In telling this story I’m often met with a response that implies that three years was some kind of a waste, a path to nowhere. I don’t see it that way.
The staunch traditionalism of this Beaux-Arts-styled program meant that computers, in the first two years, were nothing more than a research tool. Our designs began as rough sketches and words on trace paper and developed with markers, thick-lined sketch pencils, and quickly constructed models of cardboard. Our final products were hand-drafted, exquisitely-inked and meticulously-colored on expensive presentation boards, or bound in hand-made books of vellum and chipboard with marker and watercolor renderings. We learned to design — learned to think — with pencils in our hands.
When we start on paper, we start with an entirely different mindset. Lead on paper possesses a fluidity, a subtle impermanence. Mistakes will be made, just scribble harder. I can think of nothing that clears the mind like wadding up a bad idea and throwing it into a wastebasket, then looking down at a fresh, blank page. Touching a pencil to paper feels like channeling ideas from the intangible to the tangible. The pencil becomes a direct conduit between the brain and the page.
Computers, by contrast, exist quite literally in an ecosystem of details. Pinpoint precision and perfect geometry can be the death of ideas. I have tried, in vain, to begin designs on the computer. These endeavors inevitably end with me frustrated, retreating to the corner with my notebook and away from the computer where I’ve drawn a neat set of perfectly-spaced, dead lines.
When I show my clients sketches, they understand that I’m showing them ideas, concepts, possibilities. When I present them with computer “comps” they see a finished product. It’s important at the beginning phases for things to remain flexible. Presenting a client with a pixel-perfect Fireworks export may wow them, but it may also make them feel like we’ve taken some control from them. I’d rather the people I design for feel like they’re part of a creative process, not witnesses to it.
What that time in architecture school really taught me was not how to design. Sure, I learned a lot about color theory and composition, the importance of empty space and harmony. My handwriting became more legible and I learned that sometimes my best ideas come at 3am. But more than anything else, architecture school taught me to think like a designer. And I’ve learned, over the years, that I just think better with a pencil in my hand.
Kept thinking of ways to make this big announcement, but I’ll just come right out with it: I’m moving to Austin, Texas at the end of April. I think those of you who know me won’t be surprised. I’ve needed a change for a long time now.
I love you Tulsa, and I’ll miss you. But more on that in a later post.
Thee Oh Sees on the McGarrah Jessee rooftop.
Thee Oh Sees on the McGarrah Jessee rooftop. People kept shaking up beers and spraying them everywhere, which was annoying.
Enjoying a somewhat more laid-back Tuesday before starting the all-out crazyface music-overload that will be the next four days.
The concept is simple, the reality anything but: make a movie in twenty-four hours.
It’s fast-paced, it’s stressful, it’s exhilarating, challenging and a little bit crazy. And it’s one of my favorite parts of the year, creatively-speaking. The guidelines are simple: make a 5-minute film in 24 hours, incorporating a pre-determined (but secret until midnight on the night of the contest) elements: a theme, a line of dialogue, and a prop.
A couple of months ago I visited a dear friend in Oklahoma City. On the way back I stopped by a little spot ten miles west of nowhere near Edmond, Oklahoma…to see a tree. Supposedly this was no ordinary tree; I’d seen pictures of it, heard stories about people driving out of their way to see it — needless to say, I had to experience it for myself.
Except it turns out it was 1) after ten p.m. by the time I made it out there and 2) so, so cold. I tried to take a long exposure photo but the whole thing turned out to be completely out of focus and looked pretty awful.
A loss, right? Not really. As I stood there sipping my hot cocoa, chilled to the bone, looking at this little tree (a dogwood, maybe?) I felt this weird feeling of…well…of standing out in the middle of nowhere by myself but feeling anything but. There’s something to be said about sharing a spot with a whole bunch of people across space and time (some of whom you’ve never met, some of whom you have). Sharing space. It’s something we do every day, but I suspect we rarely think about. It got me thinking so much I’m devoting episode two of my podcast to it — but more on that later.
In the meantime, if you want to see some photos of the tree that don’t suck, check out geotagged photos on Flickr.
I made the illustration above because I was sad I didn’t get a good photo of the tree.
Undertaking a project to document the place where I grew up. This one’s from last April.