Monday, February 5, 2007

Aesthetic Movement: Britain: Arts & Crafts




To put it in it's simplest possible definition, the Arts & Crafts movement was started by artisans who believed that machines were taking the human element out of too many things. John Ruskin, one of the founding visionaries of the movement, believed that art was connected to the human soul, and a machine could not express what the human soul created. Pioneers of the movement shunned mass production and began to focus on individuality and hand crafted goods that everyone could enjoy. But this led to a problem that was a major hurdle for the movement, hand crafted items were too labor intensive to be made affordable for everyone and in enough quantities for the masses. Even though the focus of this movement was using simple, natural materials, there was no escaping the fact that machine made items were more affordable and could be made in quantities that made products available for the masses.

This brings me to my main question on this topic. Do we see any parallels between what was happening in the Arts and Crafts movement and what is happening today with our ever advancing technology. Take for instance AutoCad and Computer 3D Design. Today, we can create complete construction documents, beautiful 3D renderings, and 3D models of our architectural designs. AutoCad and other programs save us time and money, they increase the accuracy of our drawings and they allow us to churn out much more information than we could by hand. But, buy relying on the computer, have we taken out the human element of our designs? Have our graphic communications become too clean, too sterile, possibly too good? Sure, we can create a 3D "walk through" of a space on the computer, but does that cold computer model show the soul of a design better than a carefully hand rendered set of drawings? Does the fact that our hand put those lines on the paper convey our message better than any plotter could? Does a mouse allow our vision to be expressed more accurately, or does it impede our ability to truly put our heart and soul into our designs. If the founding members of the Arts & Crafts movement were around today to see our technological advancements, would the start pointing and clicking, or would they be saddened that yet another set of machines have taken the human soul out of design?

14 comments:

Megandrees said...

John, you raise a very interesting point. In studio we learn to hand draft before AutoCAD. The whole time that we are learning, we know in the back of our minds that we are going to learn this on the computer. AutoCad will be our primary drafter tool when we are in the working world. I see our industry moving towards computer generated graphic communication, because we want to be more productive. Time is money. If we allow our time to slip away it is also allowing jobs and clients to slip away with it. Though the craftsmanship and beauty behind architectural rendering and other forms of hand drawn graphics demonstrate talent, we won't be able to stay away from programs that can rush the process.

These programs take the soul out of a rendering. Anyone can reproduce a computer generated image, but strong hand drawn graphic have a character that no other person or machine could ever replicate. I know that visually I am drawn to the loose feel that can only come from human hand. I have more respect for someone that can hand draw a beautiful picture. Any one can learn how to use a computer program. As our industry becomes more drawn to computer generated images, it is up to universities and professionals to keep the future of graphic communication in our hands.

The founders of the Arts and Craft movement wouldn’t want to see that everything we can do with our hands is now being replaced with computers. Everything that was once done with a pen and a piece of paper is now down with the click of a mouse. In the end we will have to make the same decision that was made in the Industrial Revolution. Do we rely on computers or do we rebel like the Arts and Crafts movement?

brittanyg0321 said...

The example Jon used is perfect to connect present day to the past movement of Arts and Crafts. The computer is replacing so many things once done by hand and therefore, taking the heart out of many designs and other works. This is being done for many of the same reasons it was back then; the cost is considerably lower as Megan explained, it is much faster, and it is also more accurate. This cannot replace though the hours of thought and effort put into a hand drawing.

I agree that the Arts and Crafts movement founders would like to see a revertment back to primarily hand drawings, but for many businesses that wouldnt be a smart decision. This is why we are moving in the same direction, straight towards technology.

G.Fickle said...

I can understand that there may bee a parallelism between the mass production of then and the new technologies of now, but I believe with the new technologies, it makes it easier to create more individualized and original works. Back in the day, it took so much more effort to create a mold or construction drawing, that many copies were produced from the original. With these CAD drawings, and 3D programs, we may not be using our actual hands, but we are still using our creative minds to be original.

emily said...
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emily said...

I agree that the events that happened in the Arts and Crafts Movement, meaning the partnership of technology and design, are seen in current design, however I do no agree that it is taking the human element out of design.

If anything, ideas are more artistically expressed and more mathematically accurate through the use of auto cad and other architectural programs. The human element is thus found in personal contact with the client making them feel part of the design. Designers can therefore create unique and individual designs for a client through the use of technology, a process that the founding members of the Arts & Crafts movement would appreciate.

kinseyjanzen said...

John, I must say that this blog is very insightful. To answer your question, I believe that founders of the Arts and Crafts movement would be disappointed in our constant use of technology like AudoCAD, instead of handmade drawings. Yet, design evolves with technology, and interiors would not be what they are today without it. Although the Arts and Crafts' founders would dismiss our technology as soulless, I believe the opposite. I think that computer generated graphics have the same amount of "soul" as hand drafted drawings. Before we even drew on paper, we were drawing in dirt and on cave walls. Did the cavemen think that writing on paper was soulless? I doubt it. Also, technology has evolved so much that factory goods are now of a higher quality and still inexpensive. Therefore, even though the A&C founders might look down upon technology, design would not be what it is today without our everchanging technology.

Mallory said...

It is interesting to read this blog after the discussion we had in studio earlier today. After observing projects done by the junior level studio, many of us were surprised and even amazed at the lack of dedication to their lettering styles, etc... could this be a sign of what's to come to our studio? After only a year or so of dedicated AutoCAD use have they already begun to depend too much on technology? It is interesting to think about.

I think it is a safe bet to say that the initiators of the Arts & Crafts movement would be appalled by our dependence on technology in general, but more especially to those things that aid in the design process. And I think that it is also safe to assume that there is definitely a significant amount of heart that is forfeited when nothing is done by hand. I think great designs come from research and thought and hard work and ultimately confidence and pride IN your work- something I do not think can be readily achieved when done entirely through technology. So YES, I do think the Arts & Crafts artisans would be upset at our lack of dedication to our work- and especially at our absence of handiwork!

monicam said...
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monicam said...

