11th March 2021
On surviving lockdown and remote working with James, our Senior Designer.
by James H.
Meet James, our Senior Designer! He was the first remote hire at KOTA, back when we didn’t realise we’re all going to switch to working remotely.
James is a talented designer and art director specialising in interactive design and branding. He has spent over a decade working in big and small agencies, both full time and as a freelancer. He’s as comfortable solving complex UX problems for digital products as he is dreaming up surreal artwork for big brands. Besides that, James is the most athletic KOTA member, having run almost 150 km for our ‘Feel Good Feb’ 100 km team running challenge.
We asked James about his move from London to Bristol, remote working experience and surviving lockdown.
What do you think about working remotely with us? Did you find the onboarding process more difficult than usual?
Remote working was a must for me when I was searching for a new job. Very few companies were offering any guaranteed long term remote jobs, most if not all were only doing it temporarily while they waited for the Covid stuff to die down. So it was great to discover KOTA were ahead of the curve in this regard.
Onboarding was super simple, we’re a small team so I got to chat to everyone in no time. I’ve always preferred working in smaller agile teams as everyone actually wants to say hello and help you get up to speed. You just don’t find that atmosphere in larger companies. Obviously, you miss out on some level of ‘water cooler’ chat, but I’ve found working with a close-knit team means you get a pretty similar experience chatting over zoom anyway.
The first time we met James IRL.
I know I’ll always miss the Thursday beers after work with colleagues, but when you close your laptop at 5 pm and walk downstairs ready to start your evening rather than beginning a stressful commute… it’s hard to justify going back.
How did you manage to go almost 150km during our last month’s fitness challenge?
I promised myself at the beginning of the very first lockdown that I’d spend the time I normally spent commuting doing something beneficial. So I just changed my routine to go for a half-hour walk or jog every day before work. I start going stir crazy at lunch and have to get out again for another walk as well, so you clock up the miles pretty quick.
London vs Bristol?
Like most people that make the big move away from London, I miss the people but not the place. Really hard to consider going back after having more space, a calmer vibe and being closer to the countryside.
Plus I’m not really missing out on the best bits of City life as the restaurants, pubs and venues here are amazing. I might have slightly less choice on some fronts, but then I spend less time choosing and more time enjoying. (This is especially true when selecting take away on Deliveroo).
What’s keeping you sane during lockdowns?
Getting outside as much as possible. The summer lockdowns were easy in that regard, but the winter months were grim. A cosy old pub can make winter seem bearable so being stuck inside was hard.
So I just forced myself to go out no matter the weather. I’ve invested heavily in my middle-aged practical attire, nothing but fleeces and walking boots for me now.
Mental health +1 Fashion -100.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
The bar for web design gets raised higher every year. Some of the sites you regularly see on award sites have had massive teams involved for months and months. So when you get a smaller client expecting the same result for a fraction of the cost it’s often hard to explain why things aren’t possible.
So much is possible in code nowadays, it’s just that there’s no guarantee it can be built on a budget or without compromising page speed or reliability. This is especially true with some fancier 3D effects and animation.
At KOTA we pride ourselves on our creative process and like to push ideas as far as we can. So the hardest part is designing within the constraints of a budget and brief while still being as creative as possible.