Two States of Perfection

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a sketchbook on the go. I think I established the habit when I started senior school, but I remember having them back in junior school as well. They’ve been a companion beside me all that time, whether I’ve been drawing, writing, brainstorming, planning, or something else, they’ve helped me to be creative in some form or another.

When a new sketchbook arrives, it always brings a moment of joy. The moment the wrappings come off is one of the two moments that a sketchbook is perfect. There are no creases on the spine, no scuffs on the cover, no page corners curling up or folded in, everything sits square and compact, full of potential. I always enjoy that moment. When a sketchbook is first opened it’s exciting, there’s potential on those pages, but with it comes a hesitancy, it’s something that I don’t want to ruin.

It’s the fear of the blank page.

Over the last few years when I’ve started a new sketchbook I’ve developed a habit. I open it to the first page, grab a pen and I write the same sentence.

I give myself permission to mess this sketchbook up.

From then on I use it how I want and it doesn’t matter what goes in it.

It might seem a bit silly to write that sentence on the first page, but without it it would take a lot longer for my sketchbooks to get to their second point of perfection. The moment they are finished, either because they are completely full, or the year has ended. At that point it’s done it’s job and deserves it’s spot on my shelf alongside all it’s older siblings, it’s perfect because it’s been used and not wasted. It’s helped me think, helped me create, helped me process events that have passed, it’s potential has been met.

Without that first page sentence and my natural state of being a perfectionist, there’s a chance those sketchbooks would remain on the shelf in their first state of perfection. And in that state they would be a waste. What would be the point in owning them, if they remained forever in their first state of perfection and never made the journey to the second state of perfection?

It’s not just a sketchbook that has these two states of perfection. A blog has them, a canvas has them, a book has them, a roll of film or an SD card in a camera has them. The unused perfection, and the finished, full, complete perfection of a job well done.

One of my favourite chairs

The weather in Cheltenham the last few days has been glorious, it has a big effect on my mental health when the sun shines and I can have the big doors of my living room open to let the summer air in to my flat. It can also have a negative effect though, with the sun shining so brightly see stuff that I’ve not cleaned for a while and it makes me want to fix that.

This afternoon the sun caught one of my chairs in such a way that it showed up so much dirt I was horrified. I undid the cover to check if it had washing instructions, it did, and promptly put it in the washing machine. While that was in the wash I gave the frame a bit of a scrub as well, it’s getting a little worse for wear and could do with some more attention but it’s not in bad condition.

It got me thinking about how old the chair is. I’ve had it for somewhere in the region of 15 to 20 years, so it’s no surprise the frame is a bit rough in places. The chair is an IKEA Poäng and if I’ve had it that long it got me wondering how long IKEA have been selling it for. Turns out, according to this Fast.co article, the design of the chair is over 40 years old. I guess you could call it a bit of a design classic. The frame of the version I have is a little different to the ones you buy today, but the design is essentially the same, and it’s kind of comforting to know that timeless design pieces are still being produced and loved by millions around the world. It’s also nice to know, that in a world of throwaway products, some relatively inexpensive things can last a long time. The age of my chair is nothing compared to the one that the founder of IKEA has.

The Bulletin Board ›

I’ve been reading Austin Kleon’s blog since January, I find the way that he speaks about his notebooks and how he uses them very inspiring. Today’s post is about his bulletin board and how he pins images, clippings, index cards, and various other bits to it for inspiration while he is writing a book.

The analog nature of lots of things that Austin does has really caught my attention. I love technology, but as a designer I also love objects and paper. When I was a student I covered the wall of my room in halls with bits of graphics that I liked. The whole thing turned into one giant collage of inspiration. That’s something I would like to get back into my creative life, something tactile and away from a glowing rectangle.

New Logo and Identity for Dartmouth ›

Brand New featured the New Logo and Identity for Dartmouth College designed by Original Champions of Design.

