Balancing Act

I recently moved into a new apartment.  While moving isn’t the worst thing in the world (especially if you are moving into a place that you are excited about), the act of putting everything you own into boxes for a 1.5 mile trip and then unpacking it all has got to be on the top ten list of most awful things to do with a weekend.  To make matters worse, I hadn’t completely unpacked from my move from Michigan.  While unpacking all of those boxes (most of it just to be repacked again), I found myself sitting among piles of old models, photographs, drawings, books and assorted accoutrements one gathers through years of undergraduate and graduate study.  The juxtaposition of feelings was unsettling; I was simultaneously excited and depressed.

The feeling of excitement was easy to explain.  These were things that I had drawn; things that I had created; things that may have long since lost their context but were nonetheless beautiful things that once inspired me.  The depressed feeling was a little more difficult to get a handle on.  There were so many things that I used to enjoy doing, things that I haven’t done since I left school almost 3 years ago.

In this economy, we leave school and thank whatever Lord we pray to that we have landed a job; ANY job.  While there are firms out there that practice architecture more like a theoretical studio project, they are few and far between.   The brutal truth is that most of us don’t end up working for one of those firms.  We are hired, given a desk, and told to draw what someone else has sketched on a piece of trace.  We are no longer masters of our own projects.  And let’s face it, a sheet full of door details pales in comparison to the interest one can find in a theoretical drawing in which the laws of statics are recklessly abandoned.

And you won’t believe me, but this setting is good for you.  While we may have a great design aesthetic, we come out of school with just enough technical knowledge to be dangerous; very dangerous.  The technical knowledge gained while drafting on a project is invaluable.  Most of us want to build what we design, and through repeated drafting assignments, the knowledge eventually sinks in.

My concern is that life outside of academia is quite a shock to most of us.  In the midst of 10+ hour days buried in AutoCad, it is far too easy to forget about the things that drew you to the profession in the first place.  We need to remain actively engaged with all that inspires us.   Remember the websites we used to go to for inspiration; the magazines we used to get at the library.  And while we are gaining that ever so important technical knowledge and project experience, we can’t forget to keep an eye on those things that we used to love.  Keep a healthy interest in those aspects of the profession that are decidedly divorced from graphic standards.

Now stop reading this, and find something that is so amazing that you have to run and share it with someone.  I promise that the door details will be waiting when you get back.

4 thoughts on “Balancing Act

    • Elaborate. Where are you now in your career? What are you currently working on? What inspires you outside of your daily responsibilities?

  1. Depressed and excited at the same time….as we transition from post graduate to somewhere near “oh my god, I’ve actually been in the workforce longer than college,” we realize that inspiration comes in so many shapes and forms, yet too often we’re so bogged down we don’t realize it until we’ve flown passed it. I agree – life and career should be continually molded by our past dreams and our upcoming goals. Let’s not forget to make time to dream, dare and live boldly in our lives!

  2. very good article.

    Never forget that when you get that sketch, it is up to you to put your signature on it. It is now in your hands. Render that sketch so it really sings. It may be the way you draw it, line thickness, graphic layout, or (after drawing what has been asked of you) suggest your ideas to make it better. When you contribute in this way, be it a small way, you will begin to build your technical knowledge, engage in creative thinking and satisfy some of the design desire you have cultivated in the academic environment over the years.

    Yes, this pales in comparison to what you have done at school, but as the article says, and as your parents have said many times, it is good for you.

    But outside of work is where you can indulge. Throw the TV out on the lawn, listen to your best music and do what inspires you. I used to just sit at the dining table and draw. This led to larger and larger drawings and ideas.

    So, once you are away from the things that are good for you satisfy that inner desire at home or with friends. It will help you everyday when you come in to work. It will stay in your subconcious as something very satisfying you had done the night before and lead to a better work experience.


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