Kat Zawadzki’s Work Diary
Each month we publish work diaries from creative women we admire. This month, London bound Kat Zawadzki gave us a look into her work day as a freelance Graphic Designer and Illustrator.
I’ve been visiting my family for a couple days, so this morning I wake up early to catch a ride back to Toronto, which has been my home for the past six years. My parents are dropping my aunt off at the airport, and then we’re driving into the city to pack up my apartment – I’m moving to London, UK in two months! Now that I’m done my second undergrad I’ll be living with my parents instead of “wasting” $2000 on crazy-high rent in the city. I’m really going to miss my neighborhood and my friends and being able to walk around everywhere, but the savings are worth it.
After running around the house collecting socks and snacks for the journey, I throw my laptop and iPad into a tote and hop into the car. I’m hoping to get some work done in the afternoon for a client – the project deadline isn’t for another couple of weeks, but I feel guilty for postponing my progress day after day. Everyone says this about themselves, but I may actually be the world’s #1 Procrastinator (you can quote me on that).
Phew. My parents are finally gone. I flop onto my bed and check my email – I’ve just received a contract from a new client for a job that starts tomorrow! I download and sign the form on my iPad, which is a piece of tech that has made life a lot easier for me. I use it to save books and documents, to sign forms, to practice calligraphy, and to illustrate. My favourite app is Procreate, which I’m sure comes as no surprise. I send myself a copy of the signed contract to be sure the changes have saved, and then forward it to the client.
After this morning spent packing, and a few days back home, I am looking and feeling gross. I turn on my monthly playlist on Spotify, hop in the shower, and get distracted by how dirty our shower has become. I get distracted a lot–especially when I’m working–which is why multitasking has become such a strong skill on my resume. I try to have 2-3 projects on the go so I can switch to something else if I get bored or frustrated. Apparently this now applies to showering as well... oh well.
The shower and I are finally clean!
I’ve packed away a lot of my closet already, so getting dressed is easy peasy. Today I put on some giant cargo pants, a giant black t-shirt, a giant belt, and some giant ugly sandals in record time. Then I go through my daily routine of applying sunscreen, Glossier Cloud Paint, and a lot of mascara. My hair needs to be trimmed but there’s nothing I can do about that right now – to save myself $70 I think I’ll just get my mom to cut it for me.
I make myself a bagel (and an extra half) and sit down in my cute-but-ugly armchair to eat lunch. When I’m working from home I like to watch YouTube videos while I eat as a sort of break, but always end up wasting well over an hour watching videos I don’t really need to watch. For reference, today I watched:
I started skateboarding a couple weeks ago and now all I want to do is watch more skate videos, but I stop myself before I go too deep down that particular YouTube rabbit hole. I have to get some work done…
But first, I need to clean. Cleaning for me is a form of productive procrastination, a thing I can do when I don’t feel like staring at my computer but want to accomplish something tangible. So I vacuum the apartment, wash the dishes, and take out the recycling and compost that has accumulated all to quickly over the week.
After pacing small indecisive laps around my apartment I decide to go for a walk, because the weather in Toronto is finally tolerable and it’s sunny out there! This walk also has a purpose: I have to deliver some application documents to the Ontario College of Teachers so I can officially become a registered high school teacher. I finished my placement and classes last week (yay!) so today is one of the first days in a while that isn’t filled with marking, lesson planning, or teen angst. I check that the forms are in my bag; throw my iPad in, too, just in case I decide to work at a coffee shop afterwards; and then head out.
Drop off complete! The experience was pleasant but also raised a lot of red flags in my lil pea brain. The recent budget cuts to education are a hot topic, especially for all of us graduating and trying to find work in the coming years – if you ask me, these cuts are deep and completely misaligned. As I approached the OCT building in Yorkville, sitting right beside Prada and Cartier, and rode up to the 14th floor, and looked at the interior all fancy and expensive, I thought, where are these funds coming from, hmm? Walking out of there I had to suppress a laugh as I considered the irony of it all.
