Presented by Erin Kissane.

  • Little Big Planet is the marriage of Systems and Craft.
  • Content Strategy is system design.

Making Systems

  • A system is an interlocking set of problems.
  • Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language
  • All big projects are ultimately systems (content management systems, most “software”, social networks); they are an interdependent set of features/problems.

Bringing Craft to Systems

There’s tremendous value in focusing on workmanship and mastering one’s craft. Systems need craft.

The five principles of craft:

  1. Learn Your Artifact
  2. Make For Makers
  3. Take The Time
  4. Ship Small, But Excellent
  5. Seek Deep Knowledge

Learn Your Artifact

  • Japanese wagashi are made by artisans who only make these craft confections.
  • Contrast these with Nestlé Aero bars: factory-made, mass-produced.
  • We must establish an intimate knowledge of our artifacts.
  • Famous woodworker and furniture maker James Krenov understood intimately how to build systems that worked in many climates and seasons:

A true achievement is to make a fine cabinet—elegant, graceful, one with real character—and fit it with drawers and doors that work properly the year round.

  • Craft and workmanship come from a genuine understanding of the artifact.
  • James Krenov: “The craftsman works, looking and looking again, from one revelation to another.”

Make For Makers

  • Mast Brothers Chocolate: New York-based chocolatiers who spend three months every year in South America working on cocoa plantations.
  • 54 million active Wordpress installations worldwide.
  • We have unintentionally been making systems that strangle excellence. Think: horrible, horrible CMSes.
  • When we fail to make for the makers, we are making it that much more difficult for them to serve the end users.
  • Create content systems built around workflow.
  • Voice & Tone is a tool absolutely created for makers. Dig through this site.

Take The Time

  • Big projects suck because of time: teams rotate in or out, feels like nothing really gets done, or there’s not enough time to complete the project. The process is either too long or too short: never just right.
  • Craft requires time: The Enchanted Doll by Marina Bychkova take 350-500 hours to complete each doll.
  • Craft requires more than talent or skill: it requires time.
  • Craft is time-travel: take future problems that are risky in ways you can’t understand and deal with them in a controlled space. Move troubles forward in time so that we can deal with them.
  • It seems more costly to take more time, but in the end it’s that you can’t afford not to take the time.
  • Time must be won: Excellent project management is the single most important factor in running a successful project.
  • Don’t say “No,” but say, “No, but what I can do is this…” We can work on something smaller and take the time to get it right.
  • James Krenov: “What did the doing take, and what did it give?”
  • At the end of every project, what did the doing take out of you and what did it give to you and to the people using it?

Ship Small, But Excellent

  • Work from large to small. Ship small to large.
  • Do as little as you can in your work and in your process. Don’t do things for the sake of doing things.
  • Work small and build on your sucesses. Narrow the scope.

It’s better to get a sub-system right than to work on a whole system and get it wrong.

Seek Deep Knowledge

Reinvent only with reason. Charles and Ray Eames:

Innovate as a last resort.

  • Patrizio Bertelli, Prada CEO: “Young people are not necessarily the key to innovation”
  • Uncover institutional knowledge and find the old hands. Do apprenticeships! Take on apprentices!

Dear Sugar (Cheryl Strayed):

You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work.