I really like the whole design, from the origins of the type used in the wordmark and the history behind the pine emblem. The execution is really well done and very considered in it’s execution, especially when you consider the number of departments and areas within a college the size of Dartmouth.

Write More ›

Cameron Moll posted a thread on Twitter urging people to write. Here are the four tweets quoted:

I’ve found it incredibly difficult to make time for long‐form writing the past few years. When I have, the catalyst has been reminding myself of the tremendous ROI as a designer, manager, business owner, and so on.

If you want to be a better designer, write more.
If you want to be a better manager, write more.
If you want to be a better biz owner, write more.
You can also substitute “speak more” for each of these.

The act of synthesizing what’s in your head for an audience of critics leads to increased analytical thinking, self‐awareness, clarity, and much more.

Last but not least, you inspire others to write—or at the very least ‘write’ by joining the conversation you’ve started.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about lots the last couple of weeks. I’ve been wanting to post to my blog more because I think it will be beneficial for me in many ways, one of which to help me build discipline and self‐control in other areas of my life.

The thing that really strikes me about this Twitter thread, the whole thing would make a good blog post. It probably would’ve been easier to post to a blog as well, likely have a longer life span, and consequently have more of an impact. Not all writing on a blog has to be long to have an impact, if it’s worth stringing four tweets together in a thread to make a point, it’s worthy of a blog post.

📚 The New CSS Layout by Rachel Andrew

Published: 2017
Rating: ★★★★★
Finished on: 30/12/2017

This was my last book of 2017. I started it at the end of November and kept wanting to try things out so it took me a lot longer to finish than it should’ve. It’s a book I’ll be returning to over and over in the next few months while I keep trying out the new CSS techniques in my work. Looking forward to the more powerful and extensive layout options that are now becoming available to us. The web has started to look very same‐y in the last 12–18 months, mainly I believe, due to designers trying to make it easier to build responsive websites. I firmly believe some of the new CSS specs will allow that to change and for designers to start pushing boundaries again.

Adobe’s iOS App Failure ›

Over on Six Colors Jason Snell speaks of his disappointment with Adobe’s iOS offering. I’ve long been disappointed with Adobe’s approach to the platform and I couldn’t agree more with his comments.

But it’s frustrating that Adobe has failed its core design customers to such a degree—and it’s also a big risk for Adobe. Photoshop commands a lot of space in the brains of many creative professionals, but a lot of those people want to use iOS. If Adobe provided them with fulfilling tools for iOS—ones that are as capable as what’s available on macOS and Windows—it could keep its customers loyal.

As a designer the iPad has always appealed to me as a means of creating. It seems like it should be the most intuitive way of laying up designs and drawing out ideas. The iPad Pro and Apple Pencil only served to enhance this idea for me. Yet Adobe continually fail to acknowledge that we could do serious work in an iPad. They keep serving up “mobile” apps instead of actually considering how an app like InDesign or Illustrator could function.

It took Microsoft years to bring Office to iOS, and in that time apps arrived to fill the gap they had left causing Office to lose mindshare. That’s now starting to happen to the Creative Cloud apps, Affinity Photo is excellent, and more than capable of growing in to the gap left by a lack of a fully fledged Photoshop. My hope is that other apps will rise up to fill the gaps left by a lack of full versions of Illustrator and InDesign or that Adobe gets its finger out and creates them.

Big Screens, Even Bigger Lessons & Learning to Make Tough Calls ›

This is a really insightful look into the process behind making an iPad app from an established iPhone app. As a designer I have some knowledge of designing for different screen sizes, but the behaviour of an app is very different to the behaviour of a website, albeit with some similarities. Before I begin any future web design projects I’ll definitely be giving this piece another read or two.

THESE ISLANDS – Cereal ›

Cereal Magazine is one of my favourite publications, ever since I came across it I’ve preordered every copy and own the Copenhagen field guide.

These Islands looks like a beautiful coffee table piece documenting their favourite places in the British Isles. Definitely one for birthday or Christmas lists this year.

