Fill Your Mind or Clear It?

Fill Your Mind or Clear It?

by Gretchen Schisla

While graphic designers were getting comfortable with Apple computers in the mid-80s, April Greiman was already pioneering the world of digital imaging. A Los Angeles-based and Basel-trained designer, April is recognized worldwide as one of the first designers to embrace technology as a design tool.

But with that discovery, April and her architect husband Michael Rotondi needed to balance the intensity of their highly technological lives. They made frequent trips to a 50’s retro motel perched on a hill in a Palm Springs area desert town known for its hot springs. Turns out April and her husband were onto something almost 30 years ago — the fast pace of technology needed to be balanced by extreme quiet and big open spaces — found in a polar opposite environment (with no TVs or phones). The couple eventually purchased the motel, Miracle Manor, after its proprietor passed away and brought their own vision of a B&B retreat destination to life.

October — Desert Bound

Last month, I experienced Miracle Manor for myself with a group of special friends — design firm entrepreneurs from around the country. Entering this space of quiet breezes and warm light instantly reminded me of how much we all need to stop, listen and BE QUIET. How else can we hear ourselves? Reduce stress? Find our creativity? Creating space for time, reflection and rejuvenation allows new ideas to rise to the surface. It brings us back to our core and says “you need to think about what’s really important to you.” So if a mini-hiatus is the prescription for happiness and restoration of body, mind and soul, why don’t we ALL find a way to do it? Instead, we rush around with our technology and busy lives, saying we can’t afford to take the time off and offer every other excuse we can conjure up. As everyone kept checking their iPhones during the 3-day workshop, I soon noticed how counter-intuitive this was to our goal, and even threatened to throw one guy’s phone into the mineral springs pool!

This short break from our technology-run lives rewarded our group of eight designers with some extremely powerful days and nights: we enjoyed freshly prepared and healthy meals (thank you, Peleg). We swam and lingered in the mineral pools any time we felt like it. We hiked the desert and sat quietly as the sun rose. Our meetings and interactions were thoughtful, new, deep and enriching. In the library, I stumbled on a treasure of a book that April designed in the 90’s and spent several hours looking at her inspiring typography, deconstructed grids and imagery (A few spreads are shown below). At the end of our time together, we each created a piece of artwork that expressed how we felt right at that moment. Some pretty amazing work emerged in less than two hours.

April Greiman Design

April Greiman Design

April Greiman Design

Above: Examples of Greiman's work found at Miracle Manor

November – Back Home

Time away is refreshing but once we step back into LIFE, busy schedules and sensory overload resume instantly. Here are a few small steps you can take to maintain balance in this high-tech world:

  1. Give ‘technology-free’ weekends a try. A business firm owner and friend in San Francisco added this signature to email: “Inspired by MIT professor Sherry Turkle, I am attempting to  practice 'tech-free weekends.' From noon Friday to noon Monday, I am turning off tech (email, cell phone/texting) and taking time to enjoy the real world.”
  2. Attempt quality over quantity. Pay attention to one thing at a time, enjoy the task or interaction in the moment, rather than hurrying onto the next thing. Hint: multi-tasking is over-rated and energy-draining.
  3. Don’t let email rule your day. You’ve heard this one before! Checking email less frequently frees you up to accomplish larger tasks. I’ve also heard that keeping your inbox cleaned out is liberating, but I’m not there yet with 1600 to sort through, file and delete.
  4. Practice TV-free nights a few days a week, or a TV-free Sunday night. You’ll be surprised at how it can center you for the week to come, plus reading a book or calling a friend is a nice change of pace.
  5. Create the environment that compliments you best at work – don’t let it create you. Keep technology handy to learn about things and spark ideas, but don’t let it monopolize every breathing moment. Otherwise, how can new ideas and creativity find their way in your head?

Luckily for those who visit Miracle Manor, April Greiman and her husband created the perfect break from our high-tech world, reminding us that a nighttime desert sky trumps checking email every time. Thanks April!