The Collective

What's wrong with me? Well, beyond the obvious things that my wife would tell you, and my friends, and my parents, and my coworkers, and... you get the picture. Besides those things, I'm not a collector. I don't have a collection of election pins, or match books, or baseball cards, or pottery or anything. I don't even keep the things that I make for the most part. I have a sample drawer and some stuff from school my parents were nice enough (I would say proud enough, but that may be stretching it) to hold onto. But I don't amass things.

I don't keep too many things out of nostalgia either. I don't usually hold onto things like concert tickets, or theater programs, or birthday cards.

I have art on the walls, a fair amount, but I'm not what you would call obsessive about it. I have books, but not any more than a regular reader of books would have. I have nick nacks, but not too many to dust. 

I find this to be a wonderful trait, this lack of hoarding. I am keen on only getting things that I really want and that are truly wonderful things. I do what I can to adhere to what my pals call the "No Junk Manifesto." However, this seems to be anathema in some ways to how designers behave. Carin Goldberg recently blurted out in her presentation to the AIGA in Memphis (and I'm paraphrasing enormously) that she didn't know a designer worth their salt that didn't collect things.

Gulp.

The more I think about this the more I feel like this is part of the attachment designers have to the objects they design. This attachment results in the problems we face in defining what designers do. It causes us to describe the profession in terms of the ephemera we create. When in reality we create experiences. We create interactions. And experiences are something I do collect. I store forever memories and emotions and impressions from traveling and reading and watching movies and drunken conversations.

Those are the things I steal from. Rather than holding fast to a cool brochure, or a paper sample I hold onto how I feel. I hold onto phrases people say. I collect relationships and memories. And I try like hell to repeat them in my work. So Carin Goldberg is right. To design, you must collect. I'm just afraid that too many of us are holding onto things that disintegrate in the end.