It’s simple for a Midwesterner to get lost in Maine. I pulled over to ask for directions from an old guy in Bean boots and a faded Red Sox hat. “Do you know how to get to Owl’s Head?”
He paused without looking up and said, “A Yup”.
That pretty much sums my early design journey, unfamiliar landscape, confusing maps, and no help from the locals. It took a long time to understand the difference between the technical elements of design and what I call the creative element. Using music as an example, the squiggly lines we call notes and arrange on paper is the technical aspect; the sound we hear in our heads is the creative. For design, that inner vision is key to unlocking everything else. The technical is largely sterile without that inner designer’s eye.
This isn’t about sharp vision, I had that nailed. As a machinist it was commonplace to eyeball a scale and take measurements within four or five thousands of an inch. But learning to see with the inner eye is whole other kettle of fish. The idea of being able to picture a form clearly in my head much like a musician hears a song always seemed impossible. I know better now. The ability to visualize was always there, I just couldn’t access it. Sadly it stayed neatly tied behind my back while I kept my head busy on crap like filing taxes or sorting junk mail.
Happily this can change. Your inner eye is like an ember, coax it a little, gently blow and it gives off a flame of light. And what a light it is! The designers eye is the conduit that all creative discovery flows through. Those aha moments come when you begin to see shapes and forms play out on the stage in your head. Back to that stubborn Midwesterner in me. I took the long route with plenty of mistakes and wrong turns. Yet when I began to see – really SEE, all that stumbling and confusion seemed a small price. I’d take that journey again in a heartbeat. But here’s the really exciting part, you can tap into your designer’s eye fairly quickly with a little help. I’ve been putting together a workshop called “ Design – Back to Basics” to wake up your ability to visualize. It starts by clearing out some of the stuff blocking your view and then equipping you with a primitive pure visual language made up of simple shapes your brain can latch onto. Coupled with some insight on proportions you can explore those shapes internally much the same as a songwriter works out a melody on the piano. If this sounds like the roadmap you’ve been searching for, you can join me Aug 26th – 28th at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking for the Design – Back to Basics workshop. A weekend that will forever change how you see. Hope to see you there!
George R. Walker