April 14, 2013

Old Practices Renewed: Neoteric Design’s Colophons and Apprenticeships

Photograph by Giuseppe Quattrone at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

This is a shout-out to Neoteric Design, an interactive firm(1) in Chicago, for persisting two traditional practices:

On their website, I noticed a term usually associated with books: colophon. The first use of the word dates to 1501, within decades after the invention of printing in 1450. A colophon gives details about an object’s production, typically for printed matter. A book’s colophon reveals aspects such as the date of publication, typefaces and technical details. These same aspects were shared by Neoteric Design online. In a romantic sense, a colophon is a link (pun surely intended) to the past. In a practical sense, a colophon provides insight into techniques.

Another invention from the Middle Ages that Neoteric Design has placed into the spotlight is apprenticeship. This is a spin on internship, but not a superficial one. That the apprentice documents the experience is a concrete sign that training is done in a thoughtful and organized manner, like the relationship of a master craftsperson to a pupil. Rigorously conducted, an apprenticeship informs and shapes aspiration.

It’s refreshing to see certain practices—with old roots—become revived with relevance. Colophons and apprenticeships insert a welcomed wonder of the romantic into our modern world.

(1) To be more exact, Neoteric Design describes their approach to web design and development as “craft-driven,” another contemporary ode to the romantic.

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This blog post was lovingly written using Basecamp’s (formerly 37signals) Writeboards.