APPRECIATING THE CRAFT AND THE CRAFTSMAN
What do you care about that you want to relentlessly focus on and continue doing?
This was one of the many questions Arnab Chakravarty, our guest speaker for today’s lecture, left us with. Chakravarty, a researcher at the NYU attended the virtual session dedicated to the discussion of craft and craftsmanship. It was interesting to hear from a designer and researcher of South Asian – Indian descent as the field of craft and the community of craftsmen from the sub-continent share a rich history of creating unique art and design for centuries.
Craft, according to Chakravarty is a mindset and is something that a craftsman pursues relentlessly. While on the other side of the coin lies design, which he says – quote on quote – is a science of manifestation. Before I delve deeper into the technicalities of craft and design alike, I must point out one feature or tool that is to remain consistent across both spectrums; our hands.
Bret Victor in his article ‘The Future of Interaction Design’ explains how our hands are ‘designed’ to feel and manipulate things around us. He emphasis how design of future interactive concepts over-look the greatest tools we have. Much of the affordances we see around us have come about into existence because we can feel things and this feeling has been translated digitally and physically in the design of everyday items. The curved handle of a mug affords holding and lifting, the keyboard on our mobile touchscreens afford tapping and the scroll bar on the websites afford dragging and sliding. All these actions have been made possible because we can feel and translate our needs into the creation of a new design.
Having established the importance of our hands and measly fingertips I will now reflect upon the field of craft and draw parallels between the two extremes of craft and design. What is craft? This is what I asked myself as the guest lecturer left us with stimulating questions. If we pull up historical sources, we will find many artifacts that we will without doubt list under the category of craft based on the skillful and careful dedication with which that artifact was made. What we may now identify or classify as craft today may not have been the case all these years ago. Perhaps the wax seals or the clay pots discovered were produced as products specifically for trade.
Craft is often mistaken as a mere hobby one immerses in to detangle and break away from reality. This is where I agree to disagree. While craft maybe a portal to another realm, it is very much a field on its own and the craftsman in this field is the master and creator of a larger design that is responsible for elevating and improving the experience of the consumer. Craftsman dedicate their time of the day to the craft at hand as they constantly think about improving and perfecting the outcomes associated with their product.
From leather shoes produced in the interior villages of Pakistan to the blocks etched for block printing, the team of craftsmen dedicate their expertise to the production of something useful and valuable.
Much in the same way, an interaction designer too dedicates their knowledge of concepts such as usability and affordances (among many others) as they design a system of UI/UX for the large pool of users of a specific application or design. The art of crafting through hands is notion a designer cannot escape as they explore and understand the nature and attributes of the tools they use.
Back to the opening question, what do you care about that you want to relentlessly focus on and continue doing? The answer is simple and may seem cliché, but it holds a lot of weight which can be enough to drive us into an oblivion. Do what drives the soul and continue to explore the world through hands that feel and manipulate the creation of craft and design.