Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

I’m breaking my own rules. I had always said that this blog was about design, and not intended to be a personal document; nevertheless, I’ll write this and just see if I can stitch it all together. (I’m quite convinced that there’s something relevant to say here, if I can just move beyond a couple of clichés.)

Next week is a big week–I believe that it in fact symbolizes one of the most important connections I will have in my life. On Saturday, my family and friends as well as my fiancée’s will come together to do what families do. We’ll make a commitment to one another and throw a big party. It’s a casual affair, but we have a large group joining us to celebrate a very happy milestone.

Although I’m thrilled that Amea will marry me, my interest is far more in the marriage than the wedding; however, in the past week I have found myself feeling quite excited. One part of this is in having so many great people come together for a weekend of fun. Additionally, in reading over our wedding vows and reflecting upon the gravity those words, I find myself a little awestruck. What always seemed corny on television, feels quite monumental upon being put in context.

Two years ago

I was not looking to begin a relationship. Being new to Vancouver however, I wanted to get out on occasion and meet new people. The first time that Amea and I met, we shared a coffee and casual conversation at a cafe on Commercial Drive. It was a nice, normal meeting and I had no idea how significant a role she would play in my life.

At this time, I was putting in quite hard hours at work. I would typically arrive at the studio at 8:30 am, and leave in between 10pm and midnight. On days off, I would put in longer hours, working on typefaces. I was generally quite happy about the work, mostly due to my renewed interest in smashLAB. We were starting to take-off, with some new projects to work on. I felt very focused.

Over the following months, Amea and I met a number of times for movies, walks, and coffee. Things progressed rather slowly, but we really became friends over that period of time. On occasion we would just sit at my old apartment and watch late-night television, laughing at the ads for the 1-900 numbers, where bad actors would repeat the phrase, “pick up the phone… call me…”

A decision

Before Amea and I dated “seriously”, I did some soul-searching. I already felt that time was quite limited, and pondered what kind of a life I wanted to have.

In many respects, I just wanted to devote my life to making things. Perhaps this was a selfish desire, but even if so, it was a sincere one. I found that I enjoyed building things much more than I ever enjoyed visiting with others or attending social functions. At this time I was trying to find a way to balance managing smashLAB, building type, finding some time to write, and perhaps painting again at some point.

I then felt that choosing a relationship would inhibit my ability to build relevant work, and slow the proficiency of my output. This was a somewhat perplexing notion, given that I had spent my entire life working to shape my life around these interests; nevertheless, I couldn’t help but acknowledge that I had more fun with Amea in my life, than I did solely slaving away at a computer, day in and day out.

Upon recognizing this, I decided that I would continue to pursue a relationship with Amea, and simply find a way to fit all of the rest in as best as I could. (Even if the painting might have to wait another twenty years.)

Amea

Amea is an amazing person. She’s happy, thoughtful, sometimes a little goofy, and incredibly kind. She’s quick to laugh, and asks a lot of questions. If you meet her, she’ll likely want to know about you and what your story is. This quality makes her incredibly compelling to be around, as is evidenced by her rich family relationships and countless friends.

Her family is like a big party, that “moves into town” like a force of nature. They bring with them a huge energy that’s hard to not get caught-up in. She reads books with titles that I have to ask for interpretations to, and has already experienced life so wholly. She has travelled to Korea, Ethiopia, and the Solomon Islands, as well as many other places I’ve only ever seen on a map.

She thinks about issues, and is honest about how she can help others, without being in any way pretentious or selfish in these desires. Her work is about the community, and how she can contribute to it. On a walk through the city, we often meet with someone whose life she has touched.

All of that said, I must say that I cringe at the fact that she finds entertainment value in People magazine and Trading Spouses. ;-)

Good

My life is good these days. It’s certainly more interesting and fulfilling, and the new friends I’ve met through Amea have made my life more colourful. We have fun together, and I’m a bit of a curmudgeon, so that’s testament to just what a good sort Amea is.

I still work a lot (probably too much if you were to ask Amea). Still, this pursuit is something I enjoy greatly. I believe that there’s a balance that’s being reached, even if I’m stretched a little thin some times.

I’ve also been working to put my personal beliefs regarding this profession into perspective. I’ve asked some questions about what we’re doing here, and how that fits into my life and responsibility to others. As much as they are nice, I don’t want to design for annuals, awards, or self-gratification. We will probably still try for them, as I hear that they are good for attracting new work; nevertheless, I can’t imagine that being the goal.

