When I was a kid my parents took me to a store called “Só Canhoto” in São Paulo, Brazil. It was a specialized store for left handed people. Scissors, rulers, can openers, notebooks, pens, X-Acto knives; they had everything I thought I wanted. I left the store with my brand new lefty 30 cm green ruler, a notebook, scissors and an orange can opener. I was ready for my world to change, inspired to draw in my new notebook and open every can in the kitchen.
We got home and I tried everything. The notebook opened from left to right with the spiral on the right side so I could write without pressing my wrists into the spiral. The blades on the scissors, also on the other side, would make cutting paper or anything else, easier. It was so different that I realized none of my new lefty objects were quite right because I had learned how to adapt to the right-handed world. The new scissors allowed to me to see the line I was trying to cut along and the paper but for some reason, I kept looking at the other side of the paper, guessing where to cut, like I always did. I could not use it; I was so used to the normal, I mean righty (!), scissors that my paper cuts were not clean. But the can opener, that really made a difference.
Everytime I tried to open a can with a “normal” can opener, I would have to open it backwards because the wrist motion was from outside-in and using my weaker hand to open anything usually took a long time. But that new can opener changed everything, I could use it with my left hand and I didn’t have to twist my wrist in an awkward way.
Why are so many people in creative fields lefties? There is that left brain / right brain theory, but it’s been largely debunked.
For me, as a lefty, I’ve had to solve design problems all my life, always trying to work around the right-handed world. Designers are problem solvers, obsessed with alignments, straight lines and clean paper cuts.
Often I think of that orange can opener, and how the smallest shift in design made such a difference for me. Sometimes if a design or a concept just isn’t coming together, no matter how much I twist and shift, I remember the can opener and see if there’s one piece I can flip around to make the rest fall into place. Sometimes, after some sleep and fresh eyes, it even works!