A hidden side of design

Recently, the idea of craftsmanship has dangerously wobbled between a DIY dimension, somehow raw and unpolished, and a posh luxurious exclusivity, largely inaccessible. This bipolar excess has prevented us from understanding the true value of craftsmanship’s contribution within the design heritage system and network. In the last 20 years, we’ve kept focusing atten- tion on the binomial dialogue of the designer-entrepreneur, as if objects were a mere expression of this exchange. Indeed, we know that this dialogue is by far enriched by the voice of a third player, the craftsmen who are prototyping, moulding and translating the designer ́s idea, while nailing some fundamental elements about feasibility and costs. The future has to take a close look at this hidden face of design.

Limited series

More and more, the designer flees from the industrial design process, waiving to companies shut up and difficult to reach. They prefer to work with craftsmen that can develop their research and ideas. New moments are growing in importance throughout the yearly design calendar, a new marketplace of niche limited editions that will only stay and flourish, expressing a new professional culture broadcasted and showcased at best via web platforms and e-commerce.

Digital manufacturing

Another professional identity is the high-tech craftsman, the one experimenting with technology, on their own or in network with peers. This is the dimension of the New Makers, a generation of digital artisans that develop processes and product solutions thanks to digital manufacturing. Largely from the USA, where they are widely diffused, they can become a model for Europe. Equipped with sophisticated hardware and lateral thinking, they get the best out of open-source knowledge. This highly experimental research has a value for the industry, to renew old dynamics. It is a B2B dialogue to be built on, and it is important for companies and CEOs to meet these players where they tend to express their best, in makers communities, makers spaces and FabLabs.

Craft as storytelling

In the past, craftsmen jealously kept the secret of their savoir faire, hiding away process. Today, those who want to sell sophisticated high tech crafted goods have to change their approach and tell it all. Storytelling and emotional display to convey an intense fascinating discovery of the product, is today key. Furthermore, this can enhance local heritage and promote new cultural landscapes.

Stefano Micelli. Photo: Jacob Ehrbahn