beggars at the gate

John lite

This beggar came knocking at my door today, looking for coffee. In the spirit of my dear grandmother, who fed hobos at her back door, I poured him some. He couldn’t stay–he was off to do horse chores for some friends of his–so we chatted standing up like folks so often do.

I say this all in jest, of course, because this same beggar has been knocking at my studio door since the late 80s, when I had a little design shop at the top of an old barn on the south side of Green Lake. He used to dress a little better, but who’s keeping track? He was one of my first clients–he hired me to name his technology business and design its logo–and I credit him for getting my foot in the local tech-industry door.

Maybe it is because I am older, but a random visit from someone you have known for ages can really start your mind to wander down a lane of memories. My clients had lots of great visits back in the first-studio days, and the best ones had nothing to do with the work I was being hired to do. Mr. Mossberg would tell tales of local Native American history when he dropped off the text for his feed brochures; Mr. Miller would keep me posted on the new technologies at the local web printer; Mr. Kronenberger would update me on the unusual guests he had registered at his resort. Lotsa chats. Lotsa connections.

I believe that to be a designer is to be a chameleon. You need to learn so many things about each client in order to serve them well. Understand their business just enough so your colors change to match theirs–if only for a moment. So you end up chatting a lot–but mostly listening. The byproduct of all this listening is that I have learned little bits about a lot of crazy stuff.

I have some excellent tips for raising garlic & shallots; I can tell you some interesting facts about the early Steve Miller Band live shows; I understand that people and their horses have deep connections neither can explain; there are several local families (no relation to me) whose geneologies I can convert to bubble diagram; I can almost explain the process the building inspector uses to pressure test residential plumbing and I have an excellent remedy for sore joints.

What good does all this trivia do me? Well, I am handy at cocktail parties, where I can come up with a new conversation topic in a pinch. But the real good it does me is the connections I have made with all sorts of characters over these years. These wide-ranging interests and bits of knowledge belong to my clients and listening to what they care about makes them my friends. I treasure that.

Thanks for the visit, John! I sure hope Charlie’s wounds heal soon and you get the metal back on the shed.

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