KNOLLING.

Here (to quote BoingBoing) is an incredibly useful verb for you: to Knoll. Knolling is “the process of arranging like objects in parallel or 90 degree angles as a method of organization.” It was coined by Andrew Kromelow, a janitor who worked for Frank Gehry:

At the time, Gehry was designing chairs for Knoll, a company famously known for Florence Knoll’s angular furniture. Kromelow would arrange any displaced tools at right angles on all surfaces, and called this routine knolling, in that the tools were arranged in right angles—similar to Knoll furniture. The result was an organized surface that allowed the user to see all objects at once.

You can see an illustration and a How to Knoll set of instructions at the link.

Comments

  1. dearieme says:

    What about those diagonal tools, upper left? Splitters!

  2. Bathrobe says:

    This obviously only works if you’ve got a big surface to work on.

  3. marie-lucie says:

    This is neat (in both meanings), but it is misleading to say that the objects shown are “at right angles to each other”: most of them are parallel to each other, and objects of the same shape but different sizes are sorted by size. The tools shown are not too difficult to classify, but I wonder how this would work with books, piled up in towers or pyramids on a table before being placed back on shelves? according to what criteria?

  4. Not to be confused with knurling.

  5. Greg Lee says:

    Something like that is when you use a grid (not visible) to position icons or whatever on your computer desktop. On the X-Windows, Linux desktops I’ve used recently, it’s an optional feature. If I have my grid turned on, as I move objects around on my desktop, they don’t like to stop in positions that are incommensurate with those of other objects, giving an impression of neatness to a scattering of things about the surface.

  6. schlumpsimus says:

    At right angles to each other doesn’t make much sense here, as you need three objects to define an angle, and with three objects it’s no longer “each other”. A better description would be in a rectangular grid.
    It reminds me of the example Tufte gives for the “small multiples” pattern on page 33 of Envisioning Information, an array of T-shirt color combinations reprinted from a Japanese source. You can see a thumbnail in his prints shop, near the bottom. Tufte comments:

    Small multiples, whether tabular or pictorial, move to the heart of
    visual reasoning – to see, distinguish, choose (even among children’s
    shirts). Their multiplied smallness enforces local comparisons within
    our eyespan, relying on an active eye to select and make contrasts rather
    than on bygone memories of images scattered over pages and pages.

    For me, it doesn’t work so well where position and relations between objects matter, such as the desktop icons example. I prefer to arrange them in clusters, circles and curves. It helps visual memory to find something quick.

  7. A better description would be in a rectangular grid.
    No it wouldn’t. That doesn’t account for the rows. These objects are in rows. The rows are parallel or perpendicular (at 90 degrees, at right angles) to one another.
    This obviously only works if you’ve got a big surface to work on.
    No, Bath. Sadly this only works if you’re compulsively that kind of person. I’ve tried all sorts of excuses like ‘not enough space’; but it’s not about that, it’s all in the mind. Half my family does it and unfortunately I’m in the other half. When he took his trousers off at night my late uncle used to stack the coins from his pocket in rows according to diameter, and then fan his housekeys out radially. He was told by an RAF psychiatrist that he ought to mess them up again after he was done. That was in the 1950s; theories may have changed.

  8. By the way, anyone who works with tools will tell you that knolling them on the wall, as in the photo, saves you hours spent looking for them under scattered wood shavings.

  9. Some fine examples of knolling at the blog of Things Organized Neatly.

  10. David L says:

    An interesting question for the time-and-motion people (do they still do that?): Is the time lost in looking for tools hiding under the wood shavings greater or smaller than the time spent putting every tool back in its allotted spot after each use?

  11. In my experience, it’s much greater. You also have to add-in driving to the store when the tools weren’t even under the wood shavings. There’s a lot of stress involved too.

  12. I am the opposite of a knoller; my desk is a random-seeming mess of books, papers, etc., and yet I can find what I need when I need it. Different strokes.

  13. I agree that not being able to find something you put down 3 minutes ago is very maddening. But if you are not naturally a knoller, trying to force yourself to be one will be stress-inducing too. It’s better to learn to live with one’s quirks than fight them (I may have got that from Oprah).

  14. I am the opposite of a knoller; my desk is a random-seeming mess of books, papers, etc., and yet I can find what I need when I need it.
    That’s because you’re referring to paper stuff. Try it with a pile of hex sockets, metric and inch, and you’ll quickly see the benefits of Knolling. So will your cardiologist.

  15. Yes, he obviously doesn’t have any wood shavings on his desk.

  16. Somewhat related to the Society for Putting Things on Top of Other Things? (But not wood shavings.)
    Combined with knolling, this can produce an amusing tartan effect.

