Jamie, one of the architects in the office, has a habit of stealing me away from my usual projects for a few days. What this usually means is that a new project has come in and we need to put something out to supplement a bid or a client wants an indicative design to consider.
There’s a degree of calculation involved at this level: how much should we say? Which are the key design decisions to emphasise? What’s going to matter most to the people analysing it? It ends up being very much like a charette in uni: work out what’s important, pin down as much as possible and get it presentable. The challenge, in a rapid-fire outcome-driven situation, is to assimilate information quickly and produce work that addresses the main points without getting caught up in details. It is in many ways it’s something that uni actually prepares us to do reasonably well (or at least I have that impression – it could be that it’s been long enough that I’ve forgotten how foreign it might have seemed to me when I graduated in 2012). Either way, it’s a skill I’m very, very glad to have honed.
It’s not an intensity of work I could sustain, and it’s a degree of independence which would be isolating after a while, but as a break from the intricacy and detail and routine of production information packages it’s pretty great. It’s also driven home to me the importance of keeping hard skills fresh; when I sit down to produce an InDesign document after months of spending my working life in ArchiCad then it takes me at least a few hours to get back to fluency – menus, shortcuts, techniques, instinctive basics it’s disconcertingly easy to lose. It makes me aware that it’s important to take up the opportunity to switch media when I’m given the chance. It’s not always possible within the constraints of work and life, but I’m making an active effort to use techniques I don’t use in work on my personal projects (particularly model-making and certain types of hand-drawing). It’s the only real way to keep a range of skills fresh and, while some will always feel more natural than others, the greater that range the more tools I have to draw on. More ways of working means more ways of making and more ways of thinking, and I think that helps make for a more versatile and able practitioner – which is ultimately what I want to be.