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Analog Archiving: 85 Notebooks Spanning 26 Years

In our recent conversation with Richard Banks, he raises some interesting questions surrounding the notions of inheritance and heirlooms – both...

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs on January 29, 2009. @scottlachut

In our recent conversation with Richard Banks, he raises some interesting questions surrounding the notions of inheritance and heirlooms – both physical and virtual – as they apply to the digital age. From antiquated technologies – think iPod as the future 8-track – to web pages that live on well after we’re gone, what will later generations think of the artifacts that we’ve left behind? Particularly where visual and written records are concerned, do they lose their literal weight to stand the test of time when they lack a tangible presence and only exist online? These are compelling questions to consider as we increasingly create the newest versions of our shoe boxes full of photos, old concert tickets and teenage love letters online. But for the time being at least, most of will still have the welcome burden of lugging our respective personal histories around.

To that end, designer Michael Beirut provides us with an inspiring meditation on his personal collection of notebooks that together form a history of his working life over the past 26 years. He looks back over the impressive archive of 85 volumes and makes observations about his approach to the design process ranging from the insightful – the solutions generated earliest on, tend to be the most successful – to the humorously frank – “A lot of my ideas are so simple and dumb that a simple dumb drawing is all it takes to describe it.” And though he admits that there is plenty of minutiae to sift through, he discovers plenty of surprises hiding within the pages of his self-described “security blanket.”

When I look at these notebooks, many of the references bring back memories, some decades old. But other times I frankly can’t remember why I was writing these things down. Did I ever call Dilland? Whatever happened to Executive Sign? What was the Lefand Alliance? In many ways, the act of notetaking and sketching is an end in itself for me. Many of these pages, filled with trivia as they are, are destined never to be looked at a second time.

That makes the occasional encounter with life beyond the office all the sweeter. Growing up, my kids knew they weren’t supposed to draw in my notebooks, but that never stopped them. Thank God. I have them to thank for my favorite pages.
Design Observer: 26 Years, 85 Notebooks

Thinking...