Parenting a Designer

Project Requirements

Project Requirements

 

After having a few good laughs and nodding in agreement at the uncanny insight on a blog post called “Dating a designer: 10 things you need to know”, I was inspired.  I haven’t dated a designer (or at least not recently), but I’ve known a few and I’ve raised an aspiring industrial designer to adulthood.  It has been a unique experience – one that I’m sure that other parents can identify with.  So I’ve decided to share a few insights of my own.

You’ll know it when you see it. You’ll know your kid is destined to be an architect or designer when other toddlers are cramming everything into their mouths and your child is building complex structures with wooden blocks.  You’ll know it when they prefer to arrange their food into pleasing patterns to actually eating it.  It will be obvious when you see their first grade drawing of a detailed scene drawn in perfect perspective – and then you see their classmates’ sketches of stick mommies and three-legged cows.  Design thinking may show up early. Recognize it and nurture it.

Trust their judgment.  When your designer child laments that they’re the only one in the family with style, accept reality.  It’s probably true.  Instead of feeling offended, accept constructive criticism and rely on their expert judgment.  My young designer once told me that I needed a signature color.  “I suppose you have one.”  “Of course,” she answered.  “I’ll bet you even know the Pantone code.”  “376. Pea Green.”  She was right.  I needed definition.  I wasn’t able to pin my essence down to a single code, but if you look in my closet you’ll see a range that spans from light aqua to cerulean blue.  I’m not a designer, but my color scheme and confidence have improved.

Gift shopping can be a challenge.  Unlike the blogger who is dating a designer, I wouldn’t say gift shopping is next to impossible.  Or at least not until they get older, tastes are more refined and they’re lusting after a minimalist watch with no numbers.  Let’s just say that you need to be willing to consider unusual presents.  You may even have to visit places like Lowe’s for items such as a Dremel MultiPro kit or drop by Office Max to pick up a 12 pack of Pilot Precise V5 pens.  Their friends will shake their heads and say, “You got a tool kit for your birthday?  That sucks.”  They’ll never understand.

Designers are the new rock stars.  At least to designers.  At her age, I knew the latest hits and was damaging my hearing at stadium concerts.  She works at a fabric store and gets excited when the new collections arrive from her favorite textile artists.  We’re not so different.  Really.

From my experience, parenting a designer is like raising orchids.  It’s not always easy, and they only bloom under the right conditions.  In fact, just read this excerpt about growing orchids and tell me if it doesn’t sound familiar…

For your best crack at success, start by choosing one of the less fussy varieties that is adapted to the type of growing conditions you can provide.  Buy the most mature plant you can afford (young plants are much more difficult to please)…”

Yes, young designers can be fussy and difficult to please, but they are imaginative thinkers that will help you to see the world in a whole new way.  With the right conditions, plentiful resources, patience and understanding, your young designer will bloom and grow.

So stock up on paper, pens, tools, hardware and art supplies.  Expose your designer to new experiences and inspiration and see what develops.  Most of all – accept, encourage and enjoy.

Letters from the Front

Collection at the WWI Museum in KC

Collection at the WWI Museum in KC

Museums don’t always thrill me, with their guards and heavy silence and collections of objects trapped lifeless behind glass.  But I was pleasantly moved and surprised by a visit to Kansas City’s World War I Museum during a recent trip to my hometown.

Housed in the Liberty Memorial, this is the only museum in the U.S. dedicated solely to World War I.  Featuring exhibits and interactive displays that engage all senses, the facility appeals to history buffs and those who aren’t so enamored with conflicts and hard-to-remember timelines (like myself).  I always enjoyed living history, oral history and first-hand accounts that told individual stories.  Primary resources like diaries and letters speak to me and I like candid photos, music and letters that describe the laughter, love and pain absent from textbooks.

A collection of envelopes that had encased letters from a father on the front to his son in San Antonio caught my attention.  Skillfully drawn and addressed to Private Walter L. Myers, these miniature works range from comical to patriotic and capture remarkable everyday experiences, from one soldier to another.  The sketches carry a message through time and space, so that a century later we understand at first glance.  Connection in the face of conflict.  Textbooks document the dates and timelines, victories and losses, nationalities, maps, destruction and casualties.  But a comical sketch sent from “somewhere in France” or a photo of the artist drawing in a distant combat zone soars above boundaries like the hot air balloons depicted by Myers, an artillery scout.  It doesn’t matter if the soldier is French, American, German or Russian – he’s a man and a father, far away from home.

After touring the museum, I visited the post office and bought 2 books of “vintage seed package” stamps.  I haven’t written to my daughters in awhile – maybe I’ll get out the colored pencils today and get drawing.