About Me ›

For a while now I’ve owned the domain philbowell.me, I bought it while it was cheap and to make sure no one else got hold of it and thus cause confusion with the domain of this blog. I’ve wondered what to do with it for most of that time, briefly it acted as a micro‐blog but I merged that with this site a few months back. This evening while doing a bit of introverting I picked up my iPad (where I designed it and set the basic html structure), then my MacBook (where I implemented the CSS) and ended up with a new web page. A small about me should anyone stumble upon it. The only thing I’ve yet to do is optimise it for an iPhone sized display but it’s working pretty well on an iPad sized screen and upwards.

Introducing Microsoft Surface Studio ›

Microsoft have introduced the Surface Studio which looks incredible. As a designer this has instantly appealed to me. When I was a teenager studying for my GCSEs and A‐Levels I had a large drawing table in my bedroom, I used it as my desk to do all my design coursework since at the time it was all mostly done by hand. When I watched this video I was instantly taken back to that time, this looks like the drawing table of today. It looks like the iMac Apple could make if they applied some of their iPad vision to the world of desktop computing.

Tinker

The desire to tinker is strong in this one.

I have this problem when it comes to my blog. The more I start to post to it, the more I want to tinker. The more active I am on the site, the more I notice little things I don’t like and want to fix. The more I post to it, the more I want all my internet posting to originate on it. It’s like an illness.

It’s something I’ve always struggled with, and I confess it’s a side to blogging that I enjoy. The trouble is, the more I tinker the less I post. The more I craft the design, the less time I spend writing.

It’s a battle, although one I’m sure I do not face alone. It’s not just the battle of a blogger, it’s a battle of a designer. Most of the tinkering I do is design related, little details and quirks in my theme which I notice but very few others will. I also know from experience, that I will get to the point where I’ve caught the little tweaks I need to and they will be fixed. Then it’s just a case of resisting the bigger things I’d like to do. Or at least knocking off the major ones first, like finding a way to post photos here and on Instagram, displaying them in a way I’m happy with. The key though, is to keep the posts flowing. Keep to my challenge of posting everyday, and getting through the tinkering stage until I get to the point where I’m just posting each day and all my published content originates here.

Or is it just a pipe dream? Should I just keep posting and ignore the little bits that nag?

But I know I can’t just ignore the nagging. I’m a designer, I like details and its in my nature to keep refining bits until they’re gone. To keep crafting until they as close to perfect as can be, it’s just important to keep the perspective, to keep in mind that perfect doesn’t exist. It’s about getting things to good enough whilst keeping on posting each day and building momentum so that the writing takes over the tinkering and becomes a creative outlet in its own right.

Modern Kitchen Redesign ›

I always enjoy reading a good process or behind the scenes post. So it’s little surprise that I’m linking to this one from Jeff Sheldon of Ugmonk fame. Jeff has done a write up of the modern kitchen remodel he and his wife have just finished.

I love seeing the homes of people who have an, at least in my opinion, impeccable eye for design and Jeff certainly falls in to that category. Look closely and you’ll see a glimpse of a future product, a coffee related one which will go straight in to my shopping basket!

MacBook ›

Interesting comments from Joshua Ginter in the MacBook.

Having commented the other day that I was close to going for the iMac when I last upgraded my Mac, had the MacBook Pro been in the same format as the new MacBook and just as powerful as the Pro, I would likely have gone with a space grey one. Although my design tastes would be influencing me a lot in that decision, I think it’s a stunning design.

NASA’s Visions of the future ›

These NASA Visions of the Future posters are great. I meant to share them with you at the weekend but was caught up in preparing for my sermon on Sunday. Anyway, it’s so great to see companies do fun stuff like this to build engagement and interest in what they are doing. Best of all, the full res versions are available for you to print and hang on your wall.

A new Radpad ›

I really like the openness and insight into a rebrand of Radpad including the thought process and some of the thinking behind the decisions they made. I wish more companies and designers, and I include myself in this, were more open about these things.