In life it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey that counts. Same thing with making. I enjoy the process, the design more than realizing a final product. Partially because I enjoy simply learning new skills. If there was one thing I could change about undergraduate engineering curriculums is I would make them way more hands-on and project based. Theory is great, but it doesn’t pay the bills or give you any real satisfaction. Being able to apply theory in the real-world is what counts. The feeling you get from knowing you understand and can control fundamental forces is intoxicating. From the hardware perspective it is about knowing that with some basic scientific knowledge that one can control fundamental forces such as electricity. I liken it to learning a magician’s secrets, and when making — Mother Nature is the magician.
I think the other aspect of making is that I love possibility. The notion that there is never one solution to a problem is wildly appealing. The ability to make various things and test them out is an empowering feeling. I suppose that’s why I enjoy concept art so much. I enjoy the options, the possibilities, the what-ifs, and the could-have-beens. Studying concept art, especially iterative takes on the same thing, is for me a much more enjoyable experience than simply gazing upon the final outcome. Looking at concept art, be it for movies or video games or even real-world products, is a chance to try and understand a fellow makers design process. You get to see how they think about problems. It’s almost as good as being able to read their mind. When I get stuck on designing a thing or writing a bit of code, I always take a break and thumb through art books and websites. Ralph McQuarrie concept art being a particular favorite. I suppose that’s why I also enjoy creating software as well. Software, as opposed to hardware design, is a much more about creativity then application of scientific principles. Creativity to find the most elegant solutions. Being able to bend technology through code (aka magical incantations) to perform to your whim is a powerful and rewarding feeling. Equally as strong as the feeling I get when harnessing the electron during my hardware tinkering.
In short, some say that technology frees us up from the mundane or dangerous to pursue passions such as artistic endeavors. And certainly that is true to some degree. But for me, making is combination of technological pursuit with artistic pursuit. It’s the balance of absolute control with limitless possibility. It’s a way to reconnect to a more primitive form of our humanity, when we truly were masters of our own destinies and far more self-reliant. And perhaps through the Maker Movement, we will achieve that freedom once again.