Craft for Collaboration

Craft as a Tool for Multidisciplinary Collaboration and Design Practice 1st Cambridge Academic Design Management Conference, September, 7-8, 2011 Kristina Niedderer, Yassaman Imani, Matthew Overton

I was pretty excited by this title…a lot of articles I came across while searching for collaboration were in computer design, so I thought…ah ha! I’ve found it.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as good as I hoped, but I was able to mine some useful information/tidbits. The gist of the article looks at craft as a means of sharing/spreading knowledge to different people on a multidisciplinary team. Often considered below art and design, this article uplifts craft as having unique roles: the authors write that “craft plays an important role in our everyday lives and that it enables engagement with human values and the combination and exploration of concepts not otherwise questioned.” (Niedderer, 14) They don’t really expound on the ‘human values’ portion here, but it makes sense, craft more than design or art, has a humility or a commonness to it. At the same time, craft can be approachable enough that we can explore different kinds of crafts outside our immediate range of expertise. I think this leads to one of their next points: how designer’s work.

Combating an earlier conception of design as linear with clear guidelines and structures, the authors write that designers are problem-solvers, “working with uncertainties” (Niedderer, 2) and willing to evolve, and particularly, willing to evolve in response to a team. In other words, designers are okay with figuring out problems as they work, which will work for us as students, but isn’t preferred by businesses and organizations who like to minimize risks. Also, design is a wide field and accordingly, there are all kinds of designers that have different kinds of skills…so, how do you get designers, who all have similar personality traits but different skills, to come together and work efficiently on a project?

That is where the author’s re-introduce as a means of bridging gaps between experts. Craft, they say, is a holistic process, using both hand and mind, which ultimately “engender(s) complex thinking”. (Niederrer, 5). So, through the act of craft, a person gets to share their knowledge, while another person gets to experience it, which opens their mind to new ideas and possibilities. This experience of another person’s craft can be as simple as using “boundary objects” (Niederrer, 7), which can be as simple as sketches, tools, cardboard models etc. These are said to often be enough to stimulate the imagination of other people. Ultimately, the goal of this is knowledge sharing…not everyone can become an expert in a particular craft, but sharing a skill even partially is enough to promote ideation in non-experts.

The article gives some examples that I didn’t think were all that interesting. My main takeaway from this article kind of affirms the purpose of these workshops, but I think adds an extra layer of importance. These workshops aren’t just getting to know you experiences, or opportunities to see what our cohort has done/can do, but these are opportunities for us as participants to join in on activities, to use our mind and hands to promote further creativity and potentially questions. I think going forward, craft should continue to play a big role in this class. For instance, my workshop was about crochet, but not about my other skills. So, outside of a workshop, I could bring in “boundary objects”, like pieces of furniture or example wood joints, in case other students, who might be thinking about working in wood, could be prompted to greater creativity by seeing them.

All to say, these workshops are a good start, but we all have more skills than we can adequately share in two hours, so we need to keep learning from one another and exploring/sharing our skills.

October 14, 2018
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