I had a moment about a week ago that had to do with the simple question of “What’s on my desk?” We are very busy up at the office and I have been putting in a lot of early mornings and late nights – which I kind of enjoy because I am working on some really interesting projects, but my workspace is feeling just right lately and we are still letting folks work from home so I pretty much have the entire office space to myself.
It was the end of a particularly long stretch of days and after spending the previous 60 minutes in one of the partner’s offices (having a socially responsible cocktail as we both had some time to bring the other up on deadlines, tasks, next steps, etc.) I walked back over to my desk, surveyed the situation, concluded that I would take a picture of my desk, and put it up on Instagram. As the following picture indicates, there was a lot going on.
The image on the left is the original image I took, and the image on the right is what it looked like posted on my Instagram stories. I am happy to concede that whenever I post questions or surveys, I receive a very respectable amount of engagement – and if you are one of those people, you will know that I respond back when people engage. However, with regards to this particular image, the response was so overwhelming that I did something that I’ve never done before …
I took the image down.
Within the first few hours, I received about 200+ responses to the question I posted (Surely you see something that makes you go “Hmmmm”). About half of the first 100 or so responses were either about the bag of Jolly Ranchers or the bottle of whiskey sitting out, but then people really started to dig deep and comment on just about anything and everything you could possibly imagine in this image. As a result, I decided that I would go ahead and write today’s post and actually explain everything that you see in this photo.
There are a handful of things in this image that I am not going to identify – not because they’re secret, but either I don’t know the specifics, or I don’t care and as a result, think nobody else will either. So here we go … I will add a small story to the explanation when it makes sense, and/or provide a link to the item in case you want to see it a bit closer up since not everything is prominently featured here since I didn’t stage this image.
- Giant Drafting Table – this is not my own personal desk, but rather one that the office had in storage that they dug out and gave to me since they know that I like having this work of work station. Consider it just a little extra attention from BOKA Powell to me that I appreciate. I will say that I love the feature that allows me to flip the table between being vertical or completely horizontal – and all points in between. The thing I don’t love is that the desk surface when horizontal is about 2 1/2″ higher than I would like it, most likely due to the giant base it sits on.
- Sketches – I have two active residential projects in schematic design and these are just a very small percentage of the sketches from the one located in Wyoming. I will concede that I tapped them on the desk to make a more interesting backdrop because I gave a presentation to an architectural/engineering class and I wanted a more interesting backdrop than the vertical window blinds.
- Mayline parallel bar – came with the desk but I don’t really use it since I don’t draft on this particular drafting table. Most of the time the bar is either pushed up to the top and put out of the way or I use it to hold trace paper down so it doesn’t get blown off the desk as I swoop in and out of my desk environment.
- Recycle Trash Can – it’s listed here because recycling is important.
- Office Chair – which is absolute garbage. It’s uncomfortable and in an advanced stage of falling apart. If I had one complaint about my work environment, this would be it. I sit in this chair between 40 and 60+ hours a week and I shouldn’t have to feel screws poking through on my butt, nor should I have to … (see #6)
- Tape Dots – which are here holding the plastic together on my armrests. I feel like I should point out that I received this chair in this state – it wasn’t new when I got it and subsequently trashed. I had a Herman Miller Aeron Chair in my last office and it was awesome. Black Size C if you’re feeling generous.
- Archive Sketches – I don’t generally hold on to my sketches very long but this is the pile where they live during their life span.
- Desk Lamp – came with this particular work station. Nothing particularly nice or fancy – but I have my own that you’ll see a bit later on in the list (#20)
- Vertical Blinds – I hate these blinds, admittedly, my hate for them is disproportionate for an inanimate object.
- Bob Borson – Yes, this is me taking this very photo. Since I technically have a corner workspace, I have floor to ceiling glass on two sides and you are looking into the joint where the glass is coming together at right angles. In reality, I am nowhere near this thin.
- Best Dish Award – this is a reflection of the “Best Dish” award I won at our company Thanksgiving Feast 2018 for the smoked pork I brought up. What you are looking at is a plate that has a bunch of vegetables glued to it … ironic, isn’t it?
- Thermostat – could be fake because whatever temperature you want it to be, it rarely is that temperature.
- Wire InBox Tray – I don’t even know why I have an Inbox. If someone wants me to have something, they hand it to me. If I’m not at my desk, they leave it on my keyboard or in my chair. Why does anybody have an inbox anymore? I use mine to temporarily store things like receipts and stuff I don’t know what to do with.
- Felt Storage Box – I use this felt box to basically hold all my desktop items so I can easily and quickly either find – or put away – all that stuff.
- Moleskine Sketchbooks – I use two different sizes and I have gone on and on why I like the ones I like (or you can go check out “Architects and Sketching” if you are possibly new here.) The little ones are 5″ x 8.5″ and the slightly larger ones are 8.5″ x 11″. Just make sure that if you follow any of these links to get your own that you select the type of paper you want. I stick to plain but you can get dotted, square or (heaven help you) ruled.
