Pay Close Attention

One think I like about the work I do is that the more I pay attention to it, the more rewarding it can be. It never ceases to offer up new and exciting discoveries, if only I look for it. It’s the same excitement and sense of mastery I get when identifying plants.

For the past several months, I’ve focused in particular on poison ivy. This plant impresses me because it has the remarkable quality of appearing in many different forms. The leaves can be very matte or very glossy, dark green, or pale, the leaves more or less jaggedy on the edges, with or without a nook on the side. Sometimes there is an identifying hint of red where the three leaves meet. It can be very large or small, a plant in the ground, or a vine on a tree. There are always three leaves on the end with the center leaf stem extending out further than the two behind it. Jewel-weed, an antidote to poison ivy’s irritating oil, often grows close to poison ivy, and it is much easier to identify.

Last weekend, I was absolutely amazed to see a poison ivy plant that looked like a large bush or a tree. Instead of the telltale, horror-movie, scary, hoary vines, it had beautifully smooth branches and small berries. Birds love those berries, which is part of the reason why poison ivy spreads so easily. It was truly captivating.

My most recent discovery about poison ivy is that the irritating oil is very similar to a chemical compound found in mangoes. This week, I bought a case of mangoes, and I know from experience to stay away from the tip of the large pit, because this can cause a rash on the skin around your mouth. This is what happened, after eating about 8 mangoes, because I just didn’t want to waste any mango pulp and I did get too close to the pit.

Luckily, I don’t have to worry about irritating oils at work, except when I eat Mangoes for lunch.

I actively look for fresh ways of thinking about designing, with much of the same intensity that I do in identifying plants, by looking for inspiring websites on the Internet or reading graphic design magazines. Working with the other great designers here at DDA inspires me because they find different, unique solutions than I do. Hearing feedback on my designs from the rest of the DDA staff allows me to improve my work and stay inspired.