Craft: A pastime or a profession that requires particular skills and knowledge of skilled work.

Brands like Levi’s, Ford and Cadbury understand the power of craft; they’ve been building it into their campaigns for decades. Authentic, time-consuming endeavors undertaken by hand – such as sign writing, painting and custom typography – convey a narrative of experience and rich history that is analogous with quality and legitimacy. After all, these brands wouldn’t still be here if they weren’t doing something right… Right?

Artist drawing flower

In a world of mass production, people increasingly want to feel like the products they buy are special; ideally one-off, handmade or from a small, independent company. Conversely, we also live in an increasingly impatient world that is less and less tolerant of imperfection.

This presents a problem. How can brands give people consistently perfect products and services, the perception of heritage AND the narrative of experience and history, all at the tap of a button?

You’ve heard of ‘software as a service’ there comes ‘craft as a commodity’.

Brands need to give the impression of uniqueness and authenticity without sacrificing quality, to give customers a reason to choose them over the mainstream. So brands leverage the visual language of ‘craft’ as a shortcut to the story they want to tell, devoid of the actual heritage it represents. And they find a way to produce it quickly and cheaply. Whether it’s responsive web CMS templates from the likes of Squarespace, pop-up wardrobes from Ikea or a brand design from a stock-image library, the world is now full of shortcuts.

We must remember that creating a campaign should be lead by an idea, not how to execute it. And that’s why we need to share the art of craft, and its relevance, with our clients.

This has turned craft – or the perception of it – from an art to an aesthetic. All too often, ‘craft’ goods are nothing but a mass-produced impersonation of reality, with all the form of the original product but none of its functionality. We see this everywhere, especially in the beer and coffee industries, where the perception of hand-made, small-batch production and brand independence carry notable marketing clout.

coffee logo

It feels lazy, predictable and thoughtless – and it’s self-perpetuating. As this approach proliferates, deadlines get tighter and budgets get smaller. It’s frustrating.

But the commoditisation of craft isn’t all bad. It can be exciting and, at times, a relief. For example, thanks to Squarespace and its templates, more and more websites are now at least useable!

However it’s important not to lean on these shortcuts. We must remember that creating a campaign should be lead by an idea, not how to execute it. And that’s why we need to share the art of craft, and its relevance, with our clients. Because – in a world filled with commodity-based marketing – art-directed photo-shoots, commissioned illustrations and hand painted signage are sure to achieve amazing cut-through for your clients.

Ultimately, true craft will always have the power to tell a stronger, richer story than any off-the-shelf, letterpress-effect, coat-of-arms label ever could. Craft is dead… Long live craft!