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LCC-MGD Unit 1.2 Research Methods [Visual Research]

Back to the Crafts * * * Beatriz Sanches 2012

Introduction “Do-it-Yourself is everywhere. Around the world, people are making things themselves in order to save money, to customize goods to suit their exact needs and interests, and to feel less dependent on the corporations that manufacture and distribute most of the products and media we consume. On top of these practical and political motivations is the pleasure that comes from developing an idea, making it physically real, and sharing it with other people.” (Lupton, 2006, Pg.18.). * * * Agreeing to Ellen Lupton statement this paper intends to explore the rebirth of the D.I.Y. and Crafts handmade movements. Although it embraces a wide ranging of fields, from fashion to arts or even from publishing to cooking, the research methods will be focusing on the aspects that are more related to Graphic Design. This report proposes an overview of the D.I.Y. movement and its motivations. As well as the relation among handmade and craft areas and their influences on graphic design field.


Maurizio Anzeri, Jerome, 2011

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Back to the Craft.


Crafts * * *

Firstly we shall remind ourselves of the first images that might cross our minds when thinking about D.I.Y. Would it be a grandma knitting, or maybe a Martha Stewart’s magazine? Perhaps some kindergarten’s paint exercises, or some jewelry from the hippies on the 70th, or even an IKEA assemble furniture? In 1998 Lorraine Wild already spoke about the differences about the craft knowledge as a skill without limiting it in a technique:

“A contemporary mistake assumes that craft has something to do with paper-marché” Lorraine Wild. / The Macramé of Resistance.

“Instead of technique, I think it might be useful to talk about craft. A contemporary mistake assumes that craft has something to do with paper-maché, or that it is merely the manipulation of production. It is true that the more one understands the computer or printing, the better one can devise solutions to problems. But to define craft trivially, only in terms of technique, does not address the way that knowledge is developed through skill.” (Wild, 1998, Pg.84)

Back to the Craft.

Kyle Bean, “What Came First?”, Chicken made from eggshells


The D.I.Y (Do-it-Yourself) is closely related with the crafts and the handmade. Indeed the slightly boundaries that could divide them into separate fields, could be seen much more in the eyes of those whom analyses it, than on the hands of the practices man as by referencing Wild again much more about instinct: “Much of craft defies description. “Craft knowledge” is acquired by accumulating experience, and as you attain mastery you don’t think so much about the conceptual basis that got you where you’re going. Craft knowledge, though hard to get, achieves the status of a skill once it is taken for granted and not rethought every time it has to be put into use. It’s instinctual.” Although for the purpose of the analyses, it is going to be considered the term “craft” as the labor of work that might apply handmade techniques. In addition to that the term D.I.Y (Do-itYourself), will be referencing as the self-initiation attitude, related to an Indie subculture movement, of doing something without the aid of experts or by avoiding the industry.



Back to the Craft.


Manifesto * * *

In 1964 twenty-two visual communicators signed the First Things First Manifesto, aiming a more democratically and ethical forms of communication. During the following years this same manifesto was re-written and re-shaped several times in intention to keep the ideals fresh and up-to-date. In fact the same ideas seem even more needed in our 2012 model of communication business society. Indeed during the research it was found the “DIY Craftifesto: The Power is in Your Hands!” made by the alternative craft community

“We want everyone to rethink corporate culture.” Chicago Craft Mafia

of Chicago, Chicago Craft Mafia. (Levine & Heimerl, 2006, Pg.1.) Among other things it says that: “Craft is political. We’re not just trying to sell stuff. We’re trying to change the world. We want everyone to rethink corporate culture and consumerism.” This also can be considered a re-reading of the first things values. Other members of the Craft community stand for the same values of non-consumerism and political order: “I realized that right now, right here at this very moment in time, the act of craft is political. In a time of over-ease and overuse and overspending,



The flag was raised by an attitude spirit that culminates with the D.I.Y. philosophy as Greer reinforces: “I could stand up as an activist without having to stand on the street corner with a sign. I could start to change my life and make smarter choices and find partners in (crafty) crime and slowly change my life into one that still fighting for change, but in a positive caring way instead of via anger.” Indeed looks like this revolution have already started. D.I.Y techniques are everywhere, and becoming more popular click by click, speeding up through the internet, and gaining adepts in many different fields from fashion design to publishing.

