The Long Say

Bringing back the long-form essay before it’s too late.


Anna K. Jonsson

Ambition that is not supported by skill or by the ability to envision systematic implementation is idiocy. Or at least that is what spending too much time as an Information Masters’ student might lead one to believe. However, I am nothing if not ambitious without the ability to execute.

About a year ago, I decided I would build a kayak. This event was to take place sometime in my lifetime, and I was about to move into a place with a backyard, so this was good. I researched kayak construction fairly extensively (the authoritative source appears to be The Strip-Built Sea Kayak by Nick Schade).

Wanting to build a kayak stemmed from my desire to construct something that was the nexus of utility and design, to really make something, to have something tangible that marked that time period of my life.

I suppose my lifespan should instead be measured by haphazard and wreckless ambition.

The other day my roommate asked me “how do font designers do what they do?” As in, how do they translate the image of the font they envision into a codable piece of information? I didn’t know, but I immediately felt like I wanted to find out. I asked my mom, the typographer. She confirmed what I had vaguely suspected, but she’s not a font designer, so she didn’t clarify: fonts are designed in illustrator as vector files.

I have no experience in typography. To design a font would be a fool’s errand at best, stupidiful at the worst (yes, it would be so dumb that the derogatory term for my prospective task doesn’t even make sense). Yet there comes that ambition, daring me to figure out how to make it happen. The sheer scale of the task, the research involved, the skill needed to be developed, this is what draws me toward ambitions like these. It’s the idea that I can, with the proper application, still accomplish anything.

My life can be measured by a series of failed ambitions. And this is not a bad thing. It speaks of the mind’s will to put ideas into action, which is one of the most remarkable aspects of life on earth. No, a pile of failed ambitions is nothing I fear. If I manage to record 1/3 of them, I’ll be happy. Some of my happiest and most fulfilling moments have been the nights I couldn’t sleep because I decided I was going to make a movie (11th grade), learn a foreign language (10th grade), write a comic strip (6th grade, and again in 2006), start a T-shirt company, etcetera, etcetera.

I actually think I’m hitting my stride in Human-Computer Interaction, too, because it’s an avenue of channeling my ambition to do exciting things into a tangible and cost-effective format. If I believe that something is important enough, I can effectively communicate how and why it could be used, and having that perspective is useful.

Be prepared to hear of more unscalable projects from Yours Truly in the coming years. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to pull something off, but if not, I bid you “Go Not Gently.”

Filed under: Essay

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