The Daily Heller: So You Have to Clean Up Your Studio? Oh, Bother!

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Two weeks ago, I declared in this column: “I am launching what may or may not become a series titled ‘Oh, Bother,’ on ‘dietary’ tips for graphic design mavens and collectors who are obsessively compulsive and fatally acquisitive.” I’m not fully certain what I meant by “dietary,” however I have been compelled by my office/studio colleagues to address a problem that I suffer and, I’m certain, many of us face: Finding a place for everything and everything in its place.

School resumes in three weeks and I have to at least consider cleaning my office at SVA MFA Design in anticipation of the new semester. Because of COVID, last year I took a pass and left it exactly the way it was prior to lockdown (just the way Leon Trotsky’s office in Mexico City was after he was stabbed in the neck with an ice pick, although his desk was neater).

As the maxim goes: A disordered desk is evidence of a disordered brain and a disordered character. Or, another phrasing of the same maxim: A cluttered desk produces a cluttered mind. On the contrary, however, I read in Inc., A Messy Desk Is A Sign of Genius, According to Science.

I’d like to believe the last maxim is true. But this article on Donald Trump’s desk seems to suggest otherwise.

So, here’s my problem: To which maxim should I subscribe?

Is my office a sanctuary where chaos is not an obstruction to productive work but a boon to creativity? Or is my office a showroom of order that sets an example for students about the virtue and value of exactitude?

Let’s look at the evidence (photos by Todd Carroll):

Exhibit 1: My desk. Not too bad. But wait … look closer.
Exhibit 2: On the left side of my desk are assorted artifacts—CDs, books, used face masks, random notes that have not been moved a centimeter in months, and a desktop scanner that may be useful some day.
Exhibit 2.5: On the right side of the desk are more untouched piles of books and notes, a phone I cannot access without straining my back, an empty bottle from May and two 2021 desk calendars.
Exhibit 3: Directly to the left of my chair, the first of many untouched boxes and piles.
Exhibit 4: A meeting table covered with who knows what, although I’ve been looking for the scissors.
Exhibit 5: Around the meeting table, various obstructions (and my precious copy of Debbie Millman’s book).
Exhibit 6: One of my overstuffed (supposedly hanging) file cabinets of stuff I cannot throw out.
Exhibit 7: Me, caught taking a deserved nap after moving one pile onto another and back again.

Decision: I’m tuckered out. I’ll deal with it next week. Oh, Bother!