Knitta Please

I can take back the control over where my money goes, over what my outfit is, and over how my life is lived.” says Betsy Greer from:

Knitta Please “I like to feel like we are wrapping things with love. It’s humanizing.” (

But how is the design industry dealing with this way of thinking? Are we trying to preserve the immaculate Crystal Goblet of Beatrice Warde, as purists and connoisseur trying to maintain the traditions of the field? Or are we welcoming the non-specialists attempts from crafts and D.I.Y., and assimilating on the design production as well.



Back to the Craft.

Joe Scanlan, DIY Coffin




The Future * * *

On the one hand there is a certain discomfort among the designing community, when facing this DIY generation. They have all the tools available, and honestly very fell boundaries. Many of then were self-didactics, or not even have a clear career path, just the reliability on their craft, concepts and ideals. But as can be seen at Dmitri Siegel concerned article “Designing our Own Graves.” and exemplified on the Joe Scanlan DIY Coffin. Should it be a treat to the profession?

“People are doing-it-themselves to no end. But to what end?” Dmitri Siegel. / Designing Our Own Graves

“With the popularity of home improvement shows and self-help books, our society is positively awash in do-it-yourself spirit. People don’t just eat food anymore, they present it; they don’t look at pictures, they take them; they don’t buy T-shirts, they sell them. People are doing-it-themselves to no end. But to what end? The artist Joe Scanlan touches on the more troubling implications of the DIY explosion in his brilliantly deadpan piece DIY Coffin, which is essentially instructions for making a perfectly functional coffin out of an IKEA bookcase.

Back to the Craft.

Dana Tanamach, Chalk Lettering.


Scanlan’s piece accepts the basic assumption of Design Your Life and Design Your Self: that design is something that anyone can (and should) participate in. But what is behind all this doingit-ourselves? Does that coffin have your career’s name on it?” (Siegel, 2006, Pg.115.) On the other hand according to Ellen Lupton, that type of concerned is not something new, actually since the digitalization of the tools, and the democratization of the technology, it has began. “Public interest in design has grown over the past twenty-five years. The rise of “desktop publishing” in the 1980s delivered digital design tools to the general public. Although some designers worried that secretaries equipped with Times Roman and Microsoft Word would obliterate the design profession, the field got bigger rather than smaller. Desktop publishing made people more attentive to design values.” And its consequences would not be restrictive, but actually a more deeper understanding of the field by the public, according to Lupton: “As the cost of print production went down, expectations for design went up. Everything from memos to flyers could now be executed with some level of sophistication.” (Lupton, 2006, Pg.19.).

Back to the Craft.


Agreeing to Lupton, Rob Dewey for Eye magazine also believes that this should be seen as an opportunity to reconnect with a changing world, by being part of it. “The cultural and technological changes we have witnessed in the last decade offer unprecedented opportunities for those whose responsibility it is to connect message providers and consumers. (...) The world has chanced and graphic design, if it is not to become increasingly irrelevant, must change to keep pace.” (Dewey, 1994, Pg.87) In this scenario, could the work of craftsman and DIY workers be considered design? Or even could works from designers using handmade and DIY techniques be mistaken by something non-professional? Michael Rock answers to that, by saying that this is an imaginative limit, that is not as organic as the field is: “Professionalism works by construing an artificial wall around an activity by keeping people systematically excluded from calling what they do the same thing as what you do.” (Rock, Pg.168, 1994.) Above all can we suggest that the fresh works of Anzeri, Bean, Brodskaya, KnittaPlease and many others, that illustrates this essay, were not design or even good design? It might have not been considered a professional work, but surely it was done by professionals of their craft. And deeply Dewey is right when saying that it all began on the craft. “Graphic design, as it currently practiced, is an anachronism. Despite its pretensions to scholarship and professionalism, its structures and change mechanisms remain firmly rooted in its craft origins.” (Dewey, 1994, Pg.87)


Yulia Brodskaya, Quilling: folding paper technique.


Conclusion * * *

Summing it up we can be witness of the rebirth of the crafts, largely by the popularization of the technology and tools, but also by the engagement with the DIY for the new generation. Supported by the fragment of 2009 Tactile book: “(...) DIY allows designers to cultivate their own counterculture to industrial reproduction and serves as a welcome anchor in these ephemeral times where any development or trend has lived and died before we know. No longer relegated to the dunce’s

“A new commitment to the practice of craft will supplement design theory.” Lorraine Wild. / The Macramé of Resistance.

corner of backward homeliness, arts and crafts suddenly find themselves at the vanguard of design.” (Die Gestalten Verlog, 2009, Pg.3) Indeed just as what Wild predicted, crafts are contributing to the culture and design formation: “A new commitment to the practice of craft will supplement design theory and help reposition design at the center of what designers contribute to



Back to the Craft.

