Get the Picture

Beauty + Logic | Trollbäck + Company Creative Blog   

Study the science of art. Study the art of science…Develop your senses. Especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.

— Leonardo da Vinci

New York and I have a deep-seated love/hate relationship. On the whole, we get along because we both have low levels of patience. Like most fast-paced New Yorkers, I place a high premium on speed and efficiency. When the subways are running on-time, I really love New York.

Regrettably, New York spends a lot of its time validating my skepticism and rewarding my cynicism. I ride the NQRW – Never, Questionable, Rarely, and Whenever. I am always prepared to face a “nightmare commute” armed with a book and a knitting project. Usually both.

It’s funny, but for someone who values speed and efficiency in everyday life as much as I do, I have a limitless attention span when it comes to painstaking activities that inspire tedium in others. I love jigsaw puzzles – the tinier and more convoluted the pieces, the better. I love knitting, even though it’s infinitely more practical to buy a sweater than spend 40+ hours making one. I enjoy listening to the Grateful Dead (but draw a line at the tedium that is Drums and Space).

What’s behind this patience-disparity? I’m detail-oriented, sure. But more importantly, I enjoy creating the fabric of a whole, and I enjoy being part of a fabric. I enjoy the sensation that everything connects to everything else on a micro and macro level – whether that’s a combination of knit-purl stitches, lamenting another train delay with fellow commuters, or collaborating on a branding pitch.

I think most people want to pursue meaningful connections in their personal and professional lives, but we get tripped up by what the fabric is supposed to be. Trollbäck Creative Director Elliott Chaffer addresses this in his article, I Share Therefore I am Not, about our propensity to get caught up in the trappings of social connectivity. Even a trope like “the fabric of America” resists definition in today’s political landscape. Like a mirror room, there are infinite pictures within pictures, making it all the more difficult to understand new perspectives and where we fit in.

We face similar challenges when it comes to branding. Within our studio, not only are we each working to find out how and where to best assist our creative teams; we’re working to figure out how and where to best assist our clients’ in-house teams, a brand into their competitive landscape, and target markets in relation to the brand. And on top of that, even the least-egotistical among us wants to feel that our contributions are being heard, have value, and are impactful. So how do we weave ourselves into the fabric and keep things in perspective at the same time?

I struggled with this a lot before I came to Trollbäck+Company, when I worked for five years in pediatric oncology. While I felt (and still feel) privileged to have worked on the inpatient “front lines” at one of the country’s leading institutions, I would be lying to you if I said that I found personal fulfillment in it. That just made me feel more guilty “in the grand scheme of things.” But I made some of the most powerful connections in my life with the doctors, nurses, and patients there, and it happened because I played to my creative strengths. And I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

It seems obvious, but the best way to work yourself into the fabric of a workplace, brandscape, or community, is simply understanding what it is you do best. I wish schools would do a better job of this, but for those heading back-to-school this week, keep it in mind. You owe this assessment to yourself and those around you. If we all try to approach things this way, the fabric starts to take better care of itself.

In this industry, it’s sometimes easy to feel that what we do “doesn’t matter” in the big picture; but that’s a dangerous generalization. As John Keating puts it in Dead Poets Society:

Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

Turns out the big picture doesn’t have to be that complicated. It’s just finding the right balance of beauty and logic. And just like navigating the organized chaos of New York, we’re all in it together. Have patience.

Cargo Collective 2017 — Frogtown, Los Angeles