Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things
Nearly everybody likes a neat desk, even if they don’t have one. Some of us justify our sloppy ways by saying that all those piles of paper are proof of our busy lives and active minds. There’s some truth to that, of course, but some of the stuff sitting on my desk right now has absolutely no reason to be there.
My colleague Jennifer Northrop is Director of Communications and Marketing at Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. I have always admired her tidy desk—this is someone who knows how to put stuff away when she doesn’t need it any more. But not every piece of paper gets banished to her file cabinet or the recycling bin. Neatly pinned to a long wall in her office are dozens of postcards, press kits, and newspaper ads, representing the visual identities of several years worth of Cooper-Hewitt exhibitions and programs. When Jen is working at her desk or talking to colleagues, she can see physical evidence of what the museum is all about. She can instantly understand how it fits together and how it’s been changing. That wall of images is a visualization of her job.
I call this the “visibility principle.” When stuff is important to what you’re doing, make it visible. Make it easy to see your calendar. Make it easy to know what time it is. Make it easy to see things that inspire you.
At a certain point, however, the visible becomes…invisible. Things disappear, fading into the proverbial woodwork because we no longer want or need to see them. Then it’s time to put them away.— Ellen Lupton · 2009-06-23