27. Pens

To watch an architect select a new writing utensil is like watching a love story unfold before your eyes. Each architect is different in how they go about selecting their pen of choice, but once they have chosen, they commit for life. For an architect and his pen, it is truly ‘until death do we part’. There is a narrow range of acceptable pen-tributes, which tends to exclude both high end and dollar store pens. Let’s take a look at the typical tales of many an architect:

Fountain pen nib

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Mont Blanc is often considered the epitome of writing tools; the creme de la creme; the best of the best. If you want to impress, you get a Mont Blanc. Though many a Mont Blanc would love to get their ink on the pages of a legendary Moleskine notebook, they are often looked over in favor of something less conspicuous and more affordable. After all, architects are masters of subtlety and demand a writing utensil that can hold its own whilst sketching, signing a contract, or correcting the intern’s detail drawings. No, Mont Blanc is beautiful, but too high maintenance. No doubt it will be perfect for some banker or business man and find a wonderfully lavish home in a standard black briefcase, but for the architect looking to settle down with something comfortable, its just a bit too ‘much’.

BIC cristal pen

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While the architecture student has no doubt had plenty of run-ins with the dollar store Bic pen bargain pack, the rift between them grows when graduation nears. Though the Bic pens love to party, they just aren’t there when you need them; they never seem to carry their weight, and often break down into a blubbering mess. The Bic will work in a pinch, but its not exactly the type of pen you can take home and show off. The rift deepens when the architect decides to go solo and start his own practice. I guess they just want different things, or maybe Bic just isn’t his type. I hate to be the one to break this, but Bic, he’s just not that into you.

The matchmaking continues in the life of the architect as he bounces from one pen to the next, giving them an opportunity to be creative during concept sketches and to really burn the midnight oil during a red-line party; but the architect is usually left feeling empty. They just aren’t ‘the one’.

Then, after some time of feeling like life is just one bad speed dating dinner, the architect catches the glimpse of something perfect; the delicate scribble of black ink on a torn and slightly crumpled piece of paper. Someone had tossed the schematic sketch to the trashcan, but by chance, missed. The swirling velvety ink paralyzes the architect; this is the one. The architect begins a furious search for the elusive and seductive pen. He must have it! He digs through the desk drawers of his co-workers stations and flips through the piles of drawings looking for more evidence of existence, when all of a sudden, out of the corner of his eye, he sees it. It is the [felt tip/micron/High-tech Roller Ball/Gel/super fine/super thick/exactly-what-he-always-wanted] pen of his dreams.

Fude pen (Japanese brush pen)

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From this moment, the bond forms. The architect gingerly picks up the pen and twirls it in his hand. It is perfectly weighted, and fits like it was made for him. He takes out his sketchbook and draws a single straight line. The ink glides on perfectly; smoothly. He then draws a circle, followed by several more lines. He practices writing his name Architect Bob Pen …er…Smith. Ah, the joy! The relief! The satisfaction! This is the pen for him! He makes a mental note of the brand, the color, the style and continues to doodle on his notebook for a while until he realizes its late.

As the architect leaves for the night, he tucks the pen gently inside of his satchel and puts on his glasses to go. He feels complete; like a real architect. The pen of his dreams – its his now –  had been right in front of him all along.

 

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  • Great post, Brinn! I think you’re right on the Montblanc. Mine rests in the same drawer for many years (well, since perhaps 1 year after I graduate, in fact it was a graduation gift!). As for the BIC, well, it saved me perhaps a million times. It must be the most honest pen I ever knew. Doesn’t promise miracles but ages well. In fact it´s a sharp tool when it´s reaching the end, the ink blurs and you manage to draw very expressive sketches…

    • It is funny you mention the ink running out…I have several pens I refuse to throw away because I love the light, intermittent ink flow as they are ‘on their way out’. I usually try to pick a pen based on how it feels in my hand, and secondly based on the ink flow.

