How to Make a Broom Last Forever, and Other Important Lessons

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I’ve had this broom for more than 25 years. Other than the paint chipping in places, it is still in pretty good shape considering all leaves, grass clippings and whatnot I’ve swept up over the years.

How is that? You’d think that after 25 years of sweeping the bristles would be bent over to one side or the other. No matter how good the Shakers designed brooms, this is bound to happen at some point.

When I was in high school I learned how to draft. Not how to pick players in fantasy football or how to get behind a big truck to deflect the wind, rather I learned how to make technical drawings used to build things. Like houses, machinery, furniture, etc.

Drafting is done exclusively on computers nowadays, but back in those dark ages of high school we used pencils and paper, the same way Brunelleschi did back in the Renaissance, when he practically founded the practice of architecture for the Western world.

One of the keys to being a good draftsman (or draftswoman, as the case was with Beth, the only girl in my drafting class), was the consistent weight of the lines you drew. Different thicknesses in lines could mean different things depending on what you were drawing. This subtlety might not be that important when drawing an exploded view of a tool, but if you drew something designed to handle electricity, the varying lines thickens might lead to something slightly more explosive.

The key to consistent line weight was to twirl the pencil while you drew. You do this by slightly twisting the pencil in your fingertips while you pulled or pushed it across the page. Try it for yourself. When you learn how to do this — and there is a trick to doing it — you not only get lines that are consistently the same, but you can go long stretches between having to sharpen the pencil.

So what does this have to do with the durability of my broom? Surprisingly, everything.

As an experiment, after destroying another broom I applied that same idea of twirling a pencil while drawing to sweeping. Twirl the broom every time it is used, never sweeping in one direction for more than a few strokes. The bristles never have the chance to get bent in either direction, so they have stayed straight all these years.

This is a very handy tip I’m sharing to help extend the life of your broom.

But this story also shows how taking a creative approach to even the simplest task can solve a problem. How taking two completely different things and combining them into in a new and novel way can produce a solid result.

Drafting and sweeping couldn’t be further apart, but by making a simple creative connection, the problem of wearing out my broom was solved. So much so, I haven’t bought a new broom in years.

So the question becomes what are things you do in life that might be applied to other areas of life, inside or outside of work, to make things better? Learning to see and make these connections is a giant step towards creative problem solving.

Standing on the Shoulders of a Giant


In 2015, I was working on a project commemorating the 90th anniversary of Schlumberger. My boss dug up an old brochure done from the company rebranding efforts in the late 90s. There were some really cool images in it he wanted to use for a multimedia presentation, so he asked me to track them down.

I knew who had designed the brochure: Milton Glaser.

Milton Glaser was one of those designers whose work you had seen, but unless you were in the know, you had no idea he had done it. Record and book covers, logos, posters, you name it. I happened to know Mr. Glaser had been engaged by Schlumberger for the rebranding, so I called him.

The studio took my call, but of course, I did not get to speak with Mr. Glaser. His assistant asked me to jot down a list of what I was looking for and they would go through their archives to see if they had what my boss wanted.

I scratched together an email with all the details, and finished off the note with some gushing. Hell, how often do you get to communicate with one of your idols.

A day or so later, I got a reply from the man himself. Mr. Glaser wrote me back. He said that unfortunately his archives did not go back quite that far and he did have the material I was looking for. And he graciously thanked me for the kind words I shared with him.

This really struck me. Here is one of the preeminent designers in the world, taking some time out of his day to write me a note. Even though he was a rock star, he was not so big that he couldn’t take a few minutes to ping a designer down in Houston. This speaks volumes about the kind of person he was.

I have a constant reminder of Milton Glaser’s greatness sitting a few feet away from me on my bookshelf — one of his monographs I bought while in design school back in 1986. That book, and his others, along with countless interviews and articles had a huge impact on me and my work. But this simple gesture of reaching out to me personally tanscends all of that.

Rest in peace, Mr. Glaser.

The I’s Have It

As this site has been assembled over the years, it has lacked focus.

Although it is a personal website, being that I am one of those people who is strongly defined by their work, it has needed that glue to hold it all together. I’ve been stewing on this for a while and I am finally ready to move forward with a philosophy, a cohesive thought about what I do and what I had to offer the world as a Designer.

I used to think I made logos, ads, movies, websites and other sundry things. That is true. Along with that simplistic view on my work, I have also proclaimed that it’s the act making these things that gets me out of bed every morning — the challenges that keep me interested in the things I do. This has been truly a simplistic way of looking at things and entirely wrong.

So I dove into the deep end. Pulling a Simon Sinek, I asked myself “Why?” over and over again. Much like a scene out of Ant Man and the Wasp, I’ve gone deeper and deeper down inside and found an answer to all those why’s. I was looking for answers that were not about me, why design, and how I can help make the world a little better than before.

Over the past few weeks I have been working in earnest to compile work I’ve created over the years. It now populates this site. Not everything, but numerous pieces that represent this philosophy and shows the world what I actually design:

Identities, Information and Influence.

I’ve looked at a number of other words to describe what I do, but all those words merely describe things. For me, Identities, Information and Influence are not things, rather they are outcomes. These are what I strive for, toil over and pour myself into so that together with my clients we will  make the world a better place.

Not only are Identities, Information and Influence outcomes, this is also a flow. A way of looking at design in total.

Identities are the most basic building block of communication, the starting point to broadcast who you are to the world.

Information design helps people you are trying to reach make better decisions.

Influence is the goal — to encourage change and make it easy to take further action.

This is a simple yet rich view of Design, one which I will continue to explore conceptually within this site and practice with my clients for years to come.

The Great Wide Open

The evils of the open office has been discussed ad nauseam elsewhere so we don’t need to rehash any of that here.

Working in a great big open office with around 200 people in the room, it can be unnerving as to how quiet it is. Other times, it is maddening at how loud it can be. There is rarely a moment where you feel comfortable. There’s always something that does not feel right.

This got me to thinking about Starbucks, the default place to go work when you when to get away from work. Generally speaking it is louder at Starbucks than the average corporate office. They play drippy music held over from the 90’s. There’s always some hipster sitting around annoying you. So why is it people feel more comfortable and at ease at Starbucks than they do in the office?

What can we learn from Starbucks when thinking about office design?

Think I’ll get out of the office, go to Starbucks and think about it.

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