I was flipping through my old sketchbooks when I realized I had an impressive collection of stupid ideas that didn’t make the cut.
– June 9, 2016
Earlier this year, I was trying to make some sense of the clutter that had become my home office, when I looked over and realized that there were close to a dozen sketchbooks stacked on the corner of my desk. The Number of sketchbooks was no revelation, as I’m constantly moving them around and looking under them to find lost items. They seem to be everywhere throughout my office. But seeing them all stacked in one pile gave me pause.
I started to flip through them (any excuse to stop being productive, right?).
There were no surprises in the pages. I remembered all of the marks, and the projects or ideas that were associated with them. Many of the drawings, no most all of the drawings, brought a smile to my face because they were connected to some truly awful ideas.
There were a few gems, drawings done as a part of the process of fleshing out a concept that actually became something useful, but the majority of the pages contained scratches and musings that went nowhere fast. And I was cool with that.
In fact, I was rather proud of all of the failures found in those pages. They bespoke a willingness to explore and develop ideas without a rush to judgment. That there were so many ‘strike-outs’ showed a determination to keep trying until I got it right. The winners, of course, graduated from those bound pages to be nurtured and coddled in Photoshop and Illustrator before graduating as full-fledged logos and illustrations and ads and catalogs and websites. The good stuff moved on, escaping the island of misfit toys, leaving behind page after page of misfit ideas.
Moreover, those sketchbooks are a reminder of the ease at which ideas come, and a warning of the dangers inherent in settling with the easy solution. There are a bunch of ideas on those pages, and most of them are bad. Yet all of them seemed workable while still in my head, and it wasn't until I committed them to paper that I could see how they fell short. Had I been less patient with the process, many of those ill-advised thoughts would have been swept into production and publication. My technical prowess is such that I could have made most of those ideas look good enough to pass, but as a designer, good enough should never be the goal.
Had I been satisfied with good enough, I would’ve had a much shorter stack of sketchbooks piled on the corner of my desk.
Those sketchbooks, then, are a history of my failures through the years is a designer, but they are also a testament to my perseverance. I wasn’t willing to settle, and I'm proud of that. But proud though I might be, those books ain't never seeing the light of day while I’m still alive. I’ve deluded myself in believing that I still have a shred of reputation to uphold…