Yep, I know. We’ve heard this tune before: the one about the ‘paperless’ office. We’ve hummed along to it’s optimistic melody and made a few attempts at reaching the anti-printer high notes, before trailing back off to our well known, guilty scribbles.
From a moral perspective, I’d love to lay down at night, safe in the knowledge that my work as a digital designer has minimal impact on the environment. After all, we’re producing products that aren’t really tangible outside of their online presence. Yet from a realistic standpoint, I’m not convinced I could do the tactile evolution of the design process justice without a marker and a bunch of paper.
We recently met with a client, from a creative industry, who quite casually remarked that they’d gone ‘paperless’. I balked a little, thinking of the scattered sheets of user journeys and worn notebooks of sketches on my desk. But — what about the group brainstorming (sorry) sessions? What about the to-do lists? Oh, the lists! Don’t get me wrong, I use Trello to track tasks and have tried various to-do apps but there’s something so utterly rewarding about physically crossing an item off.
It wasn’t the ruthlessness of being entirely paperless (no printing, no printed mailing, no recycling, all digital documents) that threw me — I think us Kind folks could quite comfortably forgo the above — it was the reality of not being able to map out a user flow or draw initial wireframes.
Of course, there are alternative surfaces, right? ‘Smart’ walls of glass, whiteboards and blackboard walls. Drawing on tablets is becoming easier and more intuitive too. With clever software enabling faster design, you could jump straight onto your computer but I’m always hesitant of skipping the uninhibited recklessness of a clean sheet and being distracted by the perfectionism of a screen.
How can we satisfy that instinctive urge to freely scrawl something? In our attempts, are we sacrificing creativity for the environment? Or are us paper lovers actually lagging in the productivity race, clutching to our paper notes in vain nostalgia?
Does it represent a larger shift in industry and personal values, to favour the environment before the efficiency of a team? Are we overlooking the carbon footprint amassed by the production of the digital alternatives, like smart phones, iPads and computers? What about the humanistic cost of this mass production?
Perhaps we shouldn’t aim to just be a purely paperless office but take a more holistically responsible approach in how we use the tools that help us run an agency. Sounds pretty good — on paper.