Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Craeft. (Craft.)

Not too long ago I read a book called "Craeft: An Inquiry Into the Origins and True Meaning of Traditional Crafts" by British author Alexander Langlands. You can buy the book here and read "The New York Times" review here.

The book is a thorough examination of the old ways of doing things. Of building walls, of thatching roofs, of sowing grain, of clearing fields.

Langlands doesn't just theorize. He learns the old ways and uses them in his projects. 

This would be like us in advertising cutting a commercial on a moviola or creating a print ad using lead type and board mechanicals.

Most of us would roll our eyes at this prospect. We would mutter under our breaths, or aloud if no one was listening, that the old ways would be a horrible burden, horribly time-consuming and horribly costly.

Langlands starts his book scything a field. As a rootless cosmopolitan, I've never had the pleasure, of tough "Cool Hand Luke" labor. But Langlands, brilliantly in my mind, breaks down the old way and compares it to the modern mode.

It turns out, according the Langlands, the new modern ways are not much more efficient than the scorned antique ways.

For one, the new ways use complicated extractive technologies and run on fossil fuels. Second, they generally make no physical demands on the user--so current incidence of diseases like diabetes, obesity and heart problems are, today, endemic. Third, you also have the burden of buying, maintaining and storing complex machinery.

I wonder in our business if modernity--the instantaneousness of every one of our traditional skills has really sped things up--as claimed by the makers of the technologies we are beholden to, or if instead, we have slowed processes down.

They're slowed down because technology creates the illusion of simplicity. It's easy to type something, lay it into In-design and you've got an ad. So we make revisions willy-nilly and approvals and changes number in the dozens if not more. Why? Because we can.

In short, we have forgotten the craft of our craft. We have let the illusion of facility and simplicity drain our creativity and turn us into extensions of the machines we operate. We are art-direction machines, or Bartleby-like scriveners (except we can't prefer not to) or editing monkeys churning out rips instead of crafting ideas.

No solution here.

We're not going back to hot-type or the Steenbeck machine. 

But we should go back--it should be part of everyone's training--to understanding that what we do, what we make look so easy, is all part of a process, an accumulation of learning that is generations, if not centuries old.


You might want to take a look at this short video of the great designer Herb Lubalin. Somehow I find it relevant here.

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