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Gary Dickson: Design from the Edge continued...

Geographic Outsiders

There are geographic outsiders -- In the past there have been design centers such as New York, Chicago, Los Angles. Occasionally designers and indeed entire design communities from the geographic edge have pushed their way into the world of extraordinary design and some have remained. Many have gone from being a community on the edge of the design world to being added to the list of design mecca's.

San Francisco In the late 70s and early 80s San Francisco was one such city. It went from being a town where interesting design could be found only occasionally to a design community with enough going to compete easily with or even to dominate LA. During this period the likes of Vanderbyl, Manwarring and Cronan established not only San Francisco, but some might even say the entire west coast, as a center for influential design.

This is a public service announcement.

We are witnessing the great de-centralization of the commercial world. Today with the sweeping acceptance of the internet and even more importantly with the rapid expansion of bandwidth people are working more and more at home and/or outside the great urban sprawl. In some sense people are becoming anonymous -- anyone can post a website and pose as whatever they choose to be. Increasingly business is being conducted off planet in the ether of the world-wide-web. Those of us who have embraced this migration have a grand opportunity to witness if not participate in contributing to the design world from the edge.

This is a call to arms.

Rather than working for that oh-so-chic but blazingly old-school urban design firm let us consider the advantages of designing from the edge. You define the edge you work from -- with the internet nearly anything is possible. We have a historical opportunity to choose any environment, create any kind of space, position ourselves at nearly any vantage point and design from there. Those inner city, thirty-something, BFA toting, design firm folk have been directing our world through their sushi perusing, smog colored glasses for much too long.

5 years ago I was one of them in nearly every way. But in just under 4 years I have inadvertently positioned myself on the edge. At the ripe old age of 39 I now look out my studios window into a lush Pacific Northwest jungle of a forest. My studio is a 35-minute drive from Seattle but so close to my home that I can wander into the studio any time -- day or night (yes sometimes even in my PJs). Often my 2 teenage kids will wander in after school for a brief chat about music, fashion or whatever else might be on their mind.

I like to make pottery. In fact I am converting half of the studio into a pottery studio. But the coolest feature is that within 5 minutes I can be in a river or on one of the best local lakes (for trout) for nearly 100 miles around -- fly-fishing! All these things add up to a very unique environment. Certainly one that cannot be found in the city or anywhere near it. The vibe of the city, which I use to swear by, has been replaced with a totally unique, one-of-a-kind atmosphere that is impossible to duplicate. I do have other creative people work for me all the time. If they like, there's plenty of space, equipment, books, pencils, paper and herb tea here for them to pull up a chair and work from my edge. Or they can work from their own edge.

Rather than lament the lost city-vibe I have begun to embrace the groove of working on my personal edge to the design world. Because of my view from the edge I have something different and unique to offer the design world. Frankly I have been contemplating the possibility of moving to a remote village in Mexico. With a broadband dish connection to the internet it really isn't that outrageous an idea. I'm still looking into the fishing situation there but the pottery scene it second to none. The vibe would certainly be unique for a graphic designer.

Where would you prefer to design from?

The choice could be yours. Your unique place on the edge should give you advantages not found elsewhere. I know you are out there -- hundreds if not thousands of designers working from somewhere out on the edge. As I'm sure Genghis or some other ancient edge-leader might have said -- take courage, reload and attack!

Gary Dickson

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Copyright Gary Dickson In 1989 Gary began doing color prepress production. In 1998 he earned his BFA in graphic design (graduating from CCAC with distinction), was an intern for John Bielenberg and went to work for Horton Lantz Marocco in Seattle. In 2000 Gary left HLM to open his own studio - Epidemic Design. Please visit his studios website and view his work at Epidemic Design.
      Permission to publish this article electronically or in print must be obtained from author prior to publication bylines must be included with publication. Please contact Gary Dickson

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