Alex Steer

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Good materialism and online craft

368 words

I wrote the other day about physically realistic interfaces and the dissatisfaction with signals and screens. I then followed that up with some off-the-cuff nonsense about modems.

My sense for fashion, design and craft leaves a lot to be desired, but I know people who know, as it were, and I'm noticing an expansion of the obsession material craft that characterises fashion, design and craft blogs. Look at WishWishWish, A Dress A Day, Designs and Wonders (disclosure: written by my wife), Conversation Pieces and the like. They're not just about designed objects, they're about the craft and the detail that goes into them. That can make them feel retro, but what they really are is materialist in the good sense of the word: obsessed with the kind of details and peculiarities that mass production often omits.

What's really interesting is that this good materialism extends to the blogs themselves, many of which are designed to look as 'made' as possible. WishWishWish, for example, clearly puts all its photographs through Poladroid or a similar image post-processor, to give them that old-fashioned, hand-developed feel. That pre-digital feel, I should say. It's a way of encoding a form of nostalgia for the harder craft of pre-digital production processes.

This jumps out at me because I'm seeing the same trend extending into the ways planners make presentations. Have a look on Slideshare and see how many decks you find that use images of old books, signs, posters, tapestries, paintwork, metalwork, and other residues of craftsmanship. Is this the first stirrings of a request that those of us who make our living designing and building digital products be treated, and be allowed to feel, like we're making things?

And, since it would be rude to talk about the party without going, here's a photo of me, on a boat in Cape Town harbour, run through Poladroid.

Polaroid photo

# Alex Steer (03/08/2010)