Many years ago when I started my career in this industry, I happened to casually mention to a colleague that in my college presentations I would hide subtle things in my renderings and model photos. Mostly these included scale figures that were photos of my roommates, studio friends, or celebrities or occasionally cartoon characters. I did this mostly out of my own boredom in the long wee hours of the early mornings creating these boards, but what happened afterwards was interesting to me: people were looking a little longer at my presentation boards, scanning the images looking for the hidden figures. By accident, whether good or bad, the use of humor and “game” of looking for the figures yielded unexpected fruits of increased attentiveness and commentary.
After telling my story, that colleague looked at me and blankly said “You’ve read too much Where’s Waldo.” At first I thought maybe he was right, perhaps it was unnecessary, maybe even immature…and then I thought how funny it was that he said “read” Where’s Waldo. Anyways, after contemplating it for a while I realized that perhaps an important point was being missed and I encouraged him to give it another chance, maybe get to know Waldo a little better.
Waldo was created by illustrator Martin Handford in London, 1987. Handford’s specialty was drawing crowd scenes, which eventually led to the creation of Waldo. For anyone who has viewed one of these illustrations, they are full of action, adventure, and humor is scattered throughout. The illustrations ranged broad topics, from specific cities around the world to mythical places of intrigue and fantasy.
When looking over these detailed and extensive images, it takes time to scan the page, looking over all everything that is occurring until you come across Waldo. The more you look when you can’t find him, the more you see and deeper you dive into the details. Handford said, “I’d like to inspire people to open their minds, to explore subjects more, to be aware of what’s going on around them. I’d like them to see wonder in places that may not have occurred to them.”
In the career of architecture, I could not agree with this more. I think we need Waldo – we need to look for him. I find this concept to be a guiding principle in all the work that I do, no matter how interesting or dumbfoundingly boring or routine. Every single project needs a Waldo – it needs the thing that you look for, scan over the entire landscape seeking out, and when you find it, it elicits a sense of fun and satisfaction. In a way, the search for Waldo becomes the point of the process. Besides, if no fun can be found, why go through the effort?
The landscapes and scenes in which Waldo was hidden is very much like a typical architectural project. Think about all the stuff going on in and around a project, all the moving parts and intricacies of interaction. Endless paperwork, meetings here and meetings there, different team members all doing different things, coordination of skillsets, etc. Project constraints like budgets and schedules all make fitting in that special element that much harder, but every project NEEDS a Waldo.
And the bottom line is Waldo doesn’t need to be big – he can be very, very small hidden behind something, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s there. Look for that idea, look for that source of fun, creativity, inspiration and don’t be afraid to point him out – that’s part of the game, isn’t it? At least it should be. Your excitement at finding that idea and pointing it out will inspire others, and bring up the positivity and vibe even in the smallest way, injecting a little fun and something positive into the job.
The funny thing about Waldo, and maybe the best, is that when you look for him, you usually find him. It becomes a mindset, an attitude to apply to nearly everything you do, from the smallest of scales to the largest.
So…Where’s Waldo? You tell me!