Rule 1: Always Consider the History
I seek shelter under an awning, as the sun bleaches the centuries-old stone walkways. Maybe this will be the perfect place to draw. How do draw something when you don’t know what it is yet? My RISD Illustration professor, Fred Lynch, tells us on that sweltering day in Viterbo, Italy to “consider the history”. Did Fred mean it as a precautionary warning to avoid drawing near pigeon droppings, as you very well may also find yourself a target? Well, partly, yes. But considering the history is critical to our growth and development as creators, and people in general.
I chose a long wooden table in the center of Piazza dei Papi di Viterbo, which held the papal seat long ago, from 1257 to 1281.
But, I’ve always been one to consider the history. Throughout my time studying illustration at RISD, I always knew I had odd interests outside of the fine arts. I am an obsessive tinkerer. I get this from my grandfather, Edward Schroeder. He was the child of dirt poor immigrants living in Providence, Rhode Island. Unable to walk without crutches, and eventually wheelchair-bound during my lifetime, he was also a lifelong tinkerer and advocate for those with disabilities. In his younger years, he designed an interface and reconstructed a car, allowing himself to drive. In the Great Depression, his parents saved up money to buy him a watch (which he opened, dismantled, and rebuilt during a stay in the hospital to pass time).
Up until his death in 2004, he was on the cutting edge of technology; he always had the latest and greatest. I wish he could see how far technology has come. I get my curiosity from him. I remember being hunched over my desk lamp in my RISD dorm room, taking apart my 2009 Macbook Core 2 Duo, replacing and upgrading pieces here and there… remember the white plastic ones? I still love them, and I still have my Core 2 Duo in heavy rotation.
Considering the history, it makes complete sense that I now work at Infosys Digital’s new Providence Design and Innovation Hub. I was born and raised in Providence; a city paved by industry and entrepreneurs. America’s first factory, Slater Mill, was built in 1790, on the banks of the Blackstone River, just upstream from Providence. I was educated at Rhode Island School of Design, an institution that taught me how to love the process of failing spectacularly through making critically, and living empathetically.
Considering the history, it makes complete sense that Infosys has partnered with RISD and the state of Rhode Island. Infosys is an Indian tech giant, founded in Pune by seven friends in 1981 with an initial capital of $142 US dollars. The role of artists, designers, and odd tinkerers is always changing. Susan Stuart writes that UX design is a lot like writing and art-making,
Characters, actions, scenarios and enough visual sensibility to bring those things to life in a (primarily) visual medium — that’s what’s needed in a screenwriter/ director, and also in creating the foundation of a good application design. The more complex your application, the more you’ll need these skills in your UX lead.
I sit writing in our Providence studio in the old Providence Journal building, surrounded by 20 young, talented, creative artists, designers, mathematicians, and tinkerers. Do I know what my future holds? It would be foolish to think I do.
But, I’ll certainly consider the history.