I once had a long argument with a good friend and fellow nerd about the merits of real skills vs. digital skills. In particular we were comparing my hobby of long distance running to his hobby of computer gaming. He was saying how they were similar because they were making each of us better physically. I argued that, while video games are awesome, they aren’t really improving your physical existence. He began to explain how much better his hand eye coordination is because of the hours he spends gaming. At that exact moment I picked up a pen off my desk and hit him in the face with it. He didn’t even twitch, just hung his head in shame. I’m not here to make a case that gaming doesn’t help develop real skills. It clearly does. I’m just saying that as the consumers of all things nerd we run the risk of only participating in digital life, which we must admit, is not all there is.
I want to start out by saying that I love the digital realm. I love how it draws people together. It is probably the single most culturally transformative thing since the industrial revolution. It has unified groups of people that were once marginalized and has played huge roles in bringing about social justice. But when we’re being honest with ourselves it’s all ethereal. None of it can be weighed in pounds or measured in inches, and there is something so very human about producing real things.
When I studied graphic design in school my plan was to take as many digital design courses as I could to prepare myself for my career, but because I needed a drawing class and because I figured it was related to my future job, I also took intaglio and relief printmaking. The first time I put ink on a plate, cranked it through a press, and pulled an image I had truly made off of that press bed; I was transformed. I changed my concentration in college and took as many traditional printmaking courses as I could. Because of that experience I feel like my perspective on graphic design is more advanced. I view every design not just for what I can do in the computer, but also for all the innovation and work the people before me put in to bring us to this point.
Obviously not everyone is going to learn how to do metal plate etching or stone lithography. I would suggest starting with something you enjoy digitally. They almost all have an analog form. If you play hunting games… go hunting! If you like fighting games take an MMA class. My friend that I hit in the face soon after that incident became a very enthusiastic gun owner. Now instead of just playing first person shooters he goes to the gun range and actually shoots. We actually played laser tag recently and he crushed me.
In order to practice what I preach I’m working to self-publish one of my online comics into an analog print version. Here’s a link to the kickstarter. Please donate if you can and pass it on if you can’t.
Jake Trunk is a blogger, graphic designer, and comic artist. He lives at his home in Pennsylvania with his etching press, banjos, and greyhound Holly Golightly. You can find his twice weekly webcomic at www.thegrype.com.
“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”