We messed up and you responded. Last fall, we posted a gallery of the messiest engineering desks, courtesy of our sister site, EETimes. EELife editorial director Brian Fuller, who came up with the slideshow, opined that the results showed that the messier the desk, the more of a genius its owner must be.
We wanted to see whether Design News readers were as organizationally challenged. Several of you responded, so here's Messy Desks Part II, which mashes up mechanical engineers' workspaces with additional EETimes pictures.
Click the image below to view more of the messiest engineers' desks around:
Nicholas Lee of Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK, shows off "my vast hoard of electronic components, reference books, datasheets, and a miscellany of electronic projects under construction," which reside next to his desk.
I have to agree with Al Sledge's wife about whatever expletive she choose to describe his work area. I'm glad none of those cluttered creations reside in my house or my office space. Beyond all the mess, however, I was intrigued by that FiFo dog robot ... what is that all about?
I'd say my success rate for finding things after cleaning my desk, or my office for that matter, is about 50%. Half of the time cleaning means I find things I need but had temporarily "lost," and the other half of the time I put stuff someplace else I can't remember.
I've never figured out why I can remember the placement of so many individual objects (mostly sheets of paper and file folders) in archeological-like stratified sequences, yet completely forget the locations of a few of them.
Maybe we should be asking readers for photos of the most impressive engineering desktops (not their own) in their companies. We have all seen the engineer with piles of equipment and papers everywhere; it's all too common. We can probably learn more and get new ideas from the opposite approach. In fact, are there ANY engineers who have desktops that could be mistaken for an accountant or business executive out there?
Mechanical Design Engineers are commonly neat and organized; especially those born under the Virgo sign.So organized that it becomes a setback.... almost OCD-like ... I'm talking about myself, of course.I find that I can't concentrate on work if distracted by clutter and have to "put things away" before realizing any productivity.Laugh if you must --- I'm used to it now --- my wife has been making fun of me for years.
Hello apresher. Years ago when I was working my way through the university, I worked part time for an archetict. He was German by birth and received most of his formal education in that country. His family moved to the United States in the mid-50s where he attended Georgia Tech in Atlanta. At the end of my very first working day, I wrapped things up about 6:00 P.M. I left my drawing tools on the board, including books and other reference material needed for completion of a piping layout I had started. Prior to leaving, my employer indicated to me that in this office we put away our materials and leave the office as we found it when we entered. Desk Cleared. Books filed. Drawing board in the fully horizontal position. Even the telephone sitting on my desk was put into a special drawer crafted just for the that purpose. I looked around the office to find all of the other draftsmen had done likewise prior to leaving for the day. I wish I had a picture of this office to show you. This was his only idiosyncrasy (thankfully) but we all adhered to his desire for a very very clean office.
I think that generation is gone, Bobjengr. That was a certain culture, and that culture has passed. Perhaps for the good. Many of the tools and books left on the desk represent the most efficient way of handling materials. The time spent putting everything away at night and taking it back out in the morning is not productive time. It's time that is spent just for appearance sake.
I'm happy to see that I'm not the only one who still uses CRT oscilloscopes; these slim-line color LCD 'scopes have me feeling my age. I just can't seem to give up my circa 1980 4-Channel Tektronix (analog) storage scope!
Hi, Arnoldnewb. Have you ever seen an empty desk? Even desks in empty offices or cubes tend to accumulate someone's "stuff." Mostly I see messy desks or organized desks but can't find a correlation between the state of a desk and the state of the owner's mind. It's fun to speculate, though.
Funny situation about empty cubicles gathering other people's stuff ....There was one vacant corner cube that had clear visibility by everyone walking past to the break room.On the blank White Board was clearly printed, "This Space Left Blank Intentionally".
Jim, you are most definitely in the minority with the clean desk although I can see that mechanical design engineers may have a greater appreciation for precision and order. Maybe others can weigh in on the engineering disciplines with the worst track record.
I try to have my desk somewhat organized at the end of Friday. But when I work on a project I have papers, tools, and electronic "stuff" spread all around. Last night I helped a friend wire new circuits into his breaker box. I had tools on the floor, in my pockets and in the breaker box. I do have a tool belt, but most of the time tools end up in random order in its pockets. I have no idea whether my mode of operations relates to mental state or choice of profession. It might be interesting to ask academics involved with chaos theory if they have "neat" work habits.
MOST of the images here seem to be desks of electrical/electronics engineers. Even Mr. Sledge, with his lathe, says most of his work is electronic.
I think the slideshows (by looking for messy desks) are proving the observation that electrical engineers tend to have messy desks, and mechanical engineers have neat(er) desks. We're not seeing many messy mechanical engineer desks in these slide shows.
Brian and Alex, I think you'll need to do a part III, and show ONLY those submissions from mechanical engineers.
I'm reluctant to turn that observation into a theory of engineer behavior. Do we really want to know what makes us tick?
TJ, the reason that so many of the desktops are skewed to EEs is that they've responded more broadly to the call for messy desk pictures than have MEs. I would love to have more ME desk pictures. People can send them to me at email@example.com
I think most of the desks in the pictures are relatively functional. One thing caught my eye in image 7 from Al Sledge that made me chuckle. On one side of the metal workbench is a collection of what appear to be magnets. I do the same thing on all of my workbenches and tool boxes. You don't want to look for a magnet when you need one and you don't want them collecting other metal items.
The first job for every intern is to clean up the lab. The best EE I ever had was also the messiest. When he took a day of vacation I had the intern clean the lab. When Summer was over and the intern left it took about a week to get the lab back to the same old mess.
I don't know, Tim. From my own vast experience, I think that more papers on the desk signifies more unfinished projects, probably due to management-caused fire drills, half of which are meaningless or irrelevant.
Bobjengr, Based on the engineering desktops I have seen over the years, I would say your work environment was definitely in the minority. But a good idea. I would say most of us fit somewhere between the two extremes.
My first job out of college, the sales lady used to give me grief for a messy desk. Her office was always spotless. She wouldn't even leave a pen out at the end of the day, and often I would walk by her office and for a brief second wonder if she had been let go. But then I would remember that she was a neat-freak.
I tried to ignore her harassment of my messy desk and one day I got justice. Turns out, she had put something away one day, something very important and forgot about it. It was a request for proposal for a $50 million dollar contract. Well guess what, we didn't get that one and she got in BIG trouble.
Had she left it out on her desk, chances are that we may have got a legitimate bid in on time and had a crack at the job.
I noted that slide 4 of 13 shows a Jacobs Ladder with a safety screen around it and if grounded acts as a Faraday Cage for sub-GigHz frequencies, yet the caption states: "The last in the Nicolas Lee messy desk tetralogy is his three-foot-high Jacob's ladder, otherwise known as a Faraday Cage."
Sorry, no cigar here. A Faraday Cage prevents RF from entering, or exiting, a given space and is not another name for a Jocobs Ladder. A Jacobs Ladder radiates a pretty wide swath of the spectrum and should perhaps have a Faraday cage surrounding it to prevent interferrence with other equipment. The voltages present can make a person assume room temperature in short order, so another good idea is to keep fingers out of it. Think bug-zapper here.
It does seem that many of the more productive and creative engineers are not so very fixated on keeping things perfectly neat. But many of them are quite organized. Neatness and organization belong on separate axis at right angles, since I have seen some very neat but completely disorganized areas, places where nothing worthwhile could happen without a huge effort.
Mostly, what I have seen is that great engineers and many good engineers do engineering, while the poor and the mediocre straighten things up. It is like this: Those wo can, do, while those who can't, straighten things up. It rlates to priorities, it seems.
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