Evelin Kasikov, CMYK embroidery, 2008




the culture (and to commerce, in the long run).” (Wild, 1998, Pg.84) And redefining the field as Dewey insists it was vital: “Graphic design’s survival as a profession may rest on its ability to redefine itself in the eyes of its publics.”(Dewey, Pg.87, 1994.) After all Rock might be right when saying that should not be times for worries, but for celebration: “We celebrate the diversity of writing, the diversity of speech, the universe of information, but bemoan the paucity of good design. If we released ourselves from the realm of self-imposed standards, we could see the design profession as a true meritocracy where the cream rises to the top.” (Rock, Pg.171, 1994.) In other words the DIY could be the beginning of deep changes that affect not only the design profession, but also the broader society. This new scenario could be faced as Rock calls “Meritocracy” where anyone could achieve good results, without needing to wear any label on (professional, non-professional, craftsman, DIY person or designer.), by just been recognized by the excellence of their work. Actually it could be considered a coming back to the origins of the medieval crafts, of course with much more tools available, but where everything depends not longer on a third person, or specialists, or not even on the hands of powerful industries anymore. It is just up to the designer and the do-it-yourself wide open door.

Back to the Craft.


Bibliography * * *


LCC Compilation Texts:

Armstrong, H., 2009. Graphic Design Theory: Readings from the Field. 1st ed. NewYork: Princeton Architectural Press

Manifesto, Text, Screen and Aesthetics.

Bierut, M. et al., 1995. Looking Closer: Critical Writings on Graphic Design. New York: Allworth Press,U.S.

Wild, L., The Macramé of Resistance . At Graphic Design Theory: Readings from the Field. Pg. 84. (Originally published Emigre no. 47, 1998)

Bierut, M., Drenttel, W. & Heller, S., 1997. Looking Closer: Bk. 2: Critical Writings on Graphic Design. NewYork: Allworth Press,U.S.

Siegel, D., Designing Our Own Graves. At Design Theory: Readings from the Field. Pg.115. 2006

Bierut, M., Drenttel, W. & Heller, S., 2007. Looking Closer: Bk. 5: Critical Writings on Graphic Design. NewYork: Allworth Press,U.S. Bierut, M., Shaughnessy A., 2009. Graphic Design: A User’s Manual. Laurence King Publishing Ltd UK Hanaor, Z. & Woodcock. V., 2006. Making Stuff, an alternative Craft book. Black dog Publishing Klaten, R., Ehmann, S., & Hebner, M., 2009. Tactile: high touch visuals. Gestalten. Levine, F. & Heimerl, C., 2008 Handmade Nation, The rise of D.I.Y, art, Craft and Design. Princeton Architectural Press. Lupton, E., 2006. D.I.Y, Design It Yourself. Princeton Architectural Press. Lugli A., 2006. Handmade. Gingko Press Inc. Newark, Q., 2007. What Is Graphic Design? Essential Design Handbooks. Mies: Rotovision Poynor, R., 2003. No More Rules: Graphic Design and Postmodernism. Laurence King

Special Texts

Dewey, R., Facing up to the reality of change. At Looking Closer 2. Pg.87 (Originally Published in Eye, nº14, 1994.) Rock, M., Indefense of Unprofessionalism. Looking Closer 2. Pg.168 Originally published in I.D., jan./Feb. 1994.) Magazines Apartamento Magazine. Issue Four. 8. CA Grafica Spain Elephant. The Arts & Visual Culture Magazine, Issue 9. 2012. Frame Publishing Amesterdam. Wrap Magazine. Issue Four. 2012. The Wrap paper Ltd

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* * * Types: Bodoni & Garamond Editorial Project inspired by Apartamento Magazine. Bookbinding suplies: Shepherds Falkiners Digital Print: F.E.Burman

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Unit 1.2 Research Methods [Visual Research] Brief: The repor t should emphasise individual research, taking a critical position on the subject area chosen in response to the first term text readings. Tutor: Vanessa Prince Master Graphic Design - April/2012 Designer: Beatriz Sanches London College of Communication

Unit 1.2_Research Methods  
Unit 1.2_Research Methods  

Research Project for the Master on Graphic Design at Londn College of Communication.