designed and their personal insights on living, working and designing through the COVID pandemic.

Jen Se, Bosnia and Herzegovina

illustration showing two people sitting at a table, a laptop between them
Postcard design by Jen Se

Jen Se dedicated her postcard to her brother, who lives in another country. Living in different countries meant Jen Se went more than a year without seeing her brother, driving her to reminisce about the last time they’d connected in person. During that last visit, the siblings caught up, played video games and had a great time.

Jen Se was far from the only designer who experienced emotional stress at not being able to be with the people she loves. Of the designers we interviewed, 23% said they struggled with feeling isolated from their peers. Depression, anxiety and difficulty focusing were also common experiences throughout the year.

For Jen Se and other designers, social media and video conferencing were a godsend during this isolating time.

In her postcard, she depicted herself speaking with her brother over video call, using two distinct color palettes to symbolize the physical distance between the figures seated beside each other.

The practice that kept me grounded was going to a country house with my loved ones, getting to know the world of plants and flowers and finding the patience again for the books I always wanted to read.
- Jen Se

She said that when the lockdown is over, she will definitely appreciate being able to go out and see friends in person again. During the pandemic, she had a few small opportunities to see friends and loved ones, and came to appreciate those opportunities in a new way when those were no longer a regular, unrestricted occurrence.

Illia Kolesnyk, Ukraine

Illia Kolesnyk’s quirky postcard design showcases his daily habits during quarantine, including interruptions from his begging cat. When he described the sense he set out to evoke in his design, he said the overall theme was “When will it finally end?”.

semi-flat illustration of a woman sitting at a laptop, typing with her toes while eating pie and fending off a cat
Postcard design by Illia Kolesnyk

Many of the designers who answered the survey wondered the same thing. They also wondered how they would find work-life balance now that they were working in their living spaces and living in their workspaces. This led to another big question—how important is a healthy work-life balance, and is more time with family worth potentially earning less?

For many, the answer was yes.

One designer from Brazil said, “My income decreased slightly, but it was my own choice. I’m spending less money and have the opportunity to spend time with my one-year-old baby boy”. Another responded with a similar sentiment, stating they would rather earn less and spend less than have to commute two hours each day and try to climb the corporate ladder.

In his postcard, Illia Kolesnyk gave us a no-holds-barred look at the work-from-home lifestyle. “For a good composition and for a full mood, I added a whining cat,” he said.

Creativity is not just a drawing process, it is a thinking process. We need to be inspired by everything around us—whether it’s light reflections in the room or a coffee stain on a napkin—and find in it something new.
- Illia Kolesnyk

He was also among the 50% of designers who found time to work on personal projects alongside working. He told us he loves to stay busy with creativity and that it’s his ritual for wellness.

Fitriandhita, Indonesia

Although all of our lives changed due to the pandemic, some of our lives changed more than others. According to Fitriandhita, her life didn’t change much at all. She continued working from home, accompanied by her cats and her family.

illustration of a woman sitting at a desk, drawing on a tablet while surrounded by objects, cats and a whale through the window
Postcard design by Fitriandhita
I still enjoy my time, every day. Because I’m here with my family, so everything will be fine.
- Fitriandhita

Fitriandhita shared that she found comfort in working with her loved ones close by. That wasn’t the case for all the designers we interviewed, though.

Twenty-one percent responded that adjusting to working with additional people in their workspaces, whether that was family, roommates or other household members, had a negative impact on their creative processes.

Not only that but 48% of designers said they took on additional childcare and homeschooling duties. Among that last category, 24% said they were working fewer hours because of their additional familial responsibilities.

But it wasn’t all negative. Despite the challenges of new work environments and more responsibilities, 43% of designers told us that working with others in their workspaces had a positive impact on their creative processes. And among the respondents with additional familial responsibilities, 48% told us that having to take on additional homeschooling and childcare duties had a positive impact on them.

Wherever we are, as long as our hearts and minds are calm and comfortable, and we are ourselves, we will be able to get through anything.
- Fitriandhita

For Fitriandhita, staying true to herself was a big part of staying optimistic. In her postcard, the whale represents a feeling of freedom and calmness.

Julius.Rendy, Indonesia

illustration of a designer working at a laptop, surrounded by chickens and egg crates
Postcard design by Julius.Rendy

Julius.Rendy is a seasoned pro with seven years of professional design experience under his belt. But for the bulk of those seven years, he enjoyed face-to-face interactions with his friends and coworkers. Now working from home, the most drastic change for him was to adjust to being alone, surrounded by crates full of eggs, engaging in an all-virtual social life.

Sketching and developing his creativity have been crucial for Julius.Rendy’s day-to-day life and state of mind. He even devoted time during the quarantine to trying new drawing techniques, experimenting with shapes, textures and live sketches.

Upskilling became a pastime for many, both designers and non-designers, during the lockdowns—in our survey, 81% of designers learned a new professional skill during the pandemic, up from 60% in 2019.

When the pandemic hit, my dream of building my own retouching studio came to a halt. It reminded me of my initial dream of being an illustrator, and so I became more courageous to explore and free my wild imagination.
- Julius.Rendy

Julius.Rendy wasn’t the only designer who had to put his goals on hold because of the pandemic. Of the new designers, 65% said their five-year plans changed because of the lockdown. Only 17% answered that they aim to be employed in-house, full time within five years, while 49% said their goal is to freelance full time.

Through the lockdowns, Julius.Rendy strived to stay optimistic.

My message to you: I hope this pandemic doesn’t discourage you from achieving your resolution this year.
- Julius.Rendy

He’s not the only one. Nearly every designer (98%) said they are optimistic about where the design industry is headed in the next ten years, and 63% are extremely confident about their future success.

Looking ahead to new perspectives, new experiences and new opportunities

Living through a lockdown changed all of us. No matter where you are in the world or the challenges you faced due to the COVID pandemic, you’re not the same person you were before the world shut down. And that’s a good thing. You’ve grown, you’ve developed new appreciations and perspectives and as the world moves forward, you’re moving forward with it.

Many designers shared that online connections with friends, loved ones and communities provided much-needed support. In fact, close to a quarter of respondents said they made new industry contacts in these online connections. Keep this with you as the world continues to recover and heal. We were all in it together, and now we’re all moving forward together.

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