- AIAIAI TMA-2 HD Wireless Headphones – First off, yes – I have two pairs of wireless headphones on my desk. Secondly, yes – I pack them both up every day and shuttle them back and forth between my house and the office. This particular pair is dedicated solely to music, even though it has the ability to do more (wireless phone calls, teleconferencing, etc.). I have had them since early January and in the 3 weeks or so since they were delivered, I have probably logged an average of 8 hours a day wearing them. I don’t get to listen to a lot of music during regular hours (thanks to endless teleconferencing calls) but for those early hours, and late-night hours, they have been great. Pro-tip: You can design all the individual components based on your musical listening tastes but if you think you want to get a pair, do go through a 3rd party. Buy them directly from the AIAIAI website or from their store on Amazon as it will be cheaper.
- Wallet – I don’t like sitting on my wallet so I typically leave it in my backpack during the day … not sure why it’s out.
- Trace Paper – 12″ rolls in white are my standard. They scan better than yellow trace and even if there were no other reasons, that would be enough.
- Jolly Ranchers – apparently people lost their minds over the fact that I have Jolly Ranchers on my desk. I received this particular bag from my daughter in my Christmas stocking and it is a single flavor – “Cinnamon Fire“. Yes – I actually like this flavor and yes, I am perfectly fine that there are no other flavors in this bag. I tend to take two pieces with me as I leave the office and eat them on my drive home (I might have OCPD) but I have a history of bringing candy in the office to share with others. Before the pandemic, I would bring in boxes and boxes of Lemonhead Candy. People at first might have thought it was weird but after a very short period of time, people would almost unconsciously swing by and grab a handful, oblivious as to their origins but happy to eat them all the same.
- Youkoyi A16 LED Desk Lamp – this was actually included on this year’s Gift Guide and I don’t know what to tell you … it’s terrific and at only $36, it’s affordable.
- Webcam (Peteme 1080 HD Camera) – I actually have two since I didn’t feel like packing it up every time I switched between working at home or in the office. This particular one is my current favorite (what’s not to like for only $23?) I only use it for the camera but I like that it has a 110° viewing angle so that pretty much ensures that my face doesn’t dominate the screen. Win-Win for me and the people I’m talking with.
- Cloudlifter CL-2 Dynamic/Ribbon Inline Preamp – I have returned to the office pretty much full time and since I have an amazing microphone setup due to the Life of an Architect podcast I record (maybe you’ve heard of it?) I brought my entire rig up to the office since it works just as well for teleconferencing calls.
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface – the workhorse of my audio setup. This is THE piece of equipment for both my teleconferencing call and for recording the podcast. I actually have two of these – one stays in Dallas with my and my podcast co-host has one. I take a fair amount of ribbing over having this incredibly amazing and admittedly overpowered setup for teleconferencing calls but I could go on and on for why this setup will be awesome once everyone comes up to the office and I can control the gain so I still sound clear and the mic isn’t picking up sounds from everyone else around me who are also on teleconferencing calls.
- Yeti Rambler Can Insulator – doesn’t everyone have something like this on their desk? Mine looks different because I have rubber bands around the middle.
- BOKA Powell Business Card – should I be embarrassed that I leave this card sitting out on my desktop because I still default to my old office telephone number?
- Eyeglasses – I abuse these glasses terribly and quite honestly, they have needed to be replaced for about 2 years now. Look at how I have them sitting lenses down on the table … how rude.
- Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Noise-Canceling Wireless Headphones – I actually like these headphones for just about everything, but I’ve used them for so long they are simply wearing out. They are still my go-to pair for the podcast as well as for traveling since the noise-canceling feature is amazing.
- Balvenie 17-Year Old Doublewood Scotch – This was a gift I received for my 50th birthday and it has been sitting in my desk drawer for the better part of the last 18 months. In fact, this was what I was drinking with one of the firm’s partners leading up to me taking the picture that was at the root of today’s blog post.
- Yeti Rambler Mug – This was a gift I received for Christmas this year from a consultant and I literally use it every single day (I use it for keeping my tea hot).
- Architectural Jolly Rogers Sticker – I put an awesome sticker on one side of this mug and I get a lot of comments on it. I don’t cover up the consultant’s name but since I am left-handed, this sticker is essentially on the back (but it is the side that faces my webcam when I am on video calls).
- Shure SM7B Microphone – This is the microphone I use every single day – and it is quite literally the gold-standard of microphones. I have it because I bought 4 of them for recording the podcast but it works exceptionally well for my conference calls. I get a comment on the quality of my audio almost every single time I am on a call.
- Facial Mask – how many of these do you own? These things are everywhere from my house, my car, my desk … random jacket pockets. You know what I’m saying.
- Whiskey – this is actually the end of the drink I was having with my boss.
- Rode PSA 1 Swivel Mount Microphone Boom – If I am being honest, this stand is why most people react to my audio setup when I’m on my calls. I have had nothing but amazing results from this mic stand – and I highly recommend it. Full reach (extension) and a 360° swivel mean I can move it far out of the way when I don’t need it. You don’t need to lock anything in place as long as you don’t exceed 4.4lbs of weight (my mic is huge and it is easily supported).
