Before the craft takes hold

There’s a period in the life of any maker when they’re making but haven’t yet begun to master the craft. Not even close. They’re simply, beginning. Fumbling around in the dark, putting together moments of light because of persistence. But they don’t know really what they’re doing.

There are several bands I grew up listening to where I think this applies. Before they knew how to make music the proper way—with the structure, melodies, or chords deemed acceptable by the masses or the powers that be—they made songs that may not have been considered great songs in any traditional sense, but my god they were glorious to me. They hit in such an unexpected way. As those bands continued to make songs over the years, they got better. They honed their craft. The songs were technically better and more refined. But they lacked something. The rawness. The edge, the imperfection. The fuck-it-all mentality. The old songs sounded like they were simply made and no one ever stopped to consider if what was being made was actually correct. They just created something, come what may.

I feel that way about design sometimes. Some of my early projects I look back on and marvel at. They hit something special. They did something unique. They came together in unexpected ways with unexpected results. Sure, they didn’t have the 10,000+ hours of making put in to elevate them to professional or expert. But they had something some of my work now just doesn’t. Maybe it was heart. Maybe imperfection. (That old work certainly isn’t pixel-perfect.) Whatever it was in those early years, the work I made was well before any sort of craft took hold. I’m a self-taught designer after all. Someone in college taught me how to think and that was all I needed. The craft, that took about a decade to perfect. And I certainly feel I’ve perfected it. This is design, not astrophysics.

I call myself an expert and the work I make shows that. But still, that early work. There’s something about it. Something honest. Something raw. Something wrong. Which is why I still like it so much.