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Why You Should Keep Making Stuff By Hand

Jun 26 2017

I work with CoLab, IDEO’s tech-focused R&D group. I’m also someone who’s committed most of my life to craft. Luckily, my day job allows me to bring the two together. But the minute you start making a living from your craft, problems start to surface. You get burnt out. You compromise your vision to deliver things on time. At that point, you're no longer transforming objects—you’re just pushing matter around.

So, when the opportunity comes up, I like to turn off the computer and focus on creating artifacts. While an object is just a thing that serves its purpose until it’s tossed out, an artifact sparks an invisible conversation, a connection between the human who made it and the human experiencing it. Even something that people don’t think twice about, like an event name tag, deserves to be well designed.

That belief drove me to create a collection of one-of-a-kind name tags for a CoLab event. I wanted to make something with my hands that would bring a level of craft to our content. The tags served as the icebreaker for more than a few conversations, and reminded people at the tech-focused event that there's a human element to everything. Many attendees we reached out to a month later said that they still had the tag on their desks.

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The process was simple, but arduous: I laser cut blanks, etched the names, spray painted each tag using unique colors and angles, and finished it off with acrylic screen printing ink to make the names readable. (Want to try making some for your event? Find a detailed step-by-step guide of the process in this post I wrote for IDEO Labs.)

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If you’re an artisan, designer, engineer, or anyone who practices the art of making, I encourage you to ask yourself:

How might you bring the human element of craft into your everyday work?

Learn how to make your own acrylic name tags on IDEO Labs. Learn more about IDEO CoLab here.

  • Jacob Waites

    Visual & Interaction Design Lead, IDEO CoLab, IDEO Cambridge
    Jacob Waites is a Visual & Interaction Design Lead at IDEO CoLab's Cambridge studio. With a background in product design and development, he likes to build digital projects that are paired with physical forms and experiences. Working on brand and fabrication projects both small and large scale at the CoLab, he seeks to help inspire others through experimentation with new technologies.

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