When I get chatting to someone in a Pub and the question of "What do you do for a living?" crops up, there is always a set sequence of events.
Firstly I tell them I work for a drawing board manufacturer. They either say "What? Pieces of wood?" or, if they are a little more worldly-wise "Drawing Boards? I didn't think people still used drawing boards?". I then proceed to tell them that both students and professional designers / architects all do indeed still use drawing boards and even though computers undoubtedly have their place, you still can't beat pencil and paper for getting ideas down.
I couldn't help myself. "What are you working on?" at which point I noticed that sleep probably hadn't been on his agenda for quite some time. He was a third year architectural student called Tom studying in Leeds and was glad to show me his project; a rather striking building he was designing for his current assignment. He showed me his recent portfolio of sketches in his book - hundreds of lovingly drawn ideas from the basic to the sublime. Sketched, re-sketched, coloured and crossed out, this book represented the inner workings of his mind over the last year. On his screen was the half finished model with every detail from his sketch faithfully reproduced in wire frame.
"Ever heard of 'Orchard'?" I asked with a wry smile. He looked puzzled for a moment then suddenly remembering the name "we use Orchard drawing tables at Uni".
"That's us. We make them only a few miles away" I told him.
"No way? You actually make that stuff?"
It turns out his entire department is kitted out with Orchard drawing equipment and he uses it every day. What's more he loves using it and finds something very 'romantic' about drawing on paper. The cold hard machine that was his laptop was just a tool to him, a way of saving his ideas in 1's and 0's. His real love, his creativity, could only be released through paper and pencil and that was the reason he loved architecture.
He told me about the responsibility ahead of him. Medicine takes 5 years but you can only ever kill one person at once. Architecture takes so much longer because one mistake could have catastrophic consequences. I could see he was keen to get back to his work so with that I wished him well and left him to it.
I have to admit. Although I am a creative, I don't really know how to get the most out of a drawing board. Not like how Tom could at any rate. We make them, sell them then make some more knowing that the product is perfect for the job but not being able to do the 'job' ourselves.
We are organic beings, as much as we claim to know and understand computers they will always stifle basic creativity to some extent and so I see a bright future for the humble drawing board as the trusty companion for architects like Tom, designers and artists the world over.