Brendan Dawes

Analogue + Digital


Less, but Better

Recently I've noticed something with my work output — year on year I'm making less. When I first started my site almost twenty years ago, I would be making and publishing new things week on week. Some would be commercial projects but most would be personal. They would be rough — often nothing more than intent than anything else — but they would be out there, published on my own space through the World Wide Web.

Fast-forward to now and my average yearly count of completed projects seems to be four or five. Yet when I took a step back I realised it was the natural evolution of wanting to make better things and constantly improve. I was making less, but I was trying to make the things I do make, better.

I think much of this has to do with getting older. As the wise Sheriff says in No Country for Old Men "Age will flatten a man" (or woman). Over the years I've learned to enjoy the silence, to dig deeper into a project, to simply sit and think. In short, I'm not in a hurry as much as I was, because I want to take time to craft this thing in my head, and to release it only when I'm happy with it — deadline permitting.

I'm also not in any rush to do everything myself. Whilst I'm a huge fan of the power of naivety and how it drives curiosity, it can also limit your work because you often end up doing things you know how to do, or doing things in a certain way when there's actually a much better way — it's just there's nobody around to show you. As an example, I've recently completed a project involving a few thousand LEDs and I was happily wiring up the control box that, well, controlled everything. When I was showing the electrician that was part of the team how I was planning to wire it, he explained how instead I should wire it the same as a ring main so it better distributes the power. I'm really not sure how I would have chanced on that via the Internet — some things need these conversations with human beings, especially the expert kind. Thanks James!

The same can be said about my recently released book project, Notes to Myself. I could have just gone online and done some print on demand thing, no doubt saving a lot of money and bashed it out. But that's not what I wanted. I wanted to do it right and I didn't want to make this thing in a vacuum. Collaborating with Dust was the best decision I made that lead to a final product that I'm really pleased with. The old me would have been in the rush to get it out there at the expense of craft.

In some ways I'm reminded of different ways to approach repainting skirting boards. You can do it quickly, just slapping on the new paint so you can say job done. Or you you can rub the old paint work down, apply undercoat and then apply several top coats. The latter will look infinitely better — and last longer.

A lot of stuff I see is like that quick and dirty way of painting skirting boards — looks good on the surface but drill deeper and there's no craft, no depth. I don't want to add anymore to that surface level, depth-lacking content creation. If you need me I'll be rubbing down those skirting boards.