I wouldn’t say I’m the type of person who watches a lot of TV though I feel like I am. When I get home from work my partner Kyle and I tend to put on one of a hand full of shows. We love Black-ish or Jessica Jones, some Adventure Time or Absolutely Fabulous. Afterwards we gravitate toward the type of show where someone talented needs to make something. Top Chef, Project Runway, The Mind of a Chef, A Chef’s Life… these are the kinds of shows we tend to get sucked into.
Enter our most recent fascination, the classic PBS television show This Old House. First airing back in 1979, it was one of, if not THE, original home improvement show, focusing on renovating older houses back to a pristine (albeit slightly updated) condition. Bob Vila used to host the show but lord knows what that guys up to these days.
Watching the show is interesting to me as a designer, particularly as a designer who works primarily digitally, because it raises a lot of conflicting feelings in myself. The work these guys do is precise, measured with lasers and chalk lines. At the same time it feels very loose. Mortar is effortlessly slashed across the top of a brick, roof shingles are nailed down in seemingly random places, a massive trench is dug with giant machine by a rather sloppy looking man named “Lenny.”
When I compare these renovations to my world of designing apps and websites and shareables and GIFs, my “craft” is more like applying wax to a Pysanky egg. But that’s not even it. It’s precise, it’s calculating, but I can Command + Z my way out of any mistakes. That and there’s nothing visceral about the work, nothing fulfilling about that custom Pinterest image, or sense of glee after you’ve applied that filter to the photo of the quiche you’re about to eat.
What I’m trying to get to is that it’s impressive to watch anyone who’s skills allow them to create something with a “permanence” in life, permanence meaning the thing made could at least last a few lifetimes. Your UI will be a fad, your UX will seem retro, and your IA will seem archaic. But that old house? It’s still going to be there.
Now to get back to that magazine I’m digitally designing…