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The Artist, The Wizard, The Craftsman -- Call To Action For Digital Designers

(A philosophy of action) provides a framework of values, ideas, and practices that nurture my ability to create a path in life, to define myself as a person, to act, to take risks, to image things differently, to make art.  -Stephen Batchelor

Design is not a commodity.   It is treated like one  at virtually every single Fortune 500 corporation.   Design  is intellectual capital.   Jean Mignot,  a French architect,  in the late 14th & early 15th Centuries  coined the Latin phrase   "Ars sine Scienta nihil est".   It translates  to "art without science is nothing".   In medieval literature  the Latin term "ars" (art) generally applied  to things created and fashioned  by humankind  as distinguished from all else in  nature.    The Latin term  "scientia"   referred broadly  to the accumulated knowledge  and theory  associated with a profession.   This dictum  came about  when he was shown the plans  for the Milan Cathedral.   It was a beautiful,  artistic design,  but the plans didn't take into account  the mechanical strains  of the huge building.  Mignot argued  that the building would collapse  if there was no rigorous mechanical engineering  in the support structure.  They listened to him,  and the edifice still stands today,  as does his saying.   

The Design Wizard

Design  is a mixture of  inspiration,  art,  science,  creativity,  labor  and reflection.    As such,  it should be created  by a combination  of work and fused with a process  that others call magic.  The great author, Arthur C.  Clarke  once said that  "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic", and digital design  should fall into that category.    Once you start practicing the craft and creed  of the dharmas  or key concepts of  design,  and start turning out  works of excellence,  you will indeed become a practitioner of magic,  albeit digital and creative magic.   In Sanskrit,  there is a word for such a person and it is dharmika,  which in fact means wizard.   Having that power  is priceless.   However,  we must have a system  of creating  and measuring the magic,   and benchmarks  are the way that it is done.

Benchmarks on the Craftsman's Bench

Before one can become a craftsman,  one must have a framework  as a standard  to judge work and progress by.   The framework  itself becomes the constitution  of the persons practicing the craft.   That entire concept  of integrating a framework  with a tutelage  and the work,  was formed throughout the history of man  in specialized work.    Young apprentices  learned design and construction frameworks  from their masters  and honed their skills  by measuring it against the framework.  The underpinnings of what they did  was codified,  and spread through education and example.    It is how secret societies  based on technical knowledge arose.


The higher the level of skill,  the more tightly grew  the community practicing it.  Guilds were form,  and the craftsmen gathered  in guildhalls.  The technology of their skillset  was a trade secret,  and consequently secret societies  were formed  to protect that valuable knowledge.   That is how we got the Masonry guild   and Freemasons, among others groups as well.
The ultimate priority  of these guilds  and craftsmen,  was to protect  the public face of their work  and  of their skills. It was a testament to the dedication  of their vocation  and a pride in their work.   For example,   a stone mason  would hone his skills and abilities creating work  such that a piece of paper could not be inserted  between two stones  that he laid.   A stone carver  could make a stone cherubim  that looked life-like enough to fly away.   These craftsmen  put their character  into their work,  and let their work  speak for itself,  and as a result  their work   has endured through the ages.  These craftsmen even took  the names of their professions  as a mark of pride.   That is why  we have surname s like Mason  (stone worker),  Fletcher  (arrow maker),  Cooper  (barrel maker),  Baker,   Carpenter,  Barber,  Bowman etc.   It was a calling,  a community  and source of identification.

That sort of dedication  to craftsmanship  is lacking  among digital designers,  programmers  and web developers.  We have fallen into the trap  and started believing  what money-pinching managers  believe,  that the work we do,  is a commodity.    We need to be respected specialists  and not journeymen.   We need our own guild -- even if it a virtual one.

Excerpt from "The Ten Living Principles - The Craft And Creed of Transformative Digital Design"



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