Tuesday 19 October 2010


Before I start writing about the whole gambit of Indie design I thought I should begin with what I know and that’s myself, so here’s a very personal take on what design is to me and what I think makes indie design different from craft.

I’m just crazy about Man Men from the minute I saw the first episode a couple of years ago I know I had just watched something very special. I love the same things as everyone else; the exquisite styling, the sharp and understated scripts, the well-placed looks, as well as the incredible way they document the social shifts that took place in the sixties. All of the above is hugely impressive but what I love most is the why they show creative thinking. I don’t know of any other example that better demonstrates commercial idea generation to a mainstream audience.

In the very first episode they showed Donald Draper the advertising mastermind sitting in a café scribbling on a napkin after having a conversation that triggered his imagination – I can’t tell you how many napkins, receipts and bus tickets are shoved into my sketch book because ideas never happen when I’m sat at my desk thinking about them. I wouldn’t dare say I’m like the great Don but I do see myself in the character of Peggy Olson not the way she looks or acts but she like me is an extroverted thinker, this means she thinks as she talks and I love watching her ideas grow as she speaks to her colleagues. I don’t find it easy explaining my creative skills, I don’t really have many but I am good and fast at coming up with ideas and in Mad Men while other do the drawings, take the photos and type the letters the people that come up with the concepts are the heroes’. This is a rare glimpse of a different way of being a creative.

So why am I talking so much about Mad Men and ideas and all that stuff. Well I have a theory that the big difference between a designer (or indie designer) and a crafter is whether the work is lead by ideas or technique. My work is lead by ideas, there for I am a designer. I care about it’s production but I don’t have to make it myself to feel like it’s mine. Where as the careful making of a piece by hand is of the most significance to a crafter. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that creative thinking isn’t part of craft or that productions isn’t important to design, it’s a question of where the emphasis lays that’s key. Like most things it’s not clear-cut, black and white (I will explore this in more depth next week – work load permitting:). I do however believe this is an option for how we can define ourselves more clearly and it does once again highlight the issue faced by indie designers like myself working under the umbrella of ‘handmade’ ‘craft’. I wonder how many other indie designers get asked on a daily basis to talk about how they make their work, what there favorite materials are, the time each piece takes to create – all great questions for crafters. Because we - the indie designers - are currently hiding under someone else’s identity we’re talking in a language that isn't ours and it means that we’re not forming our own voice. We need to find the right questions to get the true answers.


  1. great post! very interesting, I'd never thought of things quite like that before...

  2. cheers clare, I'm not sure if this take is really right but I don't think it's really wrong either it's just a view I've not heard being talked about yet so I think at the least it's good to get it out in the open.

  3. awesome, awesome points there Colleen. So well said and so very, very true. And absolutely, a designer doesn't have to physically make the item to fell as though it's theirs — which is exactly how I feel about my own design work.

    I'm really enjoying your posts on indie design, it's nice to know that I'm not the only person that sees a difference like that — and now I even have something to call it =)

  4. Such a good way to describe it. I think it's really well put and mad men is just awesome of course. It really does highlight the creative mind, rather than the creative hands that is so focussed on nowadays!

  5. I LOVE your definition 'the big difference between a designer (or indie designer) and a crafter is whether the work is lead by ideas or technique'.
    I have so often thought this but never been able to put it into such simple words as you have! I agree, it's not always black and white though. Am really enjoying your posts!

  6. Yeah I have to agree that it is not always black and white. Bit grey all over for me. I have a design degree (not in fashion) but also have a small handmade clothing business and they both influence each other hugely yet I am consciously not running VnB with the same design influences & seasonal ranges as a fashion designer would. It's handmade... but I don't see it as "craft", but I also love craft, I don't see it as a dirty word as I think a lot of designers do as if it will tarnish their artistic credibility. For me this is a head-scratch-er.

  7. I like this post, and I do agree to some extent. For me, I have a degree in design, but was not able to find a job where my ideas were valued. So no I sort of dabble in illustration and handmade goods. I still feel like a designer to some extent, and really have not considered myself a crafter (but perhaps I should, *gulp*).

    Very well written indeed, Colleen. I like to get your perspective on these matters!

  8. thanks everyone for your comments it's great to see people talking about this:)
    V'n'B I'm very much planning to look at the cross over next and explore this through fashion - I totally see your point here. I for one don't look down on good craft I just think it's wrong and most importantly dishonest that indie design and craft are seen as the same thing. The main reason I've changed the direction of my blog is because every time I see my work under the heading of handmade I feel like I'm lying.

    and Gingiber I don't ever know where to start with illustration - it seems to have a lot more to do with art to me than craft or design. Like you I hand make some of my work, illustrate some and design some the fact I call myself a designer is more down to personal choice as much as anything else:)

  9. that's a fascinating and really thoughtful perspective, especially for me who often struggles with terms to describe what everyone does.

    I suspect it's becuase the first goal was to reach the acceptance of handmade
    however as that grows defining more is a good thing for everyone