I am working on a project I absolutely love. It takes all my smarts — 2D & 3D; soft & hard; image & word. Love, love, love. It is part of my contract design work, so I cannot give details, but it is so much fun. Anyone who designs stuff for a living can relate to the part of the project I am talking about: when the ‘problem’ is defined and you have come up with a range of ‘solutions.’ It is now time to take one of those solutions into full bloom. Full-on creative; the turbo engines are running, and that inner “high” is energizing your spirit and giving you an optimistic outlook on everything else in your world. I can live on that high, and there have been times in my life when those fumes were all I was running on. During these times, food is optional, friends cannot really connect and distraction from daily life is modus operandi. Design is a drug.
The design process is messy. A lot gets left on the cutting-room floor, as they say in the film business. And a messy floor is a reality in my case. Initial ideas don’t work, first sketches can’t make it to fabrication, production costs become prohibitive, maybe the thing is just ugly along the outer edges of the concept. It can be an emotional rollercoaster if you are doing it right. The fun part is being the one who knows whether to take another run at it to solve the challenge or to let it lay on the floor, abandoned.
These days I feel blessed to have this career. Lots of years ago I chose it — had to gather my gumption to tell my folks I wanted to go to art school. My dad was convinced I would be unemployable; a dreamer for all my days. I spent all my work life proving otherwise, and not just to him, but to myself. I never wanted to do anything else but to travel through the design process time and again. Little did anyone know I would be an old dog in an extremely popular field all these years later. Today everyone wants to be a designer. Everyone can be, too. A few excellent boards on Pinterest and a snarky-toned Twitter following can build your cred.
I am not an elitist, but I do value someone’s commitment to this industry from a true design process perspective. For those dyed in true designer pigments, the joy is not solely in the result. Furniture design is a great example of this and one of my favorite voyeuristic treats. I love what those cats do & create because they have all the essential parameters: aesthetic, material, structure, ergonomics, and functionality. Sometimes cost. Year after year, they produce some of the most innovative designs and although I enjoy the eye candy, my heart belongs to their messy studio-shops: sketches, test results and blueprints scattered over every horizontal surface; the smell of a coffee pot running 20 hours a day; foam, fabric, clay and wood scraps scattered wall to wall and a zoned-out expression on every designer’s face. A creativity opium den.
If you stop by in the next week or so, don’t be alarmed if there are papers and fabric scraps all over the floor and pencils, paints and discarded granola bar wrappers all over the tables. I’ll offer you a cup of mature coffee and stare at you blankly. Don’t worry about me, though…my hands are busy and my heart is full.