San Francisco office

Working from San Francisco: week 1.

It was always meant to be a working holiday but the first week could have skewed a little bit more on the “working” than the “holiday”.

The end of the financial year is an important time in a major client’s calendar, so there’s lots to write, design and manage leading up to 30 June. Added to that, a two-year contract involving the design and writing of 18 workbooks is coming to an end. Problem is that the content didn’t arrive as planned — evenly spread over the past 24 months — and now the client is “blurting” them in my direction before funding runs out.

And did I mention that I write and design pro-bono for SecondBite (the not-for-profit that rescues and redistributes fresh food) and that their (very important) winter fundraising campaign is timed to align with the end of financial year?

And then there’s the time difference. I didn’t realise how advantageous the time difference in Paris was when we worked from there last year. There, we worked each morning and had the afternoon/nights free. Here, our 4pm aligns with Melbourne/Sydney 9am, so we spend the day exploring, then if I need client contract, we’re back to email /skype with clients – a few times until very late into the night.

And “exploring” in San Francisco means walking up hills. The hills. I thought hills were angled pieces of earth. Here they are vertical. Like smooth ladders.

But that’s a long intro to saying San Francisco is great. Really great.

The house we’ve rented is perfect. We’ve honed what we need and this one has got it all. Good work areas, full kitchen, washing machine and dryer, and best of all a huge comfy bed. And it’s in a great area, central with lots of restaurants relatively close.

The only – and it is the only imperfection — has been the technology.

The wifi isn’t great. It doesn’t seem strong enough to  ‘radiate’ throughout the house so while I’m set up in the dining room, Greg moved to the study to be next to the router. He’s boosted the wifi by buying an Apple thunderbolt to ethernet connector from the local Apple store. Solving that issue in Paris would have been a challenge whereas here, a stones throw from Silicon Valley, it was a cinch.

Skype voice is working well, so Greg is using that to call the studios he mentors and those taking part in the Design Business School. Team viewer works to get us into our Melbourne computers (me to invoice/do estimates in Streamtime – when will they get a real online program? – and Greg to remotely print mailing address labels for the Business of Design books that sell online). Unfortunately Team Viewer isn’t working great for online discussions and nor is Go to Meeting – both are a stilted, not free flowing and that makes conversations difficult.

Our days are starting at 7am. I’m trying to do a few hours work before we explore, and because of a few crushing deadlines, we’ve aimed to be home by around 5.  We have eaten in a few nights when there was a deadline but the past few nights we’ve eaten locally and returned to the ‘Golden Gate’ room with my laptop on my knee, a glass of wine and the view.

I think I’m over the hump of most of my deadline-driven work so it’s becoming less important to be back right at 5pm. Today we’re off to the ballpark to see the San Francisco Giants take on the Toronto Blue Jays.  When in Rome…

Carol Mackay

Carol is the owner of Mackay Branson, a design studio currently celebrating 31 years in business.  Her expertise is in the use of design to package complex content into bite-sized of information that is easy to understand and digest. She does that with clients in the corporate, cultural, government and not-for-profit sectors. More at