January 28 2012
This morning was a welcome slower start. Some serious wrestling with the kids, reading books, and getting my son Sky set up with a canvas and paint before leaving the house. When I returned this evening, there was a finished painting to hang in his room.
I then went to a weekly meeting with a local San Francisco architect who is guiding me through the rather Kafkaesque rules and processes for construction in the Bay Area. We will be breaking ground soon, though. My dream of building a very personal, intimate, minimal and fun space for the family gang is one step closer. It will be life-proof; I want the kids to be able to skateboard not just outside the house, but inside as well.
I have to take Sky to another school interview. While driving, I take a call from a 27-year-old friend who founded a successful school for entrepreneurs in NY a year ago. We talk about the importance of making, and some ideas for an organisation that would rally and support makers.
I had discovered a few weeks prior that Americans have been deprived of shop classes, woodwork, metal and sculpture for two generations now. No wonder industrial manufacturing has almost disappeared here. At the same time, making has had a fantastic revival. The Maker Faire, an annual inventors and builders event near San Francisco, attracts almost 100,000 visitors. And there are maker events happening now all around the world. For me, the greatest designers of the 20th century were also the better makers. What seems lacking in a lot of the trendy design strategy talk of today is the intelligence of making.
Back in the office, I spend some time improving on the pocketability of a new product, and the proportions of the packaging. There is also a new LED light bulb brand we are readying for launch that needs some word and visual refinements.
We also sit down with a few members of the design team to discuss some adjustments to our new office, located a few blocks away in Potrero Hill, on which we are in the middle of renovations. There is a real sense of excitement about creating a very collaborative and open space. There will be no private offices, and casual meeting areas for exchanging ideas in small groups will be peppered throughout individual work areas. Our material and energy use is taking advantage of the latest green technologies. We will be the first in California to install an English ventilation system that uses roof-mounted wind-catchers and electronics to control climate.
A client meeting with a company founded by two Stanford engineers leads to some passionate arguments about how far we can push a new design solution. My rôle in these discussions is often not to be the voice of reason – not yet, anyway. Instead, I convince the team to give some challenges another creative go. During the design process I would rather fail often, and fail fast, as it allows us to learn quickly about the outer boundaries of a particular problem.
The FuseProject team has gathered at a nearby wine bar for a rowdy farewell for one of our young team members. My focus this year is on the company culture, and it is rewarding to see the group in good spirits.
Back home, it’s dinner with the kids, playing a new board game and reading books. When I get my computer out after good-nights, I realise that I didn’t realise it was Friday. An English friend recently remarked that “people in San Francisco exhibit a unique blend of being laid-back and constantly working hard”. Seems to me like a good description of work balance: work that sustains our interest and passion, and makes us forget it’s Friday.