June 21, 2013

Craft in these digitally charged times

Source: Dave Catchpole at Flickr under a Creative Commons License

Chris Bowler, who is part of email newsletter company Campaign Monitor and founded Fusion Ads, shared his take on contemporary craft in a piece called “A New Kind of Craftsmen, Same as the Old One” via designer Kevin Smith’s tweet. Bowler equates craft with versatility, an opinion strongly influenced by the current toolkit, comprised of anything technological. These factors help facilitate opportunities for self-expression, professional empowerment and, most of all, encourage an extended landscape for one’s curiosity.

Bowler’s piece reminded me of Chicago-based web design and development firm Neoteric Design. They describe their approach as “craft-driven,” evident in their marketing and in their work culture, which is aligned to the romance and practicality of craft, particularly demonstrated in their application of colophons and apprenticeships: two entities with a basis in craft that I’ve highlighted in a previous post.

I forwarded Bowler’s piece with Nicholas Gracilla, Principal, and Sonia Yoon, Producer, of Neoteric Design. Following were excerpts from our email thread:

Sonia, May 15, 2013 at 10:23 AM: “This article resonated with me a lot, as I often feel caught between different worlds. Explaining what I do is often a narrative, more than a phrase. I’ve always enjoyed being an interdisciplinary thinker, maker and doer (a ‘Jacqueline’).”

Nate, May 15, 2013 at 11:14 AM: “‘narrative, more than a phrase’—This is where having a focused area is useful. An epicenter. Because then one’s story—of what she or he does for a living—breaks down. What’s the anchor? Bowler’s example is the web developer, first and foremost, who also excels at using Photoshop. There’s adjacency here that’s sensible. Here’s where I see ‘interdisciplinary’ being valid.

Bowler’s phrase ‘purposeful generalist’ is reflective. I like how he qualifies ‘generalist’ with ‘purposeful’—implies diligence/dedication. Without purpose, the generalist is skimming. Passive generalist. Or Dilettante? How about Diffuser?

Reminded of Buckminster Fuller’s claim, because it’s out there (in more ways than one): ‘We are all astronauts.’”

Nate, May 15, 2013 at 4:56 PM: “Sketched a diagram.”

Nicholas, May 15, 2013 at 9:04 PM: “Reminds me of a conversation at Dev Bootcamp a few weeks ago. Students are introduced to a broad range of technologies throughout their training, and expected to ‘find a niche’ to deep dive into. Dave Hoover [Founder of Dev Bootcamp] calls it the T-based model of learning.”

Nate, May 16, 2013 at 8:15 AM: “There’s a creative type, popularized by IDEO but not sure, called ‘T-Square’: horizontal stem represents disciplines/interests, vertical stem represents height of knowledge. Again, one must curate which disciplines to indulge in.”

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Big thanks to Chris Bowler for writing and publishing “A New Kind of Craftsmen, Same as the Old One.”