The absurd joy of accidents

When was the last time you made something that was eighty inches long? Like 80? Quatre-vignt? For once, it seems that a conversation about lengths has ventured well out of bounds of euphemistic territory — into the absurd.

Even wilder was the object possessing such expansive qualities: a god damned poster.

Yes, today I printed an eighty inch long poster entirely by accident. After playing with the settings for printing my originally modestly sized oeuvre (18 by 38 inches, mind you), something got stuck on 200% and off the printer went, zip-zip zip-zip. I had half a thought to press the cancel button, but after standing there for 5 of the 15 total minutes the thing took to print I began to bask in the silliness of it all.

I had woken up at six a.m., begrudgingly cranked through the morning routine — alarm, robe, lights, milk, fuck there’s no milk left, water, toast, OJ, shower, teeth, clothes, car — gotten to work at 7, started working on some godforsaken MATLAB code, sat through a meeting that went late and was full of incomprehensible three-letter acronyms, rushed in my car back to campus without lunch, power walked into Think[box], and queued up the print job. All for this.

So I stood there, watching as a monster was birthed — my monster — and made the decision to take it in stride. Ten minutes later (and ten minutes late), I showed up to the event where the poster was intended to be used. We decided to let the thing roll awkwardly off the side of the table, with just the top section proudly displaying “DESIGN FOR AMERICA CASE WESTERN + CIA” and the rest rolling down to meet people’s feet… eighty inches later. Business casual visitors strolled by, and, for the most part, totally didn’t give a fuck. There’s a lesson in there somewhere folks.

I rushed back to work, and was greeted by a new face in the cube next to me. An intern! I think she has the only other cube with a view on the men’s bathroom. I’m sure she’ll find the regularity of some of our coworkers fascinating. In any case, we spent the next three hours playing a game I call “how long should we keep trying to get your computer set up before calling IT,” a careful balance of two options: personal sanity, or hold-music purgatory. We decided to finish tomorrow.

Intent not to lose any steam, I began my evening with another hot date with monster poster, preaching from my booth to all that would listen about the wonders of design and Design For America. Maybe I’ll post my spiel here for the whole world to see some day. I have it down to a science, “Design for America is a student run design studio, we focus on using human centered design thinking to solve local and social problems…” The DFA vibes were strong today, and after another killer studio meeting, and a productive exec meeting, I returned home full of thoughts like, “wow, our last event totally sucked ass, but that was oddly what everyone needed to get into gear. Maybe I should intentionally plan shitty events just to get people to care? I could be on to something! *conceptual back-pat*” I’m tired.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow I’m going to make work suck less.

Here’s the deal: I’m not passionate about lamps. All other aesthetic qualms with the products I’m working on aside, I associate the standardized, matte white, tube fluorescent-like fixtures with the blueish indoor hue of American schooling and corporate office parks. They make me think of uncrustables and passing periods. And now of cubicles and recirculated air. I feel like I’m designing part of my own fate, like future me’s will sit in a cube under square upon square of light emanating anemically from objects that I had a hand in creating.

But future me will also live in the future. And I’m passionate about the future. And despite the above qualms, the future in general will have some pretty cool things — even the lights. Right now, part of my work focuses on connecting lamps to sensors that can record ambient temperature, light, occupancy, and movement and those sensors can talk to other sensors and they can do crazy shit like make light paths for people, send location-sensitive data to their smartphones, or tell the thermostat to cool it. I may have to write some tedious MATLAB code, but I’ll be using it to make a database of all of our fixtures so that future orders will be so easy for purchasers to place that we’ll be selling hundreds of thousands of lights, not tens of thousands. And those will be hundreds of thousands of clean, efficient LED lamps, cutting tons of emissions and contributing to a green economy.

Unfortunately, though, the future doesn’t get thought of, designed, and made by people who complain about their jobs. So tomorrow I’ll focus on the future, and maybe some common ground will emerge — a compromise — because the future of lighting sounds like something I can be passionate about.

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