The design process applied to office sanctioned crafting

design processCreative problem solving isn’t about sitting by yourself in a little corner hashing out some rigid step by step plan of action. It’s about responding to your materials, interacting with your environment, and fearlessly risking your time and ego by challenging your ideation at every step of the process.

When my boss asked me to design paper gauges for our two giant printers, I was thrilled; especially considering that despite my background, I’ve deliberately chosen a job that strictly confines me to rolling said paper when it comes out the other side of said behemoth printers (but that’s another story).

“Ooooo yes please!” I said, always eager to engage in any office sanctioned crafting. And really, is there any better kind?

I quizzed him on the design criteria: show amount of available paper (two sizes) without having to open the machines. And set to work, scouring our office for any potentially useful materials. A key exercise in creativity – feel free to try this at home – is to look at objects in terms of their inherent physical properties, not just by their associations (click here for classic candle/box experiment). For example, an elastic’s basic properties can allow it to become be a shock absorber, a vice, a sound generator, a friction enhancer, a weapon, a hinge, a sex toy… etc.

First attempt: I cut out the center of two paper plates (using small ceramic plate template), used Sharpie coloured wood coffee stirrers as indicators around a central pivot made of a paper clip (by first creating holes with thumbtacks and securing potential wood splitting with packing tape), then partook in label making to obscene excess. Brilliant!!

Except… for the fact that the resulting gauge looked exactly like two paper plates with coffee stirrers sandwiched in between, and carried the ugly evidence of someone with an obsessive fetish for label makers. And then there was the embarrassing discovery that moving one indicator influenced the rotation of the other. Sigh… not so brilliant after all.

Solution: Back to the drawing board. Always a sharp physical pain, but part of the creative process that must never smell your fear. There can be no mourning period. Huzza! Onwards and Upwards! I extended my foraging area to include resources available within walking distance on my lunchbreak.gauge design Brass spread-leg fasteners obtained! Cardstock… cardstock? After waiting for an eternity at the counter of a print shop, I’d almost given up hope. Then low and behold, a miracle! A dashing, ever so gallant, white knight of customer service came to my rescue with a stack of backroom off-of-stock-list sheets of two different weights. Huzza!

Sometimes, when you go out into the world with excitement, openness, and a clear mission, that world gets excited along with you and gives you what you so desperately need without asking anything in return. The gift of those few sheets were more than enough motivation to re-energize my demand for perfection from this project. No more compromises! This gauge was going to be perfect down to the mm… who are we kidding… the 1/2 mm!

Final design: So what if the heavier cardstock jammed the printer. I simply laminated the lighter version with packing tape and got on with X-acto-ing and blending my pencil crayons to a professional blur with strips of Kleenex. Brilliant! Perfection achieved! Perfectly proportioned, eminently easy to read, two super pro looking paper gauges = Mission accomplished?

“What do you think?” I asked my boss, proudly showing off my brand new twins.

“Hmmm,” he said, “I was thinking of something maybe a bit smaller.”

…oh for the lova’ pete.

Fun at work with DIY Spanx-effect seismic waist shaper

After the surprising success of my fitted, fully darted, seismic pencil skirt, (engineered after the infamous burning of the ugly pants) my DIY ego has been leading me in strange and exciting directions. And after hearing that the client was thrilled with the S&M hood and handcuffs sketchbook cover/tote I designed, I can’t help but look at my own life with the same new freedom – as a series of creative problems to be solved. It’s an attitude I remember as being intrinsic to my nature, but one I thought I had to give up in order to ‘grow up’. Never! But I’m still trapped rolling paper on the 6th floor, while the offices of Blank Canvas Living, with their Antarctic restroom, are only 4 floors above me – may as well be the moon.

With a long, depressingly bleak workday ahead, I turn to the most primal of motivators, sex, to help me survive the 8 ½ hour abyss that lies ahead. But my Vargas pin-up sexy secretary style proves sorely lacking. No amount of tucking and sucking in front of the office bathroom mirror will fix my waistline’s lack of Vargas worthy shaping. The shirt puffs, and the skirt hangs as straight as a 1930s school marm’s who’s given up on men for good. Not to be defeated (and having no ready access to a Spanx body shaper) I look to the resources at hand: geophysical seismic paper plots (think earthquake movies), tape, and scissors.

 The first pattern fails miserably, and my DIY ego takes a major hit. But no matter, for my second attempt (checkmarked in illustration), I cut a new darting pattern and attach the sliced sections back together with clear packing tape. Note on darting: Straight vertical cuts for waist portion – size tightly to waist measurement. Triangle lower cuts create flare to give shape under skirt – size to desired hip flare. I laminate the ‘wrong’ side of the paper with more packing tape to give it substance and durability, but leave the seismic detailing bare, its printed squiggles conveniently matching my b/w outfit.

Back in the office bathroom, I tape the Spanx-effect waist shaper closed at the front, then spin it round so the seam is at the back. To make sure my knit skirt doesn’t slide around, I secure it with a few loops (like you’d use to stick a picture to a wall) of tape below the waistline – mission Vargasification accomplished. I experience an unexpected, but surprisingly delightful girdling effect. My posture instantly improves and my shape, if I do say so myself, would have made any pin up artist proud. I have to confess, I spend the rest of the day strutting around salaciously in my own private episode of Mad Men. But sadly, the office fellows seem more impressed with my use of their geophysical data than my seismically defined curves. Sigh… it’s a geophysicists’ world and I’m only working in it.

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