Recently, our creative team sat down with a group of creative brains to discuss the notion of craft in today’s world where the digital and ph...
Recently, our creative team sat down with a group of creative brains to discuss the notion of craft in today’s world where the digital and physical are increasingly converging. At the table were jewelry designer Anna Sheffield (Bing Bang & Anna Sheffield), new media leads at the Rockwell Group Interactive Lab Josh Walton and James Tichenor, Rockwell Lab chief Tucker Viemeister, motion designer Keira Alexander, and Parsons Fashion Technology Lab Director Sabine Seymour.
This eclectic group of designers work across physical and digital media, an interesting combination for a discussion on craft. This range of perspectives led to an engaging conversation that covered topics from integrating humanity into physical spaces and today’s ease of prototyping, to stepping back from digital media and the level of skill involved in craft.
We discussed how craft is defined. What does it mean to think about craft with respect to technology? How does that definition change with respect hand-made jewelry? For many, the craft is in the behind-the-scenes programming language and code. For others, it’s in the execution and engineering of the end product. For jewelry designer Anna Sheffield, her craft is tied to function. This sparked a lively debate:
Method: As a user experience designer you’re trained to make the thinking behind the craft invisible. So there’s almost a craft in hiding the craft.
Anna: With jewelry, you can’t have too much imagination because it still needs to be a functional piece for the body. I have no interest in spending time to learn Rhino [CAD software]. I would so much rather be forging this piece of silver to model something, even if it means I burn and scar my hands.
Keira: But, does craft necessarily mean it’s made by hand now?
James: If I think of the Apple products, they try to telegraph their design and polish. So, if I think of things that are hard to make, I probably couldn’t make an iPad. But Google doesn’t telegraph that polish – so it feels like you could make it.
The craft in what Google has done is that there’s little that shows you the algorithm behind the search.
Josh: Google’s craft is all behind the scenes. They don’t expose that to the user.
Sabine: When you think of a TV, you turn it off, but it still stays in the living room. So as the owner, the design of a TV is so important because it is always there. If you don’t like what’s in it, you can switch it off. Same with computers and phones, they are always with you. This is why Apple products are so successful, because it has the form factor of the design and the usability.
With all of the current tools and open source software for easy prototyping, there is unprecedented opportunity for us to create experiences that span physical space and products with digital media. The conversation left us motivated and excited about how we can shape the future of craft.