- AIA Award – I received a token of gratitude from AIA National for being one of the 3 judges for this year’s national film competition. This glass award (and the box it is currently residing in) deserves someplace nice to reside but I haven’t found it yet … so here it sits.
- Trash Can – no food allowed.
Since I received a few comments about the contents of item #14 above, I thought I would take a little extra time and isolate it and its contents for you. If you are a frequent visitor, you will know what all of these things are since I am fairly consistent in practicing what I preach.
In no particular order than how I laid them out during one of my lunch breaks – let’s get into it.
- Felt Box – This is a closer look at the collapsible box from above – and also an item that was on last year’s gift guide.
- Leather Notecard holder – a gift to me from my office when I joined the firm.
- Index Cards – I actually made these myself, cut down from larger card stock. I always seem to be in need of something to write on and some things aren’t worth memorializing in a sketchbook but require a bit more permanence than a plain old scrap of paper. These notecards are perfect for just these sorts of things.
- Field Artist 6.5″ x 6.5″ square watercolor journal – appropriate level of “nice” for a sketchbook with paper heavy enough to withstand watercolor washes (a technique that I have promised to myself that I would work on more this year)
- Tombow Dual Brush Pens – I have a bunch of thee but the reality is that I only like a few of their colors for my needs. In particular, I like the N65 Cool Gray and the 533 Peacock Blue.
- More Tombow pens – yes, you can have more than you need but this is the pile of pens I actually use.
- Pencils – these are the standards but I didn’t purchase them, they came from the supply room.
- Pilot Razor Point (a+b) – These are pretty good even though I prefer to use the Sharpie Ultra Fine pens. These have a slightly smaller pen tip so the lines can be finer than with the Sharpie but the very reason I like SHarpie pens is for the amount of ink they put down.
- Sharpie Fine Point (a+b) – these are actually not fine at all, I think the marketing team at Sharpie should reconsider the name here.
- Pentel Sign Pen (a+b) – another standard pen in my daily use collection. They might even be superior to the Sharpie Fine Tip which can become rounded with a little use.
- Fluke 416D Laser measure – they don’t make this model anymore but it can measure up to 200′ with 1/16″ accuracy. This is my personal laser measure but I keep it at the office so others can borrow it (nice but I should probably quit because replacing it now would cost a ton).
- Retro 51 Tornado 1.15 Mechanical Pencil – a gift from a past client and still the coolest mechanical pencil I own.
- Utility Knife – I have this on hand so I can sharpen my pencils. Ultimately I will buy another Blackwing one-step long point sharpener so I don’t have to haul it around. This pandemic seems to be creating situations where I am either carrying loads of things around all the time or I have duplicates. Both are a drag.
- Trace Shortie – 6″ roll of trace simply because it’s sometimes easier and shockingly less wasteful.
- Blackwing 602 (12-count) – I was recently sent this set of pencils by a new friend and I have only worked my way through one pencil. My first impressions are pretty good … the word “buttery smooth” comes to mind, but not in a gross way.
- Staedtler Mars Drafting Dots – these are definitely fancier than you need. I typically used a simple roll of masking tape but I like these better. The roundness of the dot actually serves a purpose which is to limit the ability of other things (mainly the Mayline drafting bar) from rolling over the tape and causing it to roll up and stick to the underside.
- Copic Pens – Warm grey. These are gross – don’t get warm gray. The pens are amazing but the color is terrible. Go for the cool grey pack instead.
- Copic Pens – this was a colored set, but almost all of them are too intense for my purpose so I hardly use these.
- Architectural Scale – I have probably 20+ of these scales from over the years but this particular one was the one my Dad used in college so it is sentimental to me.
- Engineering Scale – I use these mostly for scaling on civil drawings but scales are becoming a relic of the past that few people use.
- Architectural Scale – this is the one I use whenever I sketch and want to make sure that I am sizing things correctly. I don’t care if I get pen marks on this one.
- 6″ Scale – I’ve actually never bought one of these before as they always seem to be available at conventions. This is the scale that I stick in my notebook and use when traveling – mostly because it’s flat and doesn’t take up much space.
- Scissors – these scissors work but just barely. If you are left-handed, you know what I mean when I say almost all scissors stink unless they are made for left-handed people.
- “If … Volume 2“ – party book I received years ago that is the source of some of the hypothetical questions we answer on the podcast.
- 30°/60° Triangle – I straight-up borrowed this from a guy in my office and have never returned it to him. I’m kind of hoping he doesn’t read this post because I’ll have to return it to him sooner than I am ready.
So there you go – what will assuredly be the long post I will write on this website in 2021. There are some things from this list that will rotate in and out of favor, but not many. Most of the things I’ve shown here have stood the test of time and have earned their spot on my desk. So what do you think … am I missing something that you can’t live without? Or maybe you’re just here for the Jolly Ranchers and the Scotch?