26 May 2010

I was talking to someone at lunch at An Event Apart yesterday. She, like most of the people there, is a web designer (and not a print designer). She was talking about the size of her apartment and how the living room sofa is her office. She said she has one drawer in the living room entertainment unit for her files.

I have an utterly overflowing 12×12-ish room for my office. Even though I’ve been going progressively more paperless over the past few years, storing stuff in the cloud or on my computer with programs like Evernote, Backpack, BidSketch and NeatWorks and scanning everything I possibly can with my Fuji ScanSnap — even forcing it to eat things like napkins with drawings and old passport books which don’t make it very happy at all, but do make me, with my mania for archiving, quite chuffed.

I have 2 monitors, one rather large, (well, not by today’s standards), as I’m often laying out items that are physically big enough that you can’t see them on the screen easily (a spread in an 11×17 book, for example) and that in a program like Adobe InDesign or Illustrator that have palettes upon palettes taking up screen real estate. This just doesn’t happen with web design… I never open any palettes in my code editor. I never design a web page that doesn’t fit on my screen.

But because I’m a print designer as well as a web designer, I have a lot of stuff. I have 6 Pantone chip books and 4 Toyo ones for showing clients different color swatches with various ink systems and methodologies. I have 3 shelves of paper swatch books (and I don’t even keep the printed sample pieces). I have books on technology, typography and books of royalty free art to scan, lots of old Emigre and RayGun magazines. And, taking up scads of room, I have printed samples from jobs I’ve done over the past 15 years. A few each of a zillion business cards and stationery systems and brochures and books and annual reports and this and that and this.

Then, of course, as well as the desk where my computer is, there’s a drafting table, for sketching and for making comps. Although one needs far far fewer mechanical supplies than one used to for print design, there are comp-making tools: black boards for mounting design options, glues, tapes, xact-o knives, and all sorts of different sizes and types of paper for the inkjet. I have drawing pens and pencils, various pads of design vellum for sketching. I have all my filled-up notebooks of work notes and sketches.

More and more often these days, I make electronic comps, and present things to clients with emails and PDFs and Basecamp, but certain presentations still demand the old school formality or exactitude of physical comps and designs pasted up on boards. I wonder if that will eventually fall away completely. I wonder if color management and monitor calibration will ever be simplified to the point of ubiquity.

I’m not even talking about all the art supplies and photography stuff I have because I also do that stuff. Or all the paper samples I’ve kept after not using them for projects because they’ll come in handy for art later. Or all the reference books about things tangential to design and technology.

There isn’t a whole lot of point to this article. I just thought it was interesting that a web designer can operate without a lot of trappings, whist a print designer is a bit beholden to their stuff. Certain things like color and paper texture cannot be experienced through the computer screen with any semblance of critical accuracy (yet)— so you have to have actual, analog samples on hand. My possible tendencies towards pack-ratting notwithstanding, it explains a bit about my non-minimalist office, and why, though I’ll wander off working with my laptop for days at a time, I always end up back here somehow.

Maybe life is simpler if you design only for the web. Certainly the folks at An Event Apart were very focused, and very knowledgeable about their craft. Maybe print is dying, like they say… certainly it’s a lot more dead than it was 15 years ago when I started as a designer (and worked on only print). And I’m not much one for advocating printing via traditional methods these days, with the toxicities and resource-wastefulness (there’s argument about resource usage in print vs. web, but I’ll not go there today). Nonetheless, there is something very pleasing about understanding the art and craft of all that analog printing technology (or its newer digital counterparts) and knowing the ins and outs of making physical things as well as virtual ones.

Every day, every year, I feel my one, cluttered foot in the past slowly pulling away, towards an all-digital world, or at least work world (my film cameras and my piano without a power cord are happily entrenched). I wonder about print, and print design. I’ll still be designing logos next year, for sure, but I wonder about the one-off brochure mock-ups to show clients the way the paper feels in the hand.

But, as I sit here copying 155GB of precious, laboriously scanned and retouched photographs from my backup drive to a new home (“about 8 hours”) on account of yet another traumatically failed hard disk, I’m going to guess it’s going to be a little while before I’m totally ready to let my paper samples hit the recycling bin.

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12 March 2010

Spring Cleaning

My Gentleman Friend, who indulges in a form of tracking which mountains he climbs up in terms of what season it is, tells me that winter is ending, technically, in a couple weeks (March 20th, at midnight, I think). Thus, spring is coming, and that means it’s time for spring cleaning. While I’ll take on the obligatory dusting and cleansing, I don’t really find it all that thrilling, truth be told. I do, however, really get into more enterprising reorganization projects around the house. (Well, apartment.) I love the black and white quality of a violent clutter purge, or a furniture move. A changing of storage methodologies or artifacts on display can also do a lot to brighten up a room and make one feel very accomplished and clever and productive.

Indeed, this morning, I took on the the first step in a reorganization project I’ve been mulling over for a while (usually at inopportune times), in which I move my most oft-used cameras to the top of the Ikea Expedit in my studio and store the rest in a box relegated to the basement. (Granted, since I shoot with lots of crazy cardboard pinhole cameras and modified cheap plastic and antique numbers, as well as a few “real” cameras in different formats, the number of items in my “oft-used” group exceeds the space available on top of the 5×5 Expedit). So I moved the stuff on top of the design books bookcase (old design notebooks, a box full of handmade paper, old Emigre magazines when they were in journal format, a (badly) handmade clamshell box full of fur from one of our dead bunnies (Mr. Bunny 2, the Big Orange Bunny) wrapped in Saran Wrap) to various places. I moved the boxes of photographs from the top of the Expedit to that bookcase. I started putting cameras up on top of the Expedit. I liked that they were accessible, but it looked kinda crappy. Too chaotic. Too many shapes and sizes. Too many cameras to fit nicely in the space. I decided I probably needed a more complex holding system for them, to keep them reigned in and organized, but still in view. Probably need to build something clever. Maye hack something from Ikea. Hmmm….

Seeing as I had a coffee date lined up, that wasn’t going to happen today. So I decided to spend my remaining morning puttering-about-the-house time browsing some of my favorite websites about fixing up one’s apartment. The kind I like are kinda DIY, mindful of one’s resources — both personal and global.

Don’t Act, Just Look at Websites

If you’re a decorating/home improvement DIY aficionado sort, you probably already know about these sites, but I thought I’d give a little run-down, just in case you were looking for this sort of thing (and it will spare you, dear readers, from another rant on prehistoric archeology, at least for now… ).

When you are in a quandary as to whether you need more clutter or less clutter and either way, what arrangement it should be displayed in and, moreover, how you might make the project of creating said display device as crafty and ambitious as possible, take a gander at these sites:

The standby is Apartment Therapy. I’ve poked around there, off and on for years, it seems. But I think I just realized there is an actual Boston section, where I can view the nice apartments of people in my actual vicinity. You’ve got to love that — especially if you’re hopelessly voyeuristic about people’s apartments, the way I am. It’s full of great stuff, but some of those places are actual houses and way nicer than my apartment will ever be — I don’t think my landlord would appreciate my installing a black and white psuedo-19th century stove) or painting my floor white. (That white-floor bedroom is so amazing… can you imagine you (and your muddy golden doodle) being that clean?)

Then there’s Design*Sponge. There’s tons here — great “Before and Afters” and “DIY”s which will make you want to pick up even more trash-furniture off the side of the road to rehabilitate, recipes, podcasts and my fave section (again with the voyeurism!) “Sneak Peak“. Looking into the houses and apartments of neato artists, designers and crafters is really a wonderful guilty pleasure — only not so guilty, as one can do it without actually sneaking around in person.

Finally, there’s Tiny-Ass Apartment, compiled by Simone, whom I believe has also written for both of the sites mentioned above. Having spent about 10 years in about 600 square feet, I relate to and appreciate this site a great deal (even though my space has now grown larger as has the amount of stuff I choose to fill it with — like a goldfish that grows to fill his bowl). When I lived in my studio apartment, I reveled in the cleverness of vertical stacking, secret hiding spots and general stuff-compression. Guests may have found it precarious, but I found it wonderfully cozy. At any rate, Tiny Ass Apartment has tips and tricks and a healthily irreverent attitude that makes for a good read regardless of your dwelling’s proportions.

Bonus: Real Life, Brick and Mortar

My aforementioned coffee date being in Salem, Massachusetts, I happened by a lovely new shop whilst on my way. It so charmed and enchanted me (and I so wanted to buy everything, except that I’m not a consumery consumer person… and thus limited myself to one gift for a friend). You may be nowhere near Salem (but everyone ends up there, eventually, no? And Salem has been getting really awesome the past few years), but if you are (or online) check out Roost. It’s small and bright and purveys attractive, affordable wares displayed in sensitive groupings that glimmer like color-sorted jewels. It’s got a bit of the aesthetic of Anthropologie without all the mossiness, attitude and clothes for waifs. (Though I do love a good, inspiring visit to an Anthropologie store on occasion.) Lovely vintage-style glassware, felted bowls and toys, letterpressed greeting cards, repurposed and recycled items and some great assemblage art. Everything so clean, quirky and delightful… just makes you want to have a really neat apartment.

Jamie, one of the proprietors (and a quite agreeable, friendly sort at that), told me they may hold some DIY workshops in future, to help encourage people to reuse/upcycle curbside finds and worn out this and thats. I love that stuff!

Nice to have a day when one thinks about light, practical things rather than worrying about the woes of the world (and to do lists). Here’s to spring!

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