To share your best ideas, all you need is a pen and a napkin.
By Dale Mulfinger
Fall is soon upon us, so many cabiners will contemplate closing the cabin for the season, draining the pipes, lifting out the dock and cleaning out the frig. But just because we are leaving the cabin physically doesn’t mean we are leaving it mentally. We seem to carry the cabin spirit with us always and daydream about the potential of our retreat location. Oftentimes we want or need to share those dreams and ideas with others. As such, we may be dining at our favorite roadside café, and that napkin beckons us to doodle our ideas for our spouse. “What if we built something to look this charming?”
Napkins are a great medium for sketches and doodles. Their textured surface and loose weave adds just the sort of ambiguity needed for ideas still percolating in our minds. As we share the ideas with others, there is a casualness implied, a relaxed commitment. We easily might scrap the napkin and start anew. Yet, the sketch might contain a kernel of an idea worthy of pursuit. It’s not hard to imagine that architects like me might be addicted to napkin sketches. Our profession is likely to embellish any mealtime discussion with a doodle. We even have professional competitions for great napkin sketches. (Really!)
As designers and creators, we naturally diagram, doodle and sketch our way to explain, explore and imagine ideas. We’ll even use napkins to create a graph or solar exposure diagram. But you don’t need to be an architect or commercial artist to find value in a napkin sketch. Just don’t be intimidated into thinking it has to be beautiful to be informative. Reflect back on your youth when drawing with crayons was second nature to you.
Here’s what you need to know to give it a go:
- Take any available napkin of light color. (Not the clothe napkin or the price of lunch might be greater.)
- Either a ballpoint pen or felt tip will work. Don’t press too hard or the napkin will rip.
- Add a little color with imaginative use of catsup, mustard, pea soup or the blueberry pie. (Another good reason to order the dessert.)
- Trust your doodle. You’re better than you think! Do several.
- Encourage other family members to join in, especially children.
- Pass the napkin sketch to your architect, drafts person or builder. If they don’t take you seriously … well, consider them suspect.
- If a napkin sketch does indeed lead to a change in your cabin, frame it and hang it on the cabin wall right next to Uncle Bob’s walleye.
Your sketch can address several cabin ideas that will be helpful to its inception:
- Image. What might it look like when you drive up or boat up?
- Plan. How will the spaces of the cabin organize horizontally? How will they address views, arrival, sunlight?
- Cross section. How will those cabin spaces organize vertically? With a loft, walkout, …?
- Detail. What’s an important attribute of your future cabin: fireplace, ladder stair, window seat, Dutch door (those that are split into two, so top can open while bottom stays closed), … ?
Well, enjoy lunch and the discussion your sketch will encourage!