Thursday, March 22, 2012

Don't "click" print...

If you have to ‘click’ print to consider your work complete,
I believe you are missing out.

This may sound strange considering clicking the print button is like getting another cup of coffee for most people, myself included. It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted something printed it was hand set by a letterpress, or typed on a typewriter, or heaven forbid actually hand written. We type, draw, paint, design, render, color and build all within this screen I am currently staring at. Yet it has diminished quality, little sense of craft, and most importantly - lacking soul. I recently purchased an old Underwood typewriter, which sits on the desk next to my trusty laptop. Quite an interesting pair and if given a choice when writing I would prefer the typewriter. It has a history. I wonder how many love notes, thoughts, poems, and ideas it has written and how many more it will write one key stroke at a time. It will not go out of style, or need an upgrade, or faster memory. It is beautiful in design and its simplicity has stood the test of time.

If we as a society value things done with care and appreciate the craft in producing something by hand, then why are these methods in such rapid decline? Why aren’t cards made by hand, apple pies made from scratch, or letters handwritten? Well, at least we still make babies the old fashioned way, oh wait… that has changed too. Change is necessary, very few would argue against that. Some embrace it with both arms while others fight it tooth and nail. Given the ‘at your fingertips’ access to technology and a yearning for things of the past, I find myself oscillating back and forth somewhere in the middle ground. I enjoy things with a sense of history and craft. Be it a dovetail joint on an old wooden box, the well worn feel of an old leather bag, or the indentation of hundreds of individually set pieces of type on a letterpressed card. These items mean something. They are born from the minds and hands of craftsman who have worked for years, often decades, to develop an expertise and precision that only comes with a passion for their craft. They go well beyond merely dictating their thoughts in built forms but often reach the level of poetics. This idea of uniquely crafted items varies greatly from the mass produced fog we currently find ourselves. Perhaps most wouldn’t think twice about purchasing the same stylized photo of the Eiffel Tower that four thousand other people around the country also have. These folks probably don’t value the story, the craft and are simply attracted to the look. Now, before you get all huffy and start throwing stones remember that you are probably in the majority.

The search for craftsmanship brings me to my real question of my rambling - where have all the sketches gone? Hand sketches on real paper with real lead. Spontaneous thoughts jotted down in a sketchbook or on a napkin or calculated perspectives drawn to communicate the feel of a space. Why is this most basic architectural tool seem to be a thing of the past? We talk about ideas, concepts, and inspiration but how do these words get translated into space? It was Le Corbusier who once said “I prefer drawing to talking; it leaves less room for lies.” Drawing allows the hands a link to the imagination, giving it the ability to create something that a few seconds ago only existed in the mind. We live in a virtual world where fancy shmancy images are what sell. I would argue that it is not necessary to see exactly what a design will look like down to the gnats ass of detail in order to understand a space, yet that is what we must do. Pretty pictures win over studies, diagrams, and ideas. Famous for being famous celebrities win over artists and philosophers. The music we make hasn’t died thanks to a few artists who still create art. But someone needs to crank up the volume, kick the amp over and hit a chord Chuck Berry style! We are so standardized to want the pretty picture that we have lost the little moments that make creation great. The idea is what gives life to a design born from layer upon layer of trace paper. When the day is done the original sketch is blurred under countless new ideas and the outcome is something that is well traveled through the mind. Perhaps taking a few wrong turns, retracing steps, leaping forward all to reach feels like the right solution.

Everything comes from an idea.
Embrace this, and enjoy the journey.

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