Manufacturing guy-at-large.

Not about form

Added on by Spencer Wright.

From Vanity Fair's recent piece on Jony Ive and Marc Newson. Emphasis mine.

“We are both obsessed with the way things are made,” Newson said. “The Georg Jensen pitcher—I’m not even sure I love the way it looks, but I love how it is made starting with a sheet of silver.
“We seldom talk about shapes,” Ive said, referring to his conversations with Newson. “We talk about process and materials and how they work.”
“It’s not about form, really—it’s about a lot of other things,” Newson said. Both designers are fascinated by materials; they understand that the properties of a material affect the way an object is made, and that the way it is made ought to have some connection to the way it looks. Theirs is a physical world, and for all that their shared sensibility might seem to be at the cutting edge, it is really a different thing entirely from the avant-garde in design today, which is the realm of the 3-D printer, where digital technology creates an object at the push of a button, craftsmanship is irrelevant, and the virtual object on the computer screen can be more alluring than the real thing.
Ive is the son of an English silversmith, and Newson, who grew up in Australia, studied jewelry design and sculpture; both were raised to value craft above all. It’s ironic that Ive, who has had such a big hand in the rise of digital technology, is made so unhappy, even angry, by the way that technology has led to a greater distance between designers and hands-on, material-shaping skills. “We are in an unusual time in which objects are designed graphically, on a computer,” Ive said. “Now we have people graduating from college who don’t know how to make something themselves. It’s only then that you understand the characteristics of a material and how you honor that in the shaping. Until you’ve actually pushed metal around and done it yourself, you don’t understand.

I should begin by saying that while I take issue with the finer points of Newson & Ive's comments - and with much of the pontificating that the Vanity Fair writer engages in - I found it refreshing to read this passage. I value my time building physical objects immensely, and while I'm somewhat ambivalent about some of the career decisions I've made, I'm proud of the artifacts that exist as a result.

Were I a bit more pushy re: my design career, I'd tout the above passage as gospel. But the truth is that I'm not sure I believe that designers *need* to make things first, and anyway it's not like the design world agrees wholeheartedly with Ive either (my file handling skills just aren't that much of a selling point, and with just cause).

I also take issue with the cynicism expressed re: craftsmanship being irrelevant in the age of the 3D printer. I see no a priori reason for that to be the case, and if it's indeed the way the design world sees advanced manufacturing, I'm certainly unaware of it. 

My time as a craftsman was brief; I shed the term almost as soon as it could reasonably have been applied to my work. But whatever its connotations are, I'm sure that my transition to digital design and manufacturing has not infringed. Craftsmanship - whatever it consists of - does not directly correlate with the size of one's calluses. Craftsmanship is an attitude about work and a focus on a particular (and generally small) skillset. And in my opinion, the romanticization of craftsmanship that I see around me (and in the tech world specifically) is unproductive and dangerous.

  Side note: I can't tell exactly which pitcher these dudes are drinking out of, but I'm pretty sure it's fancy as hell.