The new iPad Air ad got me very excited, but not for the reason Apple is hoping to get me excited. The visual centerpiece of the video is the pencil, the humble pencil. I have had a passionate love affair with this tool since at least 1995. But alas, the fantasy, the set up of the pencil as the centre of our universe, is destroyed by the retrieval of the iPad Air from behind the pencil. The premise? The iPad Air is as thin as this pencil. Like I give a f***. I am more interested in the pencil. I really mean it.
In 2007, a former professor enticed me to take his studio with one simple act. He picked up a pencil and held it in the air. He made it the centre of our universe. He reminded us that this was the forgotten tool that had been at the origin of so much great architecture. That we needed to go back to basics. That we needed to reconnect the mind with the heart with the arm with the hand with the pencil. The physicality of this tool is what really turns me on. But also the impermanence. We use it to jot down our ideas. These traces fade over time, but if we’re lucky enough, the real deal might be built by the time the pencil drawing fades. There is poetry in this. The dream slowly fades as the real, physical form manifests itself.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-tech. I am both lo- and hi-tech. My students know this well, and that’s my point. Why wouldn’t I still use a pencil? Why can’t I use both my pencil and my laptop? We’re extremely privileged to have the opportunity to use both, all, in fact. And does Apple really think that I am going to get more excited about their iPad Air and laugh at the humble pencil? Sure, it’s good that tech-tools are getting lighter, but I still want lead. And the pencil is still smaller, lighter, and more likely to make it to a deserted island.