January 28, 2009

Bespoke: Designing to a High Degree of Fit

In a previous post called Design that fits, I picked up on tailoring as a compelling theme. In that same vein, is the fancy term bespoke, which means custom-made. Bespoke not only applies to tailored clothing but has been adopted by web designers and developers. In a 2000 (yes, that long ago if you align your time to the web’s metaphorical speed) article, Daniel Janal concluded that a site must make a statement: “I am an individual. Not a cookie cutter.” Writer and entrepreneur Ryan Norbauer captures the individualism, the bespoke kind, of his Ruby on Rails consulting firm:

Bespoke is about removing opacity, having no separator between the makers of the product/service and the people who use it; the audience who should not be subjected to a “pre-existing pattern.” What Norbauer believes thoroughly meshes with the Savile Row Bespoke Association tenet: “Modern manufacturing technology may be able to reproduce a standard piece of clothing perfectly a hundred or even a hundred thousand times. Only a great tailor can create something that is both anatomically correct and entirely sui generis, fitting both the mind and body of its wearer perfectly.”

In a related bespoke-esque interview, when asked about his “passionate interest in design and design philosophy,” Norbauer replied, “Simplification, unification, and reduction: these are the values of a great craftsperson, whether she’s a tradesperson in the guild of ideas, words, paintings, or software.” Striving to realize design, whose beauty is in the fit, takes a lot of vigilance of the details—whether it’s interlining or typesetting—to ensure that the end result is a custom design with personal touch both intact and shiny.

When it comes to bespoke, botching a job is indeed crude.