Tree, saw, chisel, sand

February 10, 2014

Tree, saw, chisel, sand. Start with raw timber, end up with something crafted.

Before you begin you need to answer a few questions. What timber are you using? Which type of tree? Which forest? Are we even on the right continent? Branches, texture, wood, colour and knots; all factors that affect the outcome.

And that’s just on the materials side of things. What about tools? What type of blade, can we get the job done with this? Thicknessers, joining tools, sanders, finishing tools. What is the finish and feel? Do we even have a workshop?

Imagine picking up a branch and trying to sand it with fine sandpaper. When the sandpaper is ripped to bits (after about one second) you grab your chainsaw and start randomly chopping into it, hoping that something – anything – will emerge.

This ridiculous analogy is how a surprising number of people assume that design professionals approach the creative process, that somehow we can begin at the end.

There is a romance and an immediacy about finished designs that the casual observer can mistakenly associate with a moment of brilliance. These moments happen but more often than not they emerge as a result of a disciplined, methodical approach.

Being able to solve any communication problem requires firstly gaining a deep understanding of the problem. For our team, that means diving into a new industry, finding out how the industry works, getting a clear picture of the demographics of all stakeholders, scouring numerous sites on the web, understanding the objectives and goals of the enterprise… on and on it goes. There is a unique DNA in every serious business, enterprise, startup, movement, project and company. We must listen and understand before a strategy starts to emerge.

Tree, saw, chisel, sand. We don’t start with sandpaper. We start by selecting the right tree.