Category: hard to categorize

Exit Pole

There was a time when every working designer had at least one pica pole sitting on their drawing board. It was an indispensable tool of the trade that was as needed as drafting tape, Rapidographs, X-actos, french curves and breathing.

Being that I was still working in picas in the late 90s and getting fussed at by my CD for it, I’m willing to bet few practicing designers today know what a pica is.

It’s pretty easy: A pica is a unit of measure equaling 1/6 of an inch. 12 points make up one pica, so 72 points equal one inch. End of the math lesson.

If you want to get serious about printed typography, you will want to work in picas. I found working in picas gives designers more precise control over layouts than inches ever can. Inches are clumsy — of course, everyone knows I’m one of the few Americans who would rather go metric, but that’s another story.

I found this pica pole while going through stuff on my wife’s drawing board. She uses it just to draw straight lines and doesn’t give a second thought to the markings on it. I used to walk around with a pica pole all the time. It was also handy to smack someone if they got too randy.

Designers today who mostly work digitally would do themselves a favor learning and working in points and picas. Believe it or not, points translate exceedingly well to pixels, the new standard for measuring just about everything. Being pixel-perfect is a sign of quality to an old dog like me.



  1. the reduction of a fuel or substance to nothing through use or combustion.
    “good carbon burnout”
  2. physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.
    “high levels of professionalism that may result in burnout”

Burnout happens all the time for creative folks. When your work is your life, it’s hard to give anything less than 100% all the time. But it’s a slippery slope that’s easy to slide down. You give so much of yourself to your work, it’s such a large part of you and your life, you want to do and be the best. It’s hard. It takes a tremendous amount of time and energy.

It’s easy for brilliant young professionals to burn out. They shine so brightly only to flame out just as fast.

Burnout causes bad decisions and poor choices. Even the strongest of us have fallen victim to it. The key to survival is to get out of the burned-out state and learn from the experience so that you don’t fall into it again.

I’ve always thought of burnout as a luxury.

Later in life, when you have bigger concerns (like a long-term career) and more responsibilities (like a family or mortgage), you don’t have time to burn out. You can’t burn out when others are depending on you. You just have to keep pushing through.

Bouncing back from burnout is hard.

The easy answer is always to find your work-life balance. That’s very weak advice. Life in general is all about balance, not just finding time to juggle working with your life away from work. If you’re a creative professional, the kind who show up every day to make things happen, your work is with you every minute of every day. You don’t get to turn off at 5 o’clock then turn it back on at 8 the next morning. It doesn’t work that way.

I haven’t been burnout out in years. Exercise and focusing on my family help keep stress in check. I draw a tremendous amount of strength from seeing my children’s faces. I look in their eyes and find the strength I need to keep pushing through even the hardest times.

Finding balance is not easy and be careful of anyone who tells you how to do it. There is no one-size fits all answer.