The pen to paper transformation

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The physical practice of writing, drawing and doodling is at the heart of constructing high-bandwidth content for low-bandwidth fluid consumption. Yet, there are few people that actually practice these methods. Of those that do, the technology mediated construction of content vaporizes the artifacts associated with the experience. People still benefit from keeping a digital diary, but all the edits typical of pen are erased to leave a final pristine form.

Simplicity is often thought of as minimalism, however there are plenty of complicated things that appear simple – look into biomimicry for examples and inspiration. Simplicity is possible with more thoughtful design. Being thoughtful requires clear understanding of evolving thinking – a reason people love to study the work of others to help define their own.

Zack Arias has become a wonderful source of thoughtful content. Recently he posted a photograph of his whiteboard where he was thinking through the end-to-end experience that his clients have when working with him. It conveys an enormous amount of information that clearly transpired of a much longer period. The final product is something the viewer has the honor of appreciating, while Zack had the hard work adding and editing the realities of his business and priorities. Zack gets the transformation in how he thinks about his business, while the viewer simply gets to peer onto the artifact.

Dr. Michael Wesch has been working with the LiveScribe SmartPen which records the audio and markings of the author in digital form. It can then be explored and shared in video progression with others. The author gets additional benefit being able to play audio associated with any note by tapping. What is wonderful is that Dr. Wesch is also sharing how he filters, structures notes and draws relationships with his content, all in the context of the presentations of his students. This is an improvement over the whiteboard where the viewer is regulated to one state of a product. While a lot can be teased out with Wesch’s smart pen experiment, we do not in fact understand what he is thinking. We do not know his transformation.

A sample of what the Behance Action Pad looks like.
A sample of what the action pad looks like.

Behance is a company that creates products and services that help provide order to what can seem like creative madness. In fact, they help bring simplicity – clarity – to the numerous aspects of thinking. They break things down into preparation, actions steps, back-burner thoughts and unlined but dotted work spaced that facilitate diagrams and writing the same. This is an example of encoding a structure to help replicate behavior. It comes from patterning after a methodology that mediates the structuring of creative thinking. As a tool, this method and its papers facilitate – we hope – more clarity and hopefully more simplicity. Again, there is no way to capture someone’s transformation, except possibly in his or her progression through the framework.

Now, if only more people took a pen to paper to write, draw or doodle. There is no shortage of content creation, but we lack the records of the experience. We snap endless photographs and videos to simply flood and archive the world. People love to say it is the journey and not the destination. What if there is no destination and not enough people are journeying?

Consider the complexities in your art or business. What are your most complex challenges? Can you gauge from your work products how evolved your thinking is? What we present is a direct representation of how clearly we think and evolved our thoughts are. Yet, the majority of examples of slides and diagrams show the garbage dump yet to be wade through. When was the last time you saw a white paper? When was the last time you read one? There is a class of people that know, writing anything at all puts you in a position of leadership. There is another class that actually reads it and sees the mess. The only way to come to deep understanding is to work though it, be it with a whiteboard, a SmartPen or Behance pad, and allow the transformation to occur with your thinking. It can be done digitally, but there is something more impactful in picking up a pen and placing it to paper, that captures the evolution as you think that represents to the author the journey and to all others, the result.