  17. he obviously doesn’t have any wood shavings on his desk.
    In fact he may. Spanners to screwdrivers Hat’s got at least one pencil sharpener that sees sometime use. He may even have a few.

  18. marie-lucie says:

    Unless he is sharpening dozens of pencils at once, or has never thrown out any shavings, they are not going to make a big enough pile to hide very much on his desk.

  19. I do in fact have a pencil sharpener on my desk!

  20. I take back my comment.

  21. Trond Engen says:

    Years ago, in another corner of the ‘net and a different language, I remember being part a long discussion of what you call the waste from a pencil sharpener. I don’t remember the conclusion, or if there ever was one, but I do remember stating that a pencil sharpener is a conical plane.
    My desk is so full of paper I hope the bicycle I thought was stolen last year will turn up when I get around to clean it.

  22. Unless he is sharpening dozens of pencils at once, or has never thrown out any shavings, they are not going to make a big enough pile to hide very much on his desk.
    I’m sure any garden-variety scanning electron microscope would quickly detect some.
    But beyond that, curious people want to know: Is the pencil sharpener a standalone type? One of those bitty things you hold between two fingers? Another kind? Metal? Plastic? Is there a mechanical-pencil sharpener languishing in a dark corner?
    Not for the bashful is the tale of a tail: the etymology of pencil.

  23. Is the pencil sharpener a standalone type? One of those bitty things you hold between two fingers? Another kind? Metal? Plastic?
    Yes and no! It is small but not bitty, with a metal sharpening element inside a plastic case; it is almost exactly like this except that it is red on black rather than orange on light brown (or whatever that color is). It’s kind of annoying to use, but I don’t mind things that are kind of annoying to use. They remind me I live in an imperfect universe.

  24. With Olcott style cylindrical cutters inside?

  25. I have one of those in my country house, but here on the island I use an electric sharpener.

  26. Mine looks like this one, except I think it’s a Panasonic. It’s the best type, and I’ve tried them all. I use it mainly for colour pencils, and they easily break in other sharpeners. I’ve had it for about 30 years. I don’t know what they mean by “styling to complement even the most upscale office decor”, it’s hideous. It has oddly-shaped, spiral double cutters made of cast metal that revolve round the pencil. They are the secret weapon, but I also like the way it starts working as soon as you stick the pencil in; no pulling a clip outwards is required.

  27. With Olcott style cylindrical cutters inside?
    But of course!

  28. Mine looks like this one
    I once commissioned an illustration from a man who wore out a Panasonic pencil sharpener every month. He used colored pencils exclusively and viewed his work through a loupe. People who look at the illustration assume it’s a photograph.

  29. That sounds interesting. Once a month? I wonder if he was using it correctly. I knew an illustrator like that in Hamburg. They’re a funny lot. This one looked like a Dominican monk or a baddy in a Harry Potter film, and would only do a (very well-paid) rendering if he REALLY liked your building.

  30. I have no idea if he was using it correctly. I can only repeat what he told me.
    See here for examples of his work.

  31. My electric is also a Panasonic and looks like that picture. I don’t know when I got it, perhaps 15-20 years ago, certainly not as much as 30.
    As for James Tughan’s pictures, they look like very high quality botanical illustrations, which is what they are. I would hardly mistake them for photographs — for one thing, photographs don’t have variable graininess.

  32. “Mine looks like this one”
    i have exactly the same one, it says boston on it, which i inherited from the lab, i try to save the smaller stuff like this when someone discards them, or books, some perfectly fine working things
    it’s scary how many equipment they discard when one project ends and another starts with different people on different grants money, really seems wasteful and nobody cares about environment or just money if it’s not directly involving them and their grants it seems like, the space counts more than stuff etc, but then they’d buy more stuff after discarding the older ones
    in my country research labs work like the people using them finish and leave, somebody else comes and uses the same equipment, the space and equipment are the same until it gets broken i guess, scarcity is another such curse at the other end of the spectrum so to speak
    hm, i am not allowed to comment and my email is blocked, maybe i shouldn’t really so that to not gey upset by that message every time i write something

  33. I would hardly mistake them for photographs — for one thing, photographs don’t have variable graininess.
    Ahh, but New York Strip sirloin steaks do — and that’s what he was illustrating for me.

  34. @languagehat: “I am the opposite of a knoller”
    Same here. Frankly, I’m inclined to think of this kind of “knoll” as an abbreviation for “ay-knoll-retentive”.

  35. Isn’t it ay-knoll compulsive?

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