Handwork vs. Technology

Recently we developed a campaign for a financial industry client that involved illustration as a foundation for the visual imagery and it got me thinking.

Thinking about how much we rely on technology as a tool for design, writing, even to read this blog.  Thinking about how much I appreciate “handwork.” Thinking of the time, talent and dedication it requires to create something with your hands.

That’s the reason I got into the world of advertising. Well, not directly. But my passion for illustration and fine arts led me down the path to art and creative direction.

I enjoyed the process of creation—the idea, the execution, the results. And the tools…oh the tools. Pencils, pens, erasers, papers, knives. Things that spray from cans. You had rulers, big tables to work on. And the stuff you created took hours upon hours until it was just right.

And it was YOURS. Even if you gave it away for an ad, a t-shirt or a book cover—You did it.

So now it’s hours and hours behind a box of knowledge. The glare from the screen. The hum of the cooling fans, slowly bringing you into a state of consciousness somewhere between jet lag and REM sleep.

Now I feel like I moved some stuff around on the screen. Set some type. Blah.  My Mac drew the perfect circle, I just told it how big I wanted it.

Technology has overtaken the true art of handwork.

Things are slick. And glossy. And exact.

Handwork Flourishes

Wall-to-wall handwork.

Yee-Haw Industries: Wall-to-wall handwork.

I recently took an unexpected trip to Knoxville, TN.  While there, I was hoping to get a few minutes to visit an old friend. Yee-Haw Industries. (I’m really not their friend… but I enjoy their work so much, their handwork, that I’d be their friend.)

Yee-Haw Industries  is primarily a letterpress printer—the “old” kind of printing with wood type, lead type, hand-cranked printing presses. Think old west meets deep south and they made a circus poster.

Old wooden floor. smells of  paper and ink and the solvent you clean the press blankets with. They had the big tables and the wood cabinets. Stuff made of cast iron.

I think the only need for electricity was for the coffee maker and the lights.

Cabinet after cabinet of lead and wood type.

Yee-Haw Industries: Cabinet after cabinet of lead and wood type.

Everything in there was done by hand.  It was a museum of fine art, design and typography with people touching the exhibits. It was wonderful.

You can see the skill, determination and passion in every print they create. The lines are rough. The ink is a little heavy here and a little light there. Technique, limitation of the process or human error? Who cares—I loved every minute detail of it.

And they OWN it. It’s THEIRS. The style, the techniques—even when they give it away for a poster or a note card, they did it.

Give Them a Hand

So I bring this back to that campaign we developed for the financial client.

Part of our pitch was that the (uniquely) illustrative nature of the campaign was representative of their  history, tradition and the relationships forged with their customers.  Like they did it back then. And do today. I explained (and truly believe) that the consumer will make an emotional connection through the illustration to the brand. And that ‘s (part of) the battle.

They liked it. It’s going to run. I think they saw through our dog and pony show  and made an emotional connection with the artwork. The handwork. It represented them and related to their audience.

And most of all, THEY could OWN it.

Have you noticed a return to handwork? Or has it never gone away? And, what is unique about your campaign—how do you OWN it?

I’d like to hear your responses.

Advertisements
  1. Yes. I have noticed a return to handwork.

    Thank goodness!

    I’m a writer. I write with a pen. In a notebook. Every day.

    When I write for clients, it starts on paper. I sketch scenes on paper, next to the scripts — even though I’m not much of an artist. From there, it can go to designers, computer wizards, video producers — who can slickly transform my scribbly atomic concepts into electrons.

    When I did this ten years ago, colleagues scoffed. “What a waste! Do in on the computer!”

    Today, they’re going all Moleskine on me. Paper sketches before everything! And many 2008 design books support this “paper-first” notion.

    Suddenly, my process is not viewed as an inefficient, wasteful. My paper process is hip again!

    But I’m good with my 19 cent Mead notebooks. My trendy pals with Moleskines still mock me.

  2. This is a good way to look at custom photography over stock, too. A campaign’s custom shots will likely never be seen anywhere else. Your campaign will “own” that imagery. A great way to make it unique.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: