I am messy. Maybe messy is the wrong word… ‘not tidy’ I think is better. It doesn’t carry with it the same smelly connotations. My brain is quite skittish and random, lots of collisions of ideas and synapses firing all at once all trying to be heard. So, naturally, that spills over into the ‘real’ world. Take for instance my desk at work:
As you can see it is not the tidiest of places. I like to think it is a visual representation of my creative mind, and I like to say that you can’t trust a creative who has a tidy desk. I’m sure someone very wise has written a few books on the matter. But as I look around the studio I can see that this is not the case. So I decided to do something about it. I ordered this little guy:
I felt so proud. Here I was, noticing a problem and dealing with it. When it arrived I was beaming all day. I asked people to come over to my desk in the hope that they would spark up a conversation about my new desk accessory or how my desk had changed from being cluttered to the most sparkling display of organisation anyone had ever seen. But, there was a problem. This is what my desk looked like a week later:
Now the desk tidy had just become part of the mess. If anything, it reduced the area I could use, compacting the mess into a smaller space! I realised that maybe a desk tidy was not the answer.
I took to the internet to see if people could help me. Seeking counsel on Facebook for this kind of thing is odd, so I jumped on Tumblr. That’s where I found Tomas Kral. A man with the same problem as me, but with a different way of dealing with it. To him being messy was built-in, like breathing. He just did it. He couldn’t change, not now. He was in his 30s and old habits die hard. So he embraced the mess. He saw the work area and his untidiness as a conflict with the clarity of his creative thinking. So, rather than ignore or control it, he embraced it and designed a table that worked for him:
Artist Phil Hansen also faced and embraced a conflict in his life… one much more serious. When he was 17 he started developing a tremor. Now, that’s a pretty shitty thing to get if you’re an artist. At first he chose to ignore the tremor and started holding his pencil and paintbrush more firmly. And when the tremors got worse he held them harder still, until he found it difficult to hold anything at all. Then, at a visit to the doctors, he received the worst news he could get – he would never have full use of his fingers and his tremors would never go away. His doctor then imparted some knowledge that changed his life forever – “Embrace the shake”.
This conflict of perfection vs imperfection was no longer a barrier, but a creative springboard. Now no picture was too big, no canvas too strange and no utensil too abstract. From art designed to not last, to a painting painted using only karate chops, he embraced his conflict and created works of art he couldn’t have imagined back when he was 17, when he was desperately trying to ignore the problem.
All the best stories in life have conflict, whether its guy vs girl, man vs the world, even man vs internal struggle – every compelling story has conflict. It’s only when we face and embrace conflict that we get to truly original and truly creative design executions.
Written by Jamie Campbell