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My Digital Confession
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My Digital Confession

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Blog art cropped

It all started at the Orlando pool expo last November, when Noah Nehlich stopped by the WaterShapes booth toward the end of the show and asked how we might work together.

He’s the founder of Structure Studios (which produces the Pool Studio software system), and I have to admit that I’d never been terribly receptive to the concept of digital design. At that point, in fact, I was still so philosophically committed to ink-and-paper approaches that I had what could best be described as a guarded response to his overtures.

Computers were great for plans and documentation, I might concede, but I’d never seen a good substitute for a steady hand and a trained eye when it came to developing a design. End of discussion.

I think Noah knew or at least suspected this, but all he really asked me to do was look at his web site and let him know what I thought. Seemed reasonable, and I told him I’d be in touch. And I was: By early December 2014, I’d dropped him a note indicating that I had liked what I’d seen, but that I was having a hard time figuring out a way to work with the subject without making possible articles seem like ads for Pool Studio.

Just a few weeks later, my worldview began to shift. I was visiting with Randy Beard at Pure Water Pools’ offices in Costa Mesa, Calif., to discuss some article ideas. While I was there, Randy was intent on my spending some time with Thai Tran, a “3-D Specialist” who was working with Pool Studio and doing some things with his computer that I’d never seen before.

My conversation with Mr. Tran didn’t instantly radicalize me, but it made an impression that took hold and didn’t let go. The upshot: My eyes had finally been cracked open to the potential value of the technology, and I decided it would be in the best interests not just of readers but of watershaping as a profession for me to stop being so damned stubborn.

After another bit of back and forth with Noah, he provided me with the list of watershapers who wrote the series of articles WaterShapes started publishing last March and continued to produce monthly through to our first August edition under the “Digital Design” banner. In all cases, the six participants were folks Noah had identified as having made the transition from drawing by hand to using the Pool Studio software – some relatively new to watershape design when the change came, others quite seasoned.

Digital Emissaries

Here are links to the six articles that made up the Digital Design series:

[ ] “Thoroughly Modern” by Barry Justus (March 4): click here.

[ ] “On the Ground Floor” by Tanr Ross (April 8): click here.

[ ] “The Evolving Studio” by Chris Adamczyk (May 6): click here.

[ ] “Client Tech” by Bobby Thomas (June 10): click here.

[ ] “A Path to Enlightenment” by Greg Smith (July 8): click here.

[ ] “Rising Aspiration” by Jeromey Naugle (August 5): click here.

You all have my gratitude for helping me see a bit of the future.

— J.M.

What I was after were stories about what it meant to move from conventional design tools to a computer desktop – not just for the designers, but also for their clients and the businesses with which they were affiliated. That was a tall order, but Noah gave me a well-considered set of names, and my thin expectations were exceeded at every turn. I’d anticipated running into commitment, of course, because these people had invested time in getting comfortable with the software. What caught me off guard was the passion, the degree to which these guys were fired up about what they were doing and their universal desire to wring every drop of potential from the software.

Going in, I figured the series would be symbolically significant, mainly because after all these years of sidelining digital design, WaterShapes was finally getting in the game. As the articles unfolded and I developed a sense of what the technology means to the future of the watershaping industry, I began to feel positively guilty that I’d been so thickheaded for so long.

The most important lesson I learned through this process is that digital design is still design: Pool Studio and other software systems are just tools, and it takes the brains, talents, instincts, empathies and experiences of human designers to yield worthy results. I still love and appreciate hand-drawn renderings, but I now see that the alternative has its virtues.

My apologies all around that it took me so much time to perceive Pool Studio and other digital-design tools as valuable resources among several required by a skilled designer. My thanks to Noah, Randy, Thai and the six authors and articles listed in the sidebar above for a swift and overdue reboot.

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