      • Nadia Lauterbach

        I have a collection of almost dry michrons that I used to draw very fine lines; and I suppose I should just get rapidographs for that matter, but it seems like such a pain because 1. They are expensive, 2. You have to wash them after every use or else the ink dries and bye bye pen (personal experience of course); so dry .005 michrons it is. I’ll use them until I’m drawing with only the metal tip, and all the felt is gone.

  • Nadia Lauterbach

    I love it that you included michrons! I carry michrons in my python purse and monogrammed tote bag. Yes TOTE BAG! you read it right, and I’m proud of it…no leather satchels for me, they’ll ruin my outfit. Maybe I am the exception to the rule? I think not. I got the idea of the tote at CWA, where dwgs were taken to the site in monogrammed white llbean bags; and now I see totes everywhere. Great post! And you are so right! I am very picky about my pens, i think they make or break a drawing. I also take pride in my handwriting, and some pens make it look bad, so i have a separate writing pen (which is not a fancy mont blanc though I owned one and hated it!).

    • You just have to use the pen that feels right to you! We also have to keep in mind the cost of replacing them, since we tend to wear them out so quickly.

  • Jeremiah

    It’s like you’re inside my head! Awesome post! My own personal pen of choice, actually two of them, is 1) for sketching fine lines (i draw small) is a Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball Ultra Fine and 2) for everything else is my Lamy 2000 fine tip fountain pen (the true pen of my dreams).

    • I feel like I should take a poll and then try out each one of these; maybe even do a review on all of the pens 🙂 (I’m sure it would be fascinating for all the non-architects out there). I’m curious to try them out now!

  • I found one of these at work http://tinyurl.com/3p7vlnx and i am seriously considering making an investment / life long commitment with this pen. I also agree with the love for a Lamy fountain pen!

  • SPOT ON – love the article, I am known in the office as the pen snob.  I typically (which is my daily pens) carry a LAMY Safari (I have a Black, Yellow and Orange) with a fine tip nib that can make both a decently fat line, and if I roll it over a ultra thin line.  I make a monthly pilgramage to the local pen store in the DC area, where, I know everyone by name and vise-versa and they know the type of pens I would drool over.  I also have an “issue” with collecting antique fountain pens, don’t get me started on those…That should be a blog post of my own – LOL .

    When it comes to day to day drawing it is only my vast collection of Microns – love the blackness of the ink, pigment pens are the best for archival drawing. 

    Again, great post, and don’t forget along with the pens is the Moleskine notebook.

    • Maybe there needs to be an architect support group. “Hi my name is John, and I collect fountain pens.” I bet the group would be quite full. Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check out the post on moleskines (a perfect accompaniment to the architect’s pen): http://bit.ly/lNrYgT

    • Maybe there needs to be an architect support group. “Hi my name is John, and I collect fountain pens.” I bet the group would be quite full. Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check out the post on moleskines (a perfect accompaniment to the architect’s pen): http://bit.ly/lNrYgT

  • Chris Bowes

    No mention of Muji yet:

    http://www.muji.eu/pages/online.asp?V=1&Sec=13

    Not flash, but stylish.

  • Oliver

    I use a Lamy when I am sketching. A simple yet effective fountain pen that is lightweight and relatively inexpensive . http://www.lamyusa.com/fountain_main_safari.php

    • Wow, love the styling! None in green though? How can I have my official architangent pen if they don’t offer green 😉 Great products – thanks for sharing!

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  • Wootie

    This is the most true commentary I have ever read.  Ever.

  • Tried reading the post, but the obnoxious flashing ad in the sidebar was too distracting :-p

    My favorite right now is the Staedtler Lumocolor. But then I’m not an architect (even though I studied to be one in college).

  • Vince

    Our office is flooded with Papermate Fliar medium points and Uni-Ball ultra fine points.  Our design partner swears by Pentel Sign Pens in medium for sketches and I’m a Fisher X-750 guy  http://www.fisherspacepenstore.com/Blueberry-X-750-Space-Pen.html  I have three, black, red, and green ink respectively.  with the giant cup of Prismacolor at my disposal for sketching