My oldest boy, Dane, is studying design at Carnegie Mellon. You’d think having a industrial designer mother would have made that a natural. But when he first started expressing interest in the field, I made him jump through hoops to prove he really knew what he was in for, and not just attracted to design because of the sexy press and our cool designer friends.
Long story short, my son was right. Dane loves the field and his passion for his upcoming profession is inspirational, even to me. It’s led to some sweet parental moments. The first happened last summer, during the week he was leaving for good (sob!).
He’d been asking to see my design portfolio, which I’d unexplainedly never shown him. As we walked through the old, but still meaningful, projects, we began the process of passing the torch. I literally did that by giving Dane a lot of my drafting tools, all of which bear my maiden name. Each scratch, dent, and chip in the French curves and triangles brought back floods of midnight oil memories. I thought of those tools tonight when my son reminded me that he carries his markers in my old metal box–the same one I lugged around at the University of Michigan. Something about being able to pass down tangible tools really touched me. Especially because one usually thinks of that as a father-son thing.
Today he asked, “Don’t you have some cool t-shirt from design school?” Dane was remembering a shirt I’d kept from back in the day, when I ran a competition among my fellow design students. The challenge was to create a screen print design for a shirt I would produce and sell at the upcoming IDSA Student Merit Awards event at our school. I dug out the shirt for Dane and found that the winning design, by a brilliantly talented and slightly ditzy student, Donna Melcher, still stands the test of time. (I looked for Donna on LinkedIn, thinking that whatever she was doing it must be great. But all I found under her name was a Global Sourcing Manager at IBM. I hope and pray Donna avoided that fate. She was just too good a designer.)
Anyway, I’d been a little afraid of my son falling into design because it was just part of his childhood and our household. Now that fear seems silly. Of course it is part of our household and his studies and enthusiasm are such a rich new place for us to connect, I can’t believe I ever doubted his choice.