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, wrote about 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 span of one’s curiosity.

Bowler’s piece reminded me of Chicago-based web design and development firm Neoteric Design, who describe their approach as being “craft-driven.” This is evident in their marketing and but also 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 the aura and meaning of craft, that I’ve highlighted in a previous post.

I shared Bowler’s piece with Nicholas Gracilla, Principal, and Sonia Yoon, Producer, of Neoteric Design. Following are excerpts from our discussion.

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’—this implies diligence/dedication. Without purpose, the generalist is skimming. Passive generalist. I’m not sure what the precise word would be: Dilettante? How about Diffuser?

This reminds me of Buckminster Fuller’s quote, 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 and dedicate which disciplines to indulge.”

• • •

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