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To receive a substantial and rewarding project, sometimes the less consequential ones may need to be addressed first. This matches the saying I often use, “broccoli before brownies.”

I often tell people that the volume of things I don’t know could fill a very large room. Or, in a more positive spin, I always have room to learn something new. Trends and new technology are an important part of our industry and require us to be aware of novel changes. My struggle is always the same: I must make time to learn and select the ideas that are relevant for me and my business—separating the proverbial wheat from the chaff.

For several years, I’ve had the good fortune to work with the Badger Clark Foundation as a board member, graphic designer and merch distributor. Through education, fundraising and donations to local poets and artists, this organization promotes humanities and Badger Clark, South Dakota’s first poet laureate. One of my roles has been to create the posters for the annual music event known as “Badger Stock.” This year’s event promises to be particularly special, as it will be featured as part of a PBS documentary showcasing the life and writings of Badger Clark himself. So this year’s poster needed to be special, too.

The desire to create machines to replace human labor has been around since the invention of the wheel. After all, it’s human nature to try to create time- and money-saving efficiencies when and wherever possible. However, the excitement over novel technology often overshadows new downsides, including job losses. 

I love it when two seemingly unrelated subjects suddenly converge into a whole new idea. Especially when that new idea becomes a product I can sell. 

Before I begin, I need to share a bit of backstory. 

Have you ever experienced a problem that took a good night’s sleep to figure out? Sometimes our brains need to roll the problem around in our unconscious for an answer. Sometimes it takes longer than one night’s sleep.

I remember working on the school newspaper as a senior in high school thinking, “There must be an easier way to do this.” To produce the paper, we were employing X-acto knives, technical pens, dictionaries, drafting tables and rubber cement. Cut and paste literally meant cutting and pasting articles and photos to produce a page layout that would become “camera ready.” All the training that I received over a two-year period about page layout and design came from my instructor and little else. Further research on a career in graphic design would have required a trip to the public library to check out a book on the subject.

When I was young, birthday and Christmas gifts almost always came in the form of a creative construction set: Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, Legos, you name it. It’s as if I was preparing for my career in design and fabrication from the get-go. Today, the toys are bigger and more expensive but no less fun.

A few years back, when I decided to start my own business, I had few choices for setting up my office and workshop. The less expensive option, an option that has proved to be a workable solution, was to utilize a small bedroom on the second floor of our old Victorian house. By small I mean that the space, with its dimensions at 8.5 by 12.5 feet, is probably smaller than a closet in some modern homes. Figure A represents my situation in my workshop with equipment and furniture.

In all my 20-plus years as a graphic designer, I had never made or printed a bar code.

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