I make things: mapping the creative industries

I had the great pleasure of attending the V&A’s Power of Making symposium last month and chaired a panel with Bre Pettris, Adrian Bowyer, and Marloes Ten Bhomer. The whole day was fascinating and I think I might ask the panel more questions and publish them here.

One thing that really gnawed at me during my holiday was the way in which people used the word “make” at the event. There was an agreed use of language in the art world that didn’t seem to mean the same in the hacker community. Also, somehow, everyone thought that an artist was the most noble of every kind of creator. This is interesting. If we have found a common language in the word “making”, noone seemed to agree on how noble we consider the output of the “making” itself. Someone with the 40 year skills in engraving a gun, was considered less interesting than a designer who produced rough sketches and had them made by others. There’s a perceived value in not getting your hands too dirty, as if ignorance was bliss, or technical knowledge in itself was an incomprehensible elite (a woman in the audience complained that as an artist, she’d need to learn CAD to make something). My panel was viewed with a mixture of sniggering and fear in such a place. Most of the establishment was ready to rule it off as being for “geeks”. I think what differentiates the two communities is a mixture of curiosity and humility. It takes humility to admit that you can learn new tools and that those tools might make you a different and better designers/ artist. That probably comes from the meritocratic environment of the internet and not the traditional hierarchy of academia. This will have to be addressed in the design and art schools of the future as it’s an important barrier to collaboration.

As I work my way through my notes on the event, I also wanted to start to unpick who was using the word “make” and what they were making. This is a first stab and not really about creating collaborative connections yet. I might also be missing some things, do let me know. In this, I think we can see where the “creative industries” overlap and therefore where skill sets overlap. This also proves perhaps that one should be quite careful with using any one term. Designer, artists, engineer…when you look close enough, can become one and the same.

Categorized as Thoughts

By designswarm

Blogging since 2005.


  1. HI Alexandra,

    Interesting diagram, and one that coincides with something I’ve been trying to do for a while, though looking more specifically at industrial design. I have a few questions / comments:

    Firstly, I wonder why you have chosen to put architecture as a discipline, rather than have Architect as one of the ‘creator’ circles? Obviously there’s a strong tradition of self-build and amateur-build within architecture, and then there’s the overlap with interior design when you start to consider DIY…

    Secondly, it seems like the diagram is suggesting distance between disciplines, which is why Engineer and Developer are far away from Artist. So then I was wondering why there is a big distance between Designer and Craftsperson (bigger than between Designer and Artist)? Or am I reading too much into it?

    Finally there’s the separation you have between Designer and Engineer. I suppose that one jumps out at me because, as an industrial designer, I’m working with engineers all the time. I’d suggest there probably aren’t any mass-produced products that designers and engineers don’t collaborate on. So, at least in terms of being able to make things, designer and engineer should be much closer, maybe even overlapping?

    I’ll be interested to see the next iteration…

  2. If people sniggered at you then that was either extremely rude or, possibly, deserved.

    Your basic point is good but weakened by the overtheorising of the base motives of others.

  3. The other possibility, of course, is that your audience has become accustomed to the tedious practice of ‘provocations’.

    If that is the case your beef is with the V & A.

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