Pivot Stories is a new series where we explore how various individuals, organizations and businesses are all creatively adapting to life during a pandemic. We know we are all navigating through COVID-19 a little differently and that’s okay. We want to share your pivot stories and your hopes for a better world on the other side.
Terence Tang is a lettering artist and designer from Houston, Texas. He helps brands communicate with their audiences via impactful murals, custom lettering, and bold merchandise design. He also curates an online shop of his own art-based lifestyle products.
Terence was also recently featured in our AAPI Heritage Month series.
How has your daily life changed since mid-March?
Before Covid, I’d usually have about 6 hours of the day to myself with my wife, Jen, at work and both kids at school. I’m now realizing that as an introvert that was HUGE for me. Now, my only alone time is late at night for an hour or two when everyone is asleep or if I need to make a quick grocery run. The other 85% of the day is watching our two kids (and attempting to teach them something here and there) while Jen works remotely from a secluded room. It’s basically a daily struggle to maintain my patience and manage my stress level.
What’s been a big pivot in how you approach your life and/or work?
Most of my projects have been cancelled or postponed, so it’s sort of a blessing in disguise that I have the time to watch the kids while Jen is busy working. It has really given me some time to reflect on what exactly I’m trying to build with my business and where I want to put my focus. Life-wise, I basically have switched from “how do I build my biz while keeping a balanced family life?” to “how do I not lose my mind each day with the kids and still find mental capacity to create business during this weird economic time?”
Check out Terence’s 36 Days of Type 2020 video
What’s been the most difficult thing to adapt to?
I’m an introvert who is used to having plenty of time to myself, so finding ways to recharge has been challenging. My patience is also pushed to its limits by my kids on a daily basis.
What’s been a surprise silver lining?
It’s a really unique opportunity to have tons of extra time with my family that we would normally only have for a week or two with during a scheduled vacation. It’s kind of stressful now that I’m in the thick of it, but I know I’m gonna look back on this down the road and miss being with them 24/7.
What practices have you kept or started to better your mental health in this time?
I’ve really been reflecting on myself as a person/dad/husband every single day. It’s sort of like mental health boot camp where I question my ability, attitude, and character every single day. I’ve honestly ugly-cried more times in the last 2 months than the previous 20 years. My wife introduced me to a podcast called The Adult Chair, and it has really started to change the way I react to a lot of situations. Highly recommend that podcast.
What is something you want to see change going forward for the artistic/design community?
I’ve always wanted this ever since I started getting paid for design — I would love for art/design to be widely considered a necessity as opposed to a luxury. I’m sick of seeing companies putting out one job listing asking for the expertise and attention of 6 different professionals — graphic design/UI/UX/photographer/videographer/social media — and offering a low hourly wage for it. Absolutely ridiculous.
Who do you want to be on the other side of COVID-19?
I’d like to be a more patient and understanding adult, able to handle stress and take on problems with optimism and a positive attitude.
What is one way you believe we can all support each other right now? Post COVID-19?
I think maintaining mental health is the biggest thing right now, and it’s fitting because it’s mental health awareness month. But as the economy starts to open back up, it’s gonna be important to refer projects that don’t quite fit your expertise to better-suited artists/designers. It’s gonna be tempting financially to take on everything that comes our way, but we can’t lose our professional focus; the overall quality of work will start to slide and we as a design community will then have even more of an uphill battle to climb.
Thank you to Terence Tang for sharing his experience with the AIGA Houston community. Learn more about him online:
Terence Tang, Lettering Artist and Designer