Always Be Knolling

Tom Sachs is a New York based artist. I had never heard of him until I saw this video:

Within the first minute, I was anxious. I was intimidated by the rules that were imposed on these creative people. If I worked here I would be fired within a few days.

Sweat started to form on my brow. My anti-persperant was not working as advertised. By the eighth bullet my heart hurt for the people who had to work for Task Master Sachs. Then a euphoric calm swept over me. I learned about Knolling.

I’ve seen pictures of items being knolled but didn’t know a term existed for it. I thought these items were just laid out nicely. It is common in photography now for people to knoll a complex item for the beauty it displays.

It is common to see a car dissassembeled through knolling. Here are all the parts of a Volkswagen Golf knolled.

AFOL’s (Adult Fan of Lego) love taking pictures of their disassembled inventions knolled.
People’s Daily Carry Items.
What people eat.

Although this provides for beautiful (at least for what is the current fad ascethetic) photography, but this is not what knolling is for. Knolling helps a workspace be organized. To be efficient, items in a workspace need to be easily found.

The Four Steps of Knolling

  1. Scan your environment for materials, tools, books, music, etc. which are not in use.
  2. Put away everything not in use. If you aren’t sure, leave it out.
  3. Group all ‘like’ objects.
  4. Align or square all objects to either the surface they rest on, or the studio itself.

Everyone I’ve shown this video to explained how anxious they feel when watching it. But, all of the them understand how the video’s rules create a structured process which creates a great environment to work in.

The video makes Tom Sachs’ studio may seem like a horrible place to work. But, if you were shown this video on your first day and everyone else you worked with supported and believed these principles it would make adopting them easier. Who isn’t inspired by a clean work space with everything in it’s right place. Clean spaces inspire creativity.

Some people will not succeed in this type of strict work environement. I think even Mr. Sachs would agree it’s not for everyone. However, if you form a habit around these principles I think it would make it easier to succeed. It will be interesting to see in the next few decades the successful artists that launch out of Tom Sachs Studio.

Originally published at

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