This Old Website

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…

6 Comments This Old Website

  1. simon February 11, 2016 at 1:37 AM

    nice … thought provoking

  2. Médard February 12, 2016 at 2:25 AM

    I can relate to this.
    As a motion graphics designer and animator, my work, mostly for (big) corporations is never going to last longer then a couple of years until they need something new to communicate to their workers or costumers. A thing I also sometimes struggle with, is the social and cultural relevance. How much ‘good’ does my work actually achieve? What do I contribute to society and the world as a whole with my work?

  3. Sammy March 3, 2016 at 1:34 AM

    I really like the way you put the problem. The design from the 80’s was very different from what we have now, but it had that special effect. It’s really hard to remake or to produce new classic ideas. But if you can make it. It is worth it.

  4. Mathias March 3, 2016 at 7:23 AM

    Working in architecture, it appears there is a bit of a balance struck between the “permanence” of the built environment, and the ephemeral nature of all the conceptual work done either during a project, or under the guise of a competition. Many of the ideas a designer fully develops never make it off the paper for a multitude of reasons, but there is a satisfaction to be had if even a small part of you, a decision YOU made, or and idea you floated becomes part of a structure. But still, it’s an occupation of ideas, a cyclical process, and a whole lot of Ctrl +Z(s) before things get built.

  5. Cecilia March 7, 2016 at 6:44 AM

    Interesting thought process, keep up the good work. :)

  6. Henry March 9, 2016 at 5:43 AM

    The ‘permanence’ of a lot of architecture can be illusory as well and can have very little to do with the quality of the actual design. Take the NY Folk Art Museum, a great little building that received a lot of accolades when it was built; it lasted little more than ten years because the museum didn’t have enough money and was knocked down by MoMA of all people.

    It is a strange feeling when the sketches and drawings last longer than the building itself, but as with every other medium any great ideas can be durable, whatever guise they come in.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *