Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why I love Print and Printers and Skilled Craftspeople

How can you beat Heidegger and motorcycles?
The New Yorker:
Fast bikes, slow food, and the workplace wars
. . . "He writes about fixing motorcycles as an extension of philosophical investigation, a form of problem-solving that helps him understand Heidegger’s theory of skillful coping. He says, too, that fixing bikes has given him “a place in society,” as well as an “economically viable” job that won’t evaporate or get moved overseas. He more or less promises that if you get trained in skilled labor—as a mechanic, a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter—you, too, can have all that."

In his view, a cluster of cultural prejudices have steered many potential tradesmen into college, and then toward stultifying office jobs, which provide less satisfaction and less security than skilled manual labor, and sometimes less money.

. . . For Crawford, the failure to appreciate skilled manual labor is a symptom of something even worse: a narcissistic refusal to grapple with the material world. He quotes a long scene from “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” in which the narrator has a frustrating encounter with careless mechanics who can’t be bothered to correctly diagnose his bike. Crawford’s stern verdict: this is “at once an ethical and a cognitive failure.” Such mechanics show, in their disregard for the motorcycle, how little they care about their profession, and, by extension, their fellow-citizens.

The pro-craft camp deplores the
confinements of corporate life.
The pro-craft camp deplores the confinements of corporate life.
according to "Anon", the illustration is by Joost Swarte


  1. Found your site through another link. You are right on about mechanical professionalism. I worked for a time in pre-press operations in a job shop. Layout, darkroom (back in the day), numbering on the Heidelberg, cut-past-wax...

    My daughter now has the equivalent of that job - all computerized. We no longer burn plates or screen pictures.

    She is absolutely appalled at the number of "camera-ready" projects that come from design school graduates in such bad shape that they have to be totally re-done.

    Three-fold brochures with 3p margins and 3p ditches when they should be 6p. Non-centered center designs. The list goes on and on. But you get the picture.

    Precision in print is just as needful in electronic print as it was in the olden days.

    Thank you for pointing out that we need craftsmen who are dedicated to excellence as a matter of moral fiber. And for also pointing out that there is no higher calling than excellence, no matter the venue.

  2. Judith,

    Thank you for stopping by. I taught production to designers at Parsons for over 6 years. Perhaps this will help explain why so many camera ready projects or production ready files are so sub standard.

    Most designers, like most everybody, are not focused on excellence. Partly this is because of the "I need it now, just good enough" culture of business. My sense is that there are few ways around that for business that live or die by quarterly reports or cash flow.

    But there are a few that can work under the time constraints AND maintain the ethics of excellence. In any field I look at going from printing to academics to teaching to making policy at the state and federal level, that is a very rare breed of person. When you find one, it's mostly definitely worth treasuring them.

    In our printing industry, craftspeople are few and far between. But that's the same as any industry. How many excellent teachers, doctors, business leaders, or politicians can you name?

  3. The Artist is Joost Swarte, from Holland (or Belgium?).

    He's a pretty well known cartoonist and graphic artist.

  4. anon-
    thanks for stopping by. I added the credit to the photo.