CoviDiaries: Keepin’ On With Austin Dunbar of Durham Brand & Co.
In order to make the creative world feel a bit less lonely and a bit more connected in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve been publishing a new blog series—CoviDiaries—that brings us into the homes and minds of various designers, illustrators and other professionals, to see how they’re coping. Today’s installment comes from Austin Dunbar, founder of Durham Brand & Co.
Here we are, in Week 9 of what seems like the never-ending quarantine dream. The last time we were all in the studio, bickering and bantering, grabbing lunch with a table of eight or bellying up to a bar after work, seems like it was ages ago. In some ways, it’s insanity, in others, time has a weird way of redefining your work, your life, your why. As abrupt as normal everyday was pulled away, to me, there’s been some calm during this storm of isolation.
To be transparent, I live in the urban environs of Covington, KY, 11 blocks south of the Ohio River and downtown Cincinnati. I personally don’t know anyone who’s lost a loved one or has been impacted by the terminal thief that is COVID-19. I’m one of the lucky ones. That said, the place I love the most, at its core, breathes a thriving entrepreneurial spirit that’s been suffocated for a longer period than we all would’ve guessed. Cultural institutions like bars and breweries, restaurants and retail are almost frozen in time, or in better cases, operating at a pace that’s stunted. Forget the masks, it’s more strange to see your everyday reality living with the pause button on.
I own a design studio called Durham Brand & Co. in the city where I work, eat, play and raise my family. For the past six-plus years, the studio has absolutely consumed me. For better or worse. During this mandatory staycation, I’ve been able to step back and really start to see the forest for the trees—learning to balance the heaviest weights of work and life. Instead of designing and capitalizing on some digi-post/ers that say ‘Stay 6’ Back Buddy’ or something kitschy for a double-tap, I’ve really unplugged a bit and used this time to recharge with my family and focus on other fulfilling tasks that feed my creative side. Cooking, gardening, interior and exterior house projects—all things I love just as much as graphic design, but have little time during our old normal way of life. Our home dates back 150 years and there’s always new makeup needed for this old girl.
There have been some great moments, and a few crazy times while staying safe at home. My youngest of three daughters turned 6 mid-April and I turned 33 right on the cusp of the shutdown. I’ve been Zoomin’ my face off with pals I rarely see, and we’ve spent more time as a family than we have in the past eight years. Somehow though during this isolated time I’ve been electrocuted, had a candle blow up in my face, and realized I’m not educated enough for homeschooling. The studio has been busy and I can’t thank everyone enough who works at Durham for their dedication to work harder when the going gets tough. Amidst my personal day-to-day of being stay-at-home-work-hubs-dad, operating a design studio, managing employees, client meetings and shipping out new work every other day, we’ve also gutted the studio and are building a completely new space that will open in the coming months.
With all that seems lost and paused for now, there’s so much more to look forward to with more clarity and sense of purpose, person, and place when we return to our old, new, normal. I look forward to seeing that day come for us all.