Physical Gifts of Memories for a Virtual Working Team

4 min readMar 1, 2021


I think we can all agree: 2020 was “special.” 😳

When the end of the year was in sight, I began to reflect on the many ways my personal world was so different than what it was earlier in the year. One of the more remarkable changes was the shift to working from home—every day. Over the course of my professional career, weekdays involved a commute from one neighborhood to another. The changes of physical environments were markers of delineation between professional and personal existences. As the pandemic quickly unfolded, it abruptly erased one of these environments. Some days I’d feel immune or conditioned to these drastic changes, other days I’d marvel at just how unbelievable it all was.

While rush hour commuting is often synonymous with frustration, I’ll admit, it was nice to have two neighborhoods to call home. So I decided I wanted to make something, a sort of homage to the Design Studio and neighborhood I pilgrimaged to 5 days a week. During the discovery process of deciding what to create, I found something which would turn into a holiday gift for my Design team. Something not made for me, but us. Something that could bring us together—bridging the gap back to the physical environment we once shared.

Fig. 1 Teams a Colocated; b Distributed

Our Design Studio is located in the quaint Philadelphia neighborhood of Manayunk. There’s plenty to explore, with a network of urban streets and alleys complimented with a more suburban-feeling towpath trail following the Schuylkill River. It was a great neighborhood in which to take a break from work and go for a walk, which I did frequently with my camera in tow. It became a creative ritual, to capture some of Manayunk’s delicate beauty through street photography. It’s a neighborhood with a lot of character, being a little rough around the edges.

Fig. 2 Loss of Cohesion

Reflecting on the Studio and neighborhood, I opened my photo archives and began to sort through the images I took in Manayunk. I created a collection that were my favorites; some crumbling buildings past their prime, some organic growth on concrete. Some shot in the day, some after dark. Photos during various seasons, over the years.

Fig. 3 Lost Environment a Vacated Place; b Art Made From Place

It all came together quickly as I decided to make giclée prints and send them to the team. Everybody would get one photo from the collection, uniting the team through a physical print of the neighborhood we collectively lost with our new work environments. I was no longer physically present with these people, so the prints would serve as a sort of hug I couldn’t give.

Fig. 4 Physical Memories Sent

Making the prints was therapeutic and as often is the case—you get more than you give. I enjoyed curating, developing, embossing, signing, packaging and mailing them out. Through this tactile process of making, I was attempting to foster a connection that no video call could attain.

The gifts were physical memories of our shuttered Studio environment, which traveled through the mail to live in distributed individual workspaces. With virtual quarantine life revolving around a digital screens, could a static photo print bring a “special” sense of calm and cohesion? I hope, and think, so.

Fig. 5 Strengthened Team Cohesion

You may wonder why I’m writing about holiday presents in March. Well, I had to delay sharing as the USPS has taken 60+ days to deliver all my surprise presents that were sent via 2-Day Priority. 😑




Discipline Lead, Design—EY Design Studio Philadelphia