The Brand Identity

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The Coronavirus has sent a shockwave through our industry, with studios, agencies and freelancers being forced to adapt their business and work remotely as we wait for the outbreak to subside.

For number eight in our WFH mini-series, we spoke to Emanuel, Mariane and David from Montreal-based studio July.

“Motivation comes naturally when you’re ‘surrounded’ by the right people.”

Emanuel Cohen, Founder, Creative Direction and Design

TBI: Have you got a daily routine going?

EC: I’m a very system-based person in general, in all aspects of life, and I’ve had a pretty steady work routine for a few years now, so I must admit, it wasn’t easy adapting and changing everything overnight! I went through a few short trial phases and different setups before finding the sweet spot, I even injured my back from working on a terrible chair for the first two weeks of confinement, but I’m good now, thanks to Herman. I actually find it fascinating to see how we adapt and get used to situations so easily, this has become the new ‘slower’ normal, although I do miss my team and the usual grind. I still go to the studio once a week to check up, get the mail (if any), and it has recently started feeling awkward walking in the office – a time capsule from where things were left off only a few weeks ago. 

TBI: Are you dressing up for work or keeping it cosy?

EC: This is a really important part for me, it usually dictates how I’ll feel for the rest of the day, so yes I do observe my morning routine and dress up like I normally would going to work. Dark blue jeans, from a collection of jeans that all look the same, but aren’t to me, a plain t-shirt (enough for home), and my watch – the workday starts when I put in on, and I take it off when ‘I get home’ (system-based). There’s a cosy outfit element that usually isn’t part of the deal: my Moroccan babouche, they force the sloppy-walking on me, which keeps the grounded ‘home’ vibe in the equation. Also, my 19 months daughter makes sure they stay on my feet, whenever I don’t have them on, she goes and finds them and throws them on the floor in front of me. That’s one great thing about this quarantine, I get to spend more with my family, and be part of a lot of invaluable moments I would normally completely miss out on. 

TBI: Whereabouts in your home do you like to work from?

EC: I have a ‘workshop’ room that I temporarily turned into the home office. It’s a very special space because it’s where all my interests and passions cross paths – looking passed the iMac, I see the tangible forms of design, books, typography, newspapers, antiques, random objects, an obsession for natural brass, leatherworking, tools and hand-work, fashion accessories, a vinyl collection (yes I used to DJ in a distant life), an old hot stamping machine and Snoopy figurines. Although this is a difficult period we’re going through, it has allowed me to gain perspective on many different levels, and more importantly, is has created the time, space and mindset (that is usually hard to achieve) to reflect and plan for what’s in store for the future of July. I’m particularly excited about this because ideas that had been kept aside for a while are now shaping up with more clarity.

TBI: How do you stay motivated while at home?

EC: I have work-related FOMO – I need to be working on something, if not it means there’s ‘no work’, which then makes me nervous. All kidding aside, we’re fortunate enough to have many ongoing projects that haven’t been affected by the pandemic. We also work a lot in the restaurant and hospitality businesses, which really have taken a hit these past few weeks, so we’ve made it our duty to be there for our partners, to help them reinvent themselves in creative ways – every day comes with a new strategy. We feel grateful to be working with people who value our work and input no matter the situation, I think a pandemic is a pretty damn good test! Motivation comes naturally when you’re ‘surrounded’ by the right people.

“I also like standing on a stool or anything mildly high when I feel overwhelmed, it somehow gives me perspective.”

Mariane Vaillancourt, Partner, Creative Direction and Strategy

TBI: Have you got a daily routine going?

MV: Yea actually. After about two weeks in I discovered I needed a way to separate work time from chill time, so I’ve been doing 20 min yoga before and after work. Helps with the breathing as well, which can be kinda rough during these times. Other than that, I can’t work in a cluttered space, so my home has never been so clean!

TBI: Are you dressing up for work or keeping it cosy?

MV: Well, I believe in the power of clothing — haha. Actually, I’ve studied and taught the socio-psychology of clothing. So yea, I keep dressing up because it keeps me focused and ‘in character’ if I may say. Although my work attire is pretty much always a white tee or shirt, and black pants or jeans. So nothing crazy here. 

TBI: Whereabouts in your home do you like to work from?

MV: I love my big white desk, and I like it cleared out from anything but my computer, notebook and pen. Other than that, I’m always chasing sunlight around 2 pm, in that leather and teak vintage chair I’ve found a few years ago in an antique shop. I also like standing on a stool or anything mildly high when I feel overwhelmed, it somehow gives me perspective.

TBI: How do you stay motivated while at home?

MV: Routine helps a lot (hello question 1), I try to plan fun stuff and easy goals. First, make the bed — then get dressed for yoga — wash my face — drink hot water with lemon — do yoga — shower — change into work clothes — make coffee and breakfast — video call July’s team to kick off the day — work — call a friend while having lunch —  work — say goodbye to co-workers — yoga — change into pyjama — call a friend (or mom) and have a glass of wine — make supper — chill (read, movie, talk to someone, play with the cat or the dog and such) — sleep. Routine aside, video calling with the team helps to keep us motivated and connected!

“Being reminded of the best of myself by my teammates has been the finest thing that’s kept me going.”

David Song, Art Director and Graphic Designer

TBI: Have you got a daily routine going?

DS: My routine is kind of brutal: I wake up, make myself some tea or coffee, skip breakfast and immediately attack what is planned for the day. Mornings are tough for me, it consists of me going into minimum operating requirement mode. I eventually pick up the pace along the day and by the afternoon/early evening I am fully lasered in. Actually, it is the same as how it was before the lockdown. I’m not a morning person.

TBI: Are you dressing up for work or keeping it cosy?

DS: Growing up as a first-generation immigrant in Montreal, it’s always been natural for me to mould into different kinds of settings and to adapt to shock. I tried dressing up normally for a week or two but I realised that wearing sweats was now the actual normal way to dress. To me, it felt pointless to continue an old behaviour that did not apply to my new reality. Staying at home for me became my new reality, the new ‘normal’. Besides that, I’ve grown attached to wearing a beanie when I never wore any kind of hats in the past. It gives me a sense of security and of organisation. One thing I really look forward to is getting a haircut.

TBI: Whereabouts in your home do you like to work from?

DS: I have two roommates who are also homebound so I work on my desk in my apartment’s bedroom. My desk is positioned directly in front of my window so I’m blessed by wonderful sunlight all day long. I leave my door open so I can hear my roommates’ whereabouts. The chaos of their voices, footsteps and of food being constantly cooked in the house makes me feel like I’m hustling. It reminds me of being in a busy coffee shop where you constantly hear broken but interesting bits of strangers conversations.

TBI: How do you stay motivated while at home?

DS: It hasn’t been the easiest part to adapt to, as I feel the need for a special place to go to do a specific activity. Working at home can be dissociating when you both work and sleep in the same room. It becomes the only place where all of your preoccupations are contained. I don’t want to call it a prison (or rather a mental prison?) but I really look forward to having a life outside of my room. However, I’m truly grateful that my teammates Mariane and Emanuel are there. Their joke exchanges in the team chat have kept the mood lighthearted.

It’s utterly important to feel like you still exist for other people or you forget about your own existence and what makes who you are. We need to see ourself reflected in others. Being reminded of the best of myself by my teammates has been the finest thing that’s kept me going.

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