Design by Touch
by George Walker
Most of what I’ve written about design has focused on how we look at it. Yet good design often has multiple layers that speak to all of our senses. We tend to think of the visual sense as the dominant player, but our sense of touch can also help us take our designs to another level.
Our ability to see with our fingers is remarkable. We can reach into our pocket and tell the difference between a dime and a penny. We can run our hands across a freshly planed board, feeling the smallest plane track that’s invisible to our eyes. When we say that we work with our hands, it’s more than just wielding a chisel or mallet. Our hands are a portal to how we interact with the tools and the work.
Much of what we do at the bench is dependent on what our hands tell us. It’s almost impossible to imagine working without the sense of touch. But that goes beyond running our fingertips over a joint to feel whether the parts are flush and tight. We constantly make aesthetic judgments with our hands, which are always looking for connections. Our sense of touch is always on, much like our nose that catches a whiff of something that brings a smile, frown or empty indifference.
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