I pass by a couple of my favourite work spots but can’t stand to be inside with the sun shining, so I continue my walk home.
At home I exchange my coat for a hoodie, drink a glass of water, and then spend 15 minutes arguing with myself about whether it would be better, mentally and physically, to skate or do work. While practicing my ollies last weekend I pinched a nerve in my back, and with a dance competition coming up next weekend I don’t think I should risk skating in case I aggravate it even more. But I want to skate!!! Hmm. I give myself a figurative slap on the wrist, grab my iPad (again) and head for the park to get some work done out in the sunshine.
After gazing wistfully into the skatepark on my walk, I have finally found the perfect bench. As soon as I sit down, though, the sun goes away. Just my luck. It’s a bit cold but I am determined to get at least a little bit of work done today, so I pull out my iPad and Apple pencil and get to sketching. I’m designing a digital guidebook for a freelance client, so I pull up a marked up copy of the document on my phone and take some notes about icons, imagery, content and deliverables. A couple sketches and doodles later and I have a much firmer grasp on the project.
I’ve made it far enough along that I want to start mocking up ideas on my computer, but I don’t have my laptop with me. Classic. It’s gotten even colder so instead of pretending to work I decide to pick up some groceries while I’m near the mall. As I walk I make a short grocery list in my iPhone notes. It’s funny – I always make notes on my phone but rarely look at them again after I make them. For me, writing lists is less about the list and more about the process of writing it down. It’s a way to make logical sense of all the little things swirling around in my brain. That being said, as I continue walking I add perogies, mushrooms and a cucumber to a list that also includes a line from an overheard conversation, baby names, and a random date.
Done at the store. Have all the produce guys who work here always been so cute?
Back at home I take off my shoes, put the groceries away, grab some water and sit down in my chair. Day after day I’ll rarely work in the same space – I keep up a constant rotation of couch, desk, chair, kitchen counter, café. I take some time to type up my notes for this diary and to transfer my Procreate sketches to my laptop. I also send some emails and messages on WhatsApp from my laptop, which is very convenient but can be awfully distracting. I think I may need to look into some of that blocking software for my computer.
My best friend/roommate is home! We haven’t seen each other all week, and it’s nice to catch up. We talk about her day at her new coding course, and I tell her about my new celeb crush and the new contract tomorrow. So much newness!
After eating some quick dinner, I lie down on my bed and go on my laptop to look at job postings in London. I primarily search on this cool site called The Dots, which is a sort of LinkedIn just for creatives. The most exciting part of the site is the project feature – you can share things you’ve worked on, credit those who you’ve collaborated with, and connect with people whose work you admire. The site also curates a selection of projects each week, and I’ve been featured twice! I’m always updating my profile, and this time around I change a single line of text in the hopes that this one change will bring about more changes in the form of long-term, well-paying employment abroad.
My mom calls and asks if I’ve received her most recent email. I tell her that I have, but that I didn’t read it. I already know what it’s about – every few months my mom asks me to design a poster for one community event or another in my hometown, and because I love her I always agree. Every time. Even if I have paying work to do (which I always do). We chat for five minutes before I hang up on her.
I set up an InDesign file for the poster and get to work laying out the copy. My mom has kindly created her own version on Word, so I use that as a guideline and just adjust the line and letter spacing until it looks decent. I also change the typeface, since she’d chosen Times New Roman *shudder*.
Send mom completed-final-poster.pdf
I head to the bathroom for my short evening routine of washing my face and brushing my teeth. While doing so I say a little prayer to the pimple gods to let the trio on my forehead disappear overnight, because I don’t want them stealing the show tomorrow when I meet the design team I’ll be working with.
I’m ready for bed, but don’t sleep for another 25 minutes because I’m waiting for someone to text me back. They don’t. So, eventually, I fall asleep.