It's Sunday morning and I’ve just finished watching Dave Grohl’s 2013 documentary “SOUND CITY” on the iPlayer. It’s the story of the analog mixing console of Sound City Recording studios in LA. Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters front man) got to purchase it after the studios closed in 2011, and record with it some major artists including Sir Paul McCartney. Grohl’s fascination with that huge analogue gear that was used to tape-record some of my favourite records and artists, is really projecting an argument for analogue technology and the limitations that analogue brings. Limitations that can actually be in *favour* of creativity.
This is true for music, as much as it is for design. I love the metaphor of the huge mixing desk as it is the equivalent to the massive Albion press for making a poster. You set your type, print your block, that’s it. It is what it is. Heavy metal, variable quality and magic. The same goes for tape recording, film cameras and other old school gear. There is little to fiddle around with after you’ve done your act. This is an intuitive process and can also be a time saver. Why? because there is no second chance. You can’t correct easily. You better get it right the first time, or the only time. These things can actually allow you to be spontaneous and can definitely bring life and emotion to the work.
In digital we’re limitless but that can be a trap. I can’t number the times I have been back and forth for no reason; millions of files, endless iterations all of the same thing. I often find myself wasting time, finding it hard to make a decision and support my digital work. It always feels better if my idea comes from a physical or mental process. I recall an interview of Thomas Bangalter of Duft Punk I listened to, explaining why they recorded the entire 'Random Access Memories' in ‘real’ studios with real artists. As fast as technology makes things more efficient and flexible as hard to is to make your own sound. Bangalter explained that digital technology has too many libraries and default settings that it makes it actually hard to make your own sound. And without your own sound you are no-one.
I have been interested in music-making before I got interested in design, which is what I do for living. Now technology empowers both fields design and music, so intensively that it is hard to think of a designer without a computer. In music production, I can afford to have such amazing tools that really compete with this huge table of faders and knobs that Dave’s documentary is about. Digital of course, and easily fitting in my tiny flat. This is truly fascinating. Trouble is that this doesn't make me a better artist.
The second thing that the documentary is emphasising on, is the collaboration. Making music with real human beings in a room can never be the same experience as sitting in a bedroom and a laptop. Regardless of gear, flexibility and comfort. The same goes for making a product, even a new business. I can’t avoid thinking that I didn't became a musician because I wasn't persistent enough to surround myself with other musicians. Unfortunately. Happily with design I left my country, moved to London and I put myself at the centre of creative circles and design stuff. And that worked.
In my practice I am witnessing the power of creative collaboration first hand. One of my clients, told me last week,
“how come and we arrived to an idea in only two hours drawing on your wall, and I couldn’t do it myself at home?”
The answer is simple. It’s because bouncing ideas off each other takes us further, faster. Making a doodle on a white board is still faster than a design on screen. Working in the same room with smart people makes me a hundred times more productive than when I am alone, sitting in front of my screen.
The argument is not analog vs digital, it is more about the power of human interaction. I feel extremely fortunate to live in times where technology is enabling impossible things to happen. The idea is to use the best of both worlds in order to create things that are authentic to me as a creator and I can support them. To that end, being in one room with people making stuff and analogue techniques do help, enormously.