Shop Talk: Home Work Vol. 1 - Colin Williams



The global health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has overturned every moment and corner of our day-to-day lives. In this adapted micro-series, Shop Talk: Home Work, we turn to our network of friends, colleagues and collaborators for comfort and community, and discuss how they’re adapting to work and life as designers in this unprecedented era of uncertainty.

In our first installation of this micro-series, we catch up with Colin Williams, a product designer on our team here at Rich Brilliant Willing. Over a Google Hangout on a recent afternoon, we spoke with Colin to ask how he’s adjusting to the ongoing closures at our studio and throughout New York City, making do with his home office setup in his Brooklyn apartment—and keeping sane in the company of three housemates.

Colin Williams

Product Designer | RBW

Colin Williams was born in Toronto, Canada and grew up in Savannah, GA. He joined RBW in 2017 after completing a BFA of Industrial Design at the Rhode Island School of Design. He's interested in emerging technologies, the creative process, and sustainability.

Can you describe your role at the studio, and how you’ve been adjusting your typical day-to-day now, with the ongoing closures?

I work as one of two product designers at the studio, which can mean working on different things on different days—there’s really no one typical day, which keeps things interesting. Depending on where we are in a project, it might be prototyping, making models and sketching; or working on the computer to model some of those ideas into digital space, then 3D-printing them to bring them back into physical space, fitting together parts and working with other team members to get them a range of assets.

It’s sort of a blessing that, right now, for the projects I’m leading at the moment, I’m at a stage in the process where I’m not necessarily using a whole bunch of physical prototypes—it’s mostly digital back-and-forth right now with the vendors. And also, with this new cloud-based modeling platform, Onshape, that we’ve adopted in the past couple months, we don’t actually need a lot of processing power to run it on our own computers. It has helped keep our design process agile. I think that the biggest difference in now having to work remotely, and which is something that maybe I didn’t anticipate, is just how much can happen when you have your coworkers around you and at your disposal.

Have you found ways to fill that space of social proximity and informal gatherings?

It’s actually been really refreshing when we have video conferences going on, just to fill some kind of on-the-fly interaction. At the beginning of every week, I have a meeting directly with Theo and Mayela, our product manager, to set the expectations for the week and review the status of everything. And then beyond that, each morning we also touch base with everybody and regroup at the start of the day. Everyone on the development team gets to speak about what they’re working on. It just brings some levity and sense of community, so that the workday feels much more communal—even if we’re all working in physical isolation from one another—and for a larger purpose.

Colin's current home office setup

What’s your current WFH setup like—and if there were one or two pieces of equipment from the studio that you wish you could have brought home with you (however large or unfeasible)?

I feel pretty lucky in the sense that, because I like to work on my personal side-projects in my off-time, my home setup is more than just a laptop. If I could have anything with me, it’d probably be one of the 3D-printers, which are such a valuable resource and would be really helpful. That, and maybe my office chair. But I have mostly everything else that I need—though it is pretty tempting to just bike on over to the studio, since I live pretty close by.

Living in Brooklyn, in general, has a lot of stimuli, and so in my own space, I’ve wanted to make it as relaxing and muted as possible while still being very utilitarian. So far, I think it’s proven successful in my time at home. This past weekend, I spent quite a lot of time cleaning shared common areas, and found myself all of a sudden scrubbing the walls and doing paint touch-ups, that sort of thing.

I have three roommates, so luckily, it’s not just me at home, all by myself in this situation, and we’ve been getting out a bit, biking—or, trying to, I should say. Cabin fever is real, so biking has been the main outlet for exercise outside of home. We’ll also do movie nights together as roommates, because if any of us have it, we wouldn’t be able to avoid catching it from one another. We haven’t necessarily dropped the six-foot social distancing rule, but among the four of us, it’s kind of understood when we’re at home together and sharing everything. We each have our own space, but it’s been really nice to have a mini community here at the apartment, even if we occasionally go a bit stir-crazy.

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