I think that using this idea of hand renderings versus CAD drawings is a great one to help us realize how the arts and crafts movement affected people. I myself tend to be drawn to more handmade, thought-out pieces such as in the arts and crafts movement. Using machines to quickly church out pieces that were cheaper was not always better. Things made by human hands, or things made with more care just seem to have charachter to them that you can not buy from mass produced pieces. I tend to feel the same way with hand rendering and Auto CAD drawings. I feel that doing everything on the computer, although quicker and sometimes more accurate just seems to take some of the creativity and charachter from a design. Whereas, although maybe using a computer for some of it and then doing your own hand rendering just gives your presentation or design a "personality".
I just think this is a great correlation between hand renderings, Auto CAD drawings and things from the arts and crafts movement. I feel as though handmade gives personality, which is something you can't always get from a machine.

Caitlin said...

Although hand-rendering, hand-drawing and building a model by hand are very tedious and time consuming tasks, I think the output is great. Pouring your time, heart, and sleeping hours into all of the above actually makes you appreciate everything you do. I have not taken AutoCAD yet, but it is obvious how much of a difference there is between the computer and creating things by hand.
I believe that the impressive quality and technique that can be produced by hand will become the missing element in the future. Firms, employers and clients will no longer be impressed if you can turn out a perspective from AutoCAD, because it will be expected knowledge. However, I think that being able to sit in front of a client or employer and sketch out an idea or space effectively will be the key of success. That is what will set you apart.
Which is why the Arts and Crafts movement started in the first place, because everything was machine run. But the hand-made quality items is what set them apart as great items. I believe craftsmen from that era would agree to John's point.

Joyce T said...

Considering our fourth semester studio is one based on rendering and hand displayed design, you pose a rather interesting question. Some believe that learning how to do construction documents by hand is a waste of time considering when on the job, we will always be using computers. “Why learn the hard way when you can learn the easy way?” I believe that learning to design with pencil and paper instead of with mouse and monitor, does bring more of our human element into the design. On the other hand I also believe there is a difference between sketching by hand and finalizing construction documents by hand. By designing with pen to paper, it keeps the human element involved in designing and helps the designer to form new ideas through the design process. However, when it comes to construction documents and even portraying the final product in a rendered perspective, use of a computer gives a more accurate representation of the final product. Meeting with the client and portraying ideas in fluid, loose sketches keeps the “soul” of the design alive. I do not believe the final presentation needs to be in the same context as the preliminary sketches in order for the human element to be realized.

Having said all that, I feel its rather difficult to compare the issue of using machines to design with the Arts and crafts issue with machines creating the final product. There is a difference between using machines to help create and portray a design and using them to create the actual tangible space. I believe that if the founding fathers of the Arts and Crafts movement were to fast forward through time to witness our advancements in creating design, they would not be thrilled with our reliance on computers. They may feel that our reliance on technology has taken away from our artistic ability and free form thought. However, it could be much worse. Considering all the technological advances, they should be relieved that at least actual people are still creating personalized design. Perhaps in the future we will have a computer program which takes the characteristics of our client and statistically configures those characteristics to create a design which will be pleasing to them or their business. Whatever the future may hold, (and I doubt and hope it has nothing to do with the previous statement) I believe that hand made items will always be viewed as a luxury. Perhaps we should view this technological age as helping to increase the appreciation of the arts and crafts or handcrafted items.

Brad said...

The rise of the Arts and Crafts movement was a response to the shoddy work and lack of human envolvement in the design process. I think since then man has realized that the way to resolve the issues of shoddy construction and the loss of the human element is for man to take charge of the machine. I feel that is exactly where we are today. Even the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement realized that the machine was a necessary part of the evolvement of man and mand needed to embrace it and manipulate it into doing what the designer wanted rather than letting it rule over man. I feel this is what we have done today and are ever personalizing items and differentiating between high end and cheap replicas. I feel the arts and crafts leaders would be amazed and proud that their efforts were not in vain that we have mastered the machine.

Brad said...

The rise of the Arts and Crafts movement was a response to the shoddy work and lack of human envolvement in the design process. I think since then man has realized that the way to resolve the issues of shoddy construction and the loss of the human element is for man to take charge of the machine. I feel that is exactly where we are today. Even the founders of the Arts and Crafts movement realized that the machine was a necessary part of the evolvement of man and mand needed to embrace it and manipulate it into doing what the designer wanted rather than letting it rule over man. I feel this is what we have done today and are ever personalizing items and differentiating between high end and cheap replicas. I feel the arts and crafts leaders would be amazed and proud that their efforts were not in vain that we have mastered the machine.

edperr2 said...

The Arts and Crafts movement was a time in history when the ‘elite’ thinkers decided that what was best was handcrafted merchandise that contained a certain character. This thinking is very closely associated with the idea that Native American relics and African voodoo dolls include… crazy? Sin? Or perhaps by creating things by hand, it was a way of appreciating every object for its individual ability to serve a utilitarian purpose, aesthetic purpose, or any other valued reason.

Now, since the introduction of AutoCAD the idea has been proposed that this lack of personalization (i.e. minor mistakes and style that is involved in hand drawing) also defeats any type of soul that a drawing may contain. Well, I believe this to be….

True.

AutoCAD is a possibly quicker solution to drafting, thus leading to more money and other time saving opportunities. Well, if there’s one thing that’ll suck a soul quicker it’s money or at least the greed to get it. So yeah lets just keep the hand made stuff, until we can all afford tablet computers and some kick ass software.

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.