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.