Hide-and-Seek

I once brought a delicious cream puff dessert into the office for a celebratory lunch. Coming from a family of bakers, I’ve always prided myself on presentation. This dessert was no exception… flaky pastry was carefully layered in a casserole dish with a light creamy filling. The top was sprinkled with smalls bits of pastry, and I had carefully covered the dish to avoid ruining the top layer of cream that I had so carefully smoothed out. When it came time to remove my proud creation from the office fridge, I was appalled to find that an anonymous coworker had shamelessly taken a huge spoonful right out of the middle. Was nothing sacred?!

I have since become a master at hiding things in the office fridge, whenever I am forced by necessity to use it. This talent came naturally to me, as I have been hiding the things I’m working on in my cubicle for years. I know I sound like some kind of paranoid schizophrenic. But you must understand, as a designer in an office full of editors and sales people, the things that I keep at my desk tend to draw an audience. Stacks of illustrations of monsters are much more interesting than Word documents and Excel spreadsheets.

The open cubicle I sit in allows every passerby to see the contents of my office. And I’ve learned the hard way that when people see something they like, they want to touch it. When that object is a fragile paper toy that’s yet to be photographed or a pencil illustration awaiting scanning, this is not good. Touching can leave damaging stains and fingerprints. Handling handmade projects can cause them to fall apart. It’s for this reason that I’ve gotten into the habit of hiding these pieces of artwork away the best that I can.

Secretly though, I’m thrilled that I have to hide these things. My coworkers aren’t trying to cause problems. They’re just excited about the books I’m working on, and they get even more excited when they see actual visuals from those books. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and it inspires all of us to put our best work into these titles. I’ve seen the way it makes editors eager to work on the manuscript, and inspires the marketing staff to think of more creative possibilities for promotion. The sales people will actually try to “borrow” illustrations and projects to get their buyers as eager for the book as they are (though secretly I suspect they just want to show them to their friends). Either way, all of this added enthusiasm can only benefit the content and success of the book in the end.

So I’ll continue to keep hiding all the “fun” things from my coworkers, but if they ask, I’ll show them anyway (so long as they don’t touch!). In my somewhat biased opinion, it’s our passion for our work here that really makes our products stand out from the crowd.

I am less enthused by having to hide food in the office fridge. I still haven’t forgiven you, Refrigerator Bandit, for ruining my cream puff dessert!

a paper toy from the upcoming book Urban Paper, by Matt Hawkins.

One of the projects I'm currently hiding: a paper toy from Urban Paper by Matt Hawkins.

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