Talking Shop is an interview series where we talk to freelancers about freelancing. In this interview, we talk to Collectif, co-founders of Collectif, an arts collective in southern Manitoba.
Who are you and what do you do?
Jon Dueck: I’m Jon, a graphic and web designer, and one half of Collectif, an independent design studio based in southern Manitoba.
Josiah Wiebe: And I’m Josiah, the other half. I also do a bit of design mixed with front-end development and a lot of project management work. We both have fulltime jobs, but work together on projects for Collectif nights and weekends, whenever we have time, really.
How did the idea for a studio come about?
Josiah: We met while working at a summer camp together, about 4 years ago. At the time, Jon was doing videography and we just started talking about the state of design and how it felt like there was this real need for better storytelling, particularly with video.
Jon: We did a video project together and that went pretty well, so we decided to make it official. We chose the name “Collectif” as a nod to Canada being bilingual and started making logos and websites for friends.
Is there any friction between the studio and your full-time roles?
Jon: I think just by the nature of having a full-time gig while also working on the side, it’s always a bit of a balancing act. Scheduling has definitely been the hardest. I can’t have clients meet me at my home, so we spend a lot of time working out of coffee shops or over lunch. Even though the work is important to us, it comes off like this is a side project for us.
Josiah: A lot of it comes down to setting expectations with the client. We make it clear that we are mostly unavailable during the day, and can’t really take on any rush jobs. Our timelines tend to be a bit longer for it. So far, clients have been pretty understanding.
What are some of the biggest challenges?
Josiah: When you’re doing two types of things, sometimes separating the headspace can be challenging.
“You have to almost shut off part of your brain when switching gears.”
When I’m at my day job, I have to turn off whatever I was working on until 11:00 PM the night before and focus on the task at hand.
Are there any benefits to this way of working?
Jon: Working in-house on one brand, I’ve found that I’ve been able to do a lot of deep work, while these smaller, quicker projects let me test out other ideas then bring the skills and lessons I learn from those back into my day job.
Josiah: Systems become a second nature. When you understand how a brand identity can work across different contexts, it’s easier to apply that to other projects, as well. It carries over.
What’s your ideal project?
Jon: We love working with new businesses who have no preconceived notions of how to build a brand identity or website. We get to educate them on our process, teach them how to give great feedback, and really shape those expectations from the beginning.
How do you educate clients on how to give great feedback?
Josiah: A common thing you hear is, “I don’t like this.”
“Educating clients on how to give great feedback involves teaching them to say why they don’t like it rather than just that they don’t.”
How does this make you feel? What about the color makes it feel too corporate? Prompting them to use more descriptors rather than feelings to define what they’d like to see changed.
Jon: It also comes back to expectations. Part of our contracts include a definition of what will make this a successful project. We focus on the goals from the beginning, so that when feedback comes back later, we can go back to those goals and see if they’re being addressed. And, of course, it’s a process that’s still evolving for us. We don’t have it down to a science, but we’re figuring it out.
Any plans to go full-time with the studio any time soon?
Josiah: Not at the moment. Since we have full-time jobs, we’re able to really focus on what we want Collectif to be before jumping into it and needing it to pay the rent. Right now, we’re taking things on a project by project basis, thinking critically about what it becomes.
Jon: There’s a really great creative community here in Manitoba, so we’d love to see this as an opportunity to work with other folks here. Collectif means collective, so a big part of this is making it more than itself and using it as a way for all of us to work together on projects.
You can visit Collectif’s website at collectif.co.