I knew I had to keep learning new technology to stay ‘in the game,” but what I didn’t know is that I’d fall in love.
I’ve had my own interior-design business for 25 years and things have certainly changed since my first hand-drawn working drawings for my first client. Embracing new technology helps me keep up with the world. My clients, contractors and suppliers all use email, social media and texting. Twenty years ago I started on my first-generation Mac. Fifteen years years ago I started emailing designs to clients. Just four years ago I had no idea how to use Twitter. Now my business has a blog, a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, and we’re on LinkedIn and Pinterest too. When I decided to dive in, I realized that I couldn’t do it gently: I had to embrace all of it for it to work. Now I use these things as tools to help me reach the people I want – and need – to reach.
What frightened me at first was the time it would take, and it does take time. As each piece of social media evolves, I have to work hard to stay on top of it. But here’s what I found out: I love having a voice! It gives me a way to ‘talk’ to my world – my clients, my craftspeople, vendors and suppliers about art, design and creativity in a way I don’t usually get when I’m rushing to execute a project. I can also ‘listen’ – I follow my favorite woodworker and one of my furniture-makers and see what they come up with. Being part of the online world allows me to learn from others about what’s going on in design. It is truly worth the time and trouble.
I’m now learning something completely new – 3-D printing. My desire to learn this has focused for me on how important it is to grit your teeth and make yourself learn. But learning how to use 3-D printing is both easier and more difficult than learning about social media. Easier because it’s directly relevant to my work. It’s a way to create design and to – maybe – change aspects of the way I create my designs. More difficult because it is a more complicated technological process than, say, Twitter or Facebook. For those two, once I learned how to post, and how not to lose my passwords, I could even use them with my iPhone.
First I had to learn what 3-D printing is. I first heard of the concept when I saw a video of a person making a prosthesis for a young boy. As I learned more, and saw the small items being created quickly, I thought this is great, but what can this do for me that my wonderful draftsperson, and the craftspeople and artisans I work with, can’t do for me already?
The Museum of Art and Design in NYC is hosting an entire show on 3-D printing and associated processes. I talked a good friend into going with me to see “Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital,” right before Christmas. Standing on the second floor, we looked at various small objects that had been printed using 3-D technology. My friend strolled over to a young woman at a laptop and started chatting with her (she’s like that). A young man who designs for 3-D printing joined us. The two of them started explaining what you can do using a 3-D printer…. (they thankfully didn’t try to explain how the mechanism actually works!) As they talked, I began to get excited. I was literally vibrating with excitement standing in the middle of the museum as I knew right then and there this was going to change my business and my ability to create unique and beautiful things.
I had a commission from a client to make a sofa. I had a very rough drawing. I wanted the sofa to be elegantly-scaled with a nod to traditional sofas but also be modern and clean, and marry this new piece seamlessly into her existing space. I had come up with a complex curve into a downward-sloping curved arm, but my drawing skills would not allow me to convey it properly. How to convey what was in my head to my upholsterer without doing a lot of mock-ups? I thought while seeing the 3-D process that this would be a terrific way for him to see for real what was in my head!
Here’s where the complexity comes in. You need special software to create the drawing you can give to the people who will actually print your artwork. See, you make a drawing on your computer, and when you print it, it comes out as a three-dimensional object!
Thankfully my wonderful draftsman loves to research so he began learning about what was needed to be able to produce the drawings for the 3-D printing process. We decided that the sofa would be a good test. It was an interesting learning curve on both our parts, but well worth it! When the model arrived at my doorstep, I was elated at the model and also with my design! I could immediately see that what I had created in my head was just right for my client. And it’s only about four by eight inches in size! I gave the little sofa to my upholsterer who was immediately able to see – in three dimensions – what I had in mind. He’s making the sofa for me now. With fewer steps for me and my upholsterer, and with the exact shape in front of him, it’s going to be just what I designed, with a lot less back and forth and false starts.
I believe this is the beginning of a revolution in the world of design, literally creating a physical object on your computer. I’m proud of myself that I still try to keep learning about new technologies as they appear, but I realize it’s the only way to keep moving ahead with my creativity. I think it’s vital as we get older to keep up with what’s new, not just because it’s new, but because it’s useful. (Ok, some new things I’m still scratching my head over a bit.) I’m very glad that I overcame my fears about 3-D printing and everything else – I know I still have so much to learn, but I know also that I will learn it. And it will make me a better designer.
Charlene is an interior designer who lives in New York City. She started her firm, Keogh Design, Inc., in 1988. You can see how much she knows about social media by checking out her website, KeoghDesign.com.