Seeking to understand and experience good design.
Let’s take something as simple as a book dart. The basic premise of a book dart is to mark your spot in a book. It is one step up from a bookmark as you can use the dart’s point to point directly at a particular line in the book. One could use this to mark where they left off reading for the day simply, or one could mark a specific paragraph or sentence that they feel is important and want to recall for later.
So we have the basic premise for a book dart, a device that can mark a page in a book and point directly to a specific line in that book. So what does that have anything to do with living your life from the perspective of appreciating good design? Let’s explore this.
First, you must appreciate books and view them as works of art. Works of art, such as the Mona Lisa painting, are protected by displaying them in climate-controlled display cases to keep them in pristine condition. Now I am not saying that books should be kept in such a manner, as they should be read, enjoyed, and learned from. However, they should be respected and cared for, if you fold over a page and crease it like a crissy card bender, you are a savage.
Now not all book darts are made equally. Some book darts operate much like a paper clip, a folded piece of wire, or a stamped piece of plastic where the material that makes up the slot for the paper to slide into is in the same plane. Thus the longer the paper is in the slot, it starts to take the shape of the paperclip or book dart, basically embossing the shape into the page. You mine as well have creased the corner over at this point.
This is bad design; conversely, the book dart from Stellar Factory is a piece of stainless steel that is folded back on itself with such tight tolerances that it does not easily slide off the page. It has just the perfect amount of force to hold its place on a page.
The blunt end is rounded, so it does not have any sharp point to tear the paper or stab its users. It also has a very slight upward bend to aid in being placed on a page without damaging or getting caught. It allows the page to slide into the slot without fumbling. It also gives your finger a place to catch when removing the dart from the page.
But the design goes just a touch further beyond its near-perfect functionality. The arrow portion of the dart has decorative arcs stamped out of it just after the fold directing your eye to the point, which is deliberately dulled so as not to stab into the book or reader. This decoration adds a level of sophistication that one would expect when reading an old-world book about smart things.
So this book dart is not only well designed and beautiful to look at, but using it, it can also add tangential value to the user’s life.
When using the book dart to help take notes, it can help you narrow down what is important. Years ago… okay, decades ago, when I was in high school, I always found it difficult to what to highlight so I could quickly review for a test. Sometimes I would feel that I did not highlight enough, sometimes. When I went back to study, I would question why I highlighted so much. It was a daunting amount of information. Once, I looked over at the person’s book next to me, and she had nearly highlighted the entire page. I was like (in my head, of course),” why don’t you just reread the entire book before the test.” Also, what a savage, as highlighting a book is just destroying its usefulness for the next person who reads it and your future self going back to reference it.
Going back to reference is my last point on the power of book darts. Hopefully, as we move through life, we grow as people and become smarter over time. I want to think that someday many of us will become old gray-bearded wizards of our chosen craft. As we read our books and use our book darts to mark passages that spoke to us that we want to come back to remember, that we will continue to grow. Many times when I pick up a book years later, or sometimes just a few months later, and start to thumb through it, pausing at a previously inserted book dart. I will be reminded of why I marked it, that I wanted to use the thought in a future design or study that thought some more as time allowed. However, oftentimes, I find that I no longer need that book dart. When I marked it, that passage spoke to me one way or the other, and I felt it important enough to mark. But as I grew as a person, that knowledge moved from being worthy of being marked to common knowledge because of my growth. I also often times, will find that it is just not important to me anymore and no longer speaks to me. I am at a different stage in life, and different things speak to me now. The past is in the past. When I come across these passages, I can remove the book dart without damage to the page. That way, the next time I pick up that book, I can go right to the good stuff without pausing at a passage that no longer speaks to me, or I have grown past.
So that is what I am talking about when I say live a life from a design perspective, seek to understand the physical design of a piece, but also the mental design. At this point in this blog post, I have written over a thousand words about a book dart, and I hope I conveyed to you that it is far more than a device that can mark a page in a book and point directly to a specific line in that book. That it can be beautifully designed, function well without damaging its environment, and, most importantly, help you curate your thoughts and education and document the journey you went on to get there. And if you don’t give a shit about any of that. At least take a moment to appreciate the tin the book darts came in. The felt on the bottom makes it a joy to pick up a dart. The graphic on the lid is beautifully done, and the lid slides on the base with the perfect tolerances. The whole tin has a solid feel to it, as if you are holding something of quality and, if used correctly, can enhance your life.