I’ve been thinking about writing a little editorial about my generation (20- and 30-somethings) and the resurgence of “lo-fi” writing instruments for some time. But now may be a good time to touch on it.
Although I didn’t really use the computer regularly until I was a teenager, Ever since, I’ve lived much of my life online. In my current job, probably six of my eight hours each day are spent writing, designing, communicating, and researching using the computer. I have a feeling that most, if not all, of my eight hours per day in my new job will be that way, too.
And for all of the time we spent producing virtual words on a screen, I think the writers of my generation feel a need to mark a real mark on a real piece of paper: through typewriters, fountain pens, printing presses, and my favorite: pencils.
I don’t think that this need lessens or mitigates the computer-printed word or drawing in any way. The best things I’ve written have been typed on a screen. But sometimes, it helps my thought process to write something long-hand, or type something on my Royal portable typewriter that can’t easily be deleted. If I’m not writing to interact, sometimes old tech can be cathartic. More and more, many members of my generation (and others) are realizing that.
One voice of my generation is proclaiming that loud and clear, with big, bright neon-orange lips. Rad & Hungry, which I’ve written about before, sent me a sample monthly package of their finds from around the world. This month: office supplies from Colombia.
I arrived home last week to find this box on my porch:
One phrase on the intro notecard stuck out at me:
We believe in getting to know people and places through commerce and design. Someone else’s daily diet of lo-fi designed goods is simple to her and yet sacred to us, and vice versa. Let’s marvel at each other’s mundane, because that shit is dope.
How true! When I was in the Philippines in 2001, I spent some time at a drugstore while my mother bought cold-fighting medication, and I just pored over the office supply section. While I now regret I didn’t buy anything, I sure enjoyed looking at all the pencils, pens, paper, and clips that looked almost, but not quite dissimilar from our own shelves at Office Depot.
After reading the notecard, I realized I wasn’t going to be trying any exceptionally fine office supplies. That’s not the point. I’m connecting with Colombian office supply consumers by using what they use every day.
I loved the packet of “TSA Screening” cards (TSA standing for, of course, for “Testing Some Awesomeness”) The heavyweight text, ultrawhite stock was perfect for testing pencils.
Bezt Red “Control” pencil
I don’t use red pencils often. Mostly, it’s because I edit on the computer, and also because writing with colored pencils aren’t my cup of tea. They are so soft and almost mushy. This one wasn’t as bad, though. I love triangular pencils, so it was a pleasure to hold, and it erased much cleaner than most colored pencils (which is to say, still not as good as a regular graphite pencil). The eraser is top notch, though. Made from vinyl, the used bits of eraser come off cleanly and easily. It sharpened smoothly and buttery, too, which is unusual for a standard pencil like this.
Bezt 17 drawing pencil
I love writing with drawing pencils. The graphite is always slightly better quality, and holds a point longer. This one was no exception. I would compare it to maybe a Mars Lumograph (though with an eraser on the end, a plus for me), it was smooth and lay down a dark line for an HB grade pencil.
BLock Periódico newsprint notepad
(See image above)
Instead of a TSA Screening sheet, I tested this pencil on the Block Periódico notepad. Besides being written in Spanish, it reminded me a lot of an American newsprint notepad. That is to say, I don’t really like writing on newsprint with pencil. I guess I’m spoiled on Rhodia notepads. Still, though, it was fun to see and experience.
How many times have I ragged on Office Depot pencils here? This one is very similar. You may or may not be able to tell from the picture, but the two pieces of wood sandwiched together are different colors! It was fairly gritty to sharpen, lots of tooth on the nice, smooth paper with no dark lines. I thought it was cool to see what a Colombian generic pencil was like, though.
BIg ol’ paperclips
Okay, so I don’t have a picture of the paperclips included. There was a box of heavy-duty winged paperclips, which could hold together a banana peel and an angry cat if you wanted them to. I know I can use them to hold lots of papers, for example, when my partner applies for grad school. She’s bound (get it? bound?) to get accepted with such responsibly paperclippery!
Like I said, the point of this package wasn’t to sample the finer office supplies in Colombia. It was to see how the usual cubicle worker might function. They packaged that up in a hip, fun-to-discover box that I really enjoyed going through. And though I don’t think I’ll be using that yellow pencil again, the green and the red pencils are great.
Will I subscribe to the RaH collection? Probably not. $16 a month is a little more than I should be paying, especially as I’ll soon be set for life in pencils (or at least my CalCedar career span). But I’ll definitely be checking in on the RaH storefront every month to see what goodies are there, and if I see one that really looks cool (and I bet I will), I’ll be picking it up.
And, if you get a chance to talk with Hen, half of the Rad and Hungry powers that be (Is she Rad? Or is she Hungry?), take it. She’s an interesting and genuinely nice person.
Thanks, Rad and Hungry, for an innovative, original, fun social studies lesson mixed with office supply porn! I know I can speak for many of my kind when I say that I’m encouraged by your eagerness to share the world through the mundane. Diplomacy be damned — pencils might just be what brings us all together.