Keep a Bug List

One of the habits of designers, apparently, is to keep a list of things that annoy them, or seem out of place… In other words, a list of things that could be fixed, if someone put the time and attention into fixing them.

Today during our Earth Day service project (yes, we know that Earth Day was last weekend, but it’s a moveable feast, and we moved it to today), my school divvied up its numbers, kindergarten through eighth grade, into ten teams. Each team got assigned a specific area of campus.  My group got assigned the section of roadway between the main loop on campus and the dumpsters.  It’s an interesting area.  I got to repair a retaining wall with my bare hands — a little bit of operative masonry for a normally-speculative mason like myself.  I got to rake out the leaves from an area that looks like it hasn’t been raked since the Clinton presidency, behind our dumpsters.  I got to pick up trash and make maps of the area for future analysis and gardening opportunities.  And I got to think up half a dozen projects for the future of this area:

  • heliotropes, to take advantage of afternoon sun and to brighten up the west-side classrooms
  • a tulip garden
  • A shade garden
  • a Trash-to-Food program, which composts the middle school food waste into tasty edibles.
  • A “reading courtyard” beside one of the English classrooms with benches and planters (requires moving the dumpsters).
  • The repair of the roadway in two places
  • pouring concrete stepping stones for the campus gardens
  • edging nearby gardens with stones from the four large bins of rocks behind the dumpsters.

I already have some ideas about how to solve these problems, and how to involve the design program in these efforts.  Underlying the solution, though, has to be the built-in idea that things are not quite as perfect as they could be and that I can be part of the solution.  It’s a startling shift in mindset, but it seems to come with practicing visual thinking skills.  Accordingly, let me remind you to check out the design tool I call the semigram, and its inventor, my friend Dave Gray, calls “Flows, Forms and Fields“:

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