As designers, I think that perhaps it’s part of our job to attempt to better understand and interpret our world and community. If we are really determined, I hope that we can even use our skills to inspire others, improve experiences, and conceivably make change.

I’m learning (very, very slowly) to be a little calmer, and trying to better understand the people around me.

Life informs design

When I was young, I believed that you couldn’t be a relevant designer past thirty. Needless to say, when I reflect upon them, the absurdity of those beliefs is more than a little embarrassing. There are so many books to read, places to see, discussions to engage in, and experiences to have. Frankly, I can’t wait to be a designer at fifty–perhaps I’ll actually know something then.

Design has become an inextricable part of my life. It’s everywhere I go, and in most everything that I do. It informs my relationships and view of the world. I have hopes that with time I will be able to earn a greater command of this discipline and use it to do some good things that move past selling and promoting products/services, and have a more positive impact in the lives of those in my community.

Our practice doesn’t inform the connections we make–human experience does this. My friend Wil, at mod7 (a tremendous little interactive studio in Vancouver), has noted that since he has had children, he has found better ways to convey ideas and manage the job process. The reality is that you can make better work when you understand people better, and have real depth behind your insights.

I urge you to find people you care about, and make them as much of a part of your life as you can. The people you meet and learn from will inform the kind of designer you will become, and expand your ability to communicate.

As I consider just a few of the people in my life, and how they help me improve as both a designer and person, I’m hard pressed to find words that represent the importance of their influence. From my parents I learn enthusiasm and values, from my brother I become more principled, and from my business partner I become more stable and analytical.

From Amea I learn to be a better, and possibly more compassionate person.

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Comments & Trackbacks

  1. g says:

    Hi man, I'm new on this site, have read some of your great posts.

    Anyway, just wanted to say: Congratulations in this new part of your life, just reading about your girl/fiance she sounds like a great great person.

    bye!

  2. Mark Benson says:

    Eric, Amea sounds wonderful. I wish you both the best.

  3. Well, I think it would be very valuable if you continue to break your rule because this article contains something very essential: Learn to interact with the people around you! And how you wrote it... it really is exactly like this, and you gave me just another point of view. Thank you.
    As you told before, in your article "Why designers should write", you have made a clear statement about what you think. As I see it this is the very point of writing a journal or blog, whatever you prefer to call it. Keep it up, I really adore your articles! I can learn a lot from them.

  4. paul says:

    good job man - i just got married last month and i highly recommend it!

  5. Steve says:

    An early congrats... One can only assume that the invites were a stellar design by none other than smahLAB... are you going to share those?

  6. Hi all,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    I did play design the invitations, and I must say that they are not nearly as strong as they should have been.

    I suppose that I am my own worst client. ;-)

  7. Jaco says:

    Great post and congrats! I currently find myself in a very similar situation to where you have been two years ago, the late nights and long hours slaving away in front of the pc. Its good to know that there is a balance to be found beyond the "marriage" to my work... big-up!

  8. Frances says:

    We are all glad you took a break and pursued the relationship. Our lives have all been enriched by having such a creative person join the family (NO MORE LAWYERS). The fun has only just begun.

  9. I wish you the best in your engagement! I, a 20 year old apprentice in Ecuador, salutes you. Don't stop writing!

  10. Congratulations to you both!
    Eric ~ you are a true artist, in all facets of your work! I was touched by your reflections, and I am staring at 50 yrs. old! ~ much wiser than my youth, but enjoying the journey.

    The very best of wishes to you and Amea ~ from Prince George! (P.S. I look forward to the opportunity of meeting Amea.)

  11. James Zsombor says:

    Congratulations Eric and Amea! I’ve enjoyed your reading your essays. Communicate with your new wife with the same insight and inspiration and you will share a beautiful life. Remember, Love is no assignment for cowards.

    James

  12. Mark Karjaluoto says:

    I disagree on the invitations... I thought they looked excellent.

    The wedding was awesome (aside from unrelenting rain that prevented an outdoor ceremony), and the whole weekend was exceptional... including the opportunity for those of us in Eric's family to meet Amea's family!

    M

  13. Walt D says:

    I wish you both the best and may you live long and prosper.

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