On craft

In The Craftsman, Richard Sennett defines craft as any work done well for its own sake. Put another way, craft is defined in its excess—in the element of work that is not required or demanded, but through which the maker makes a gift—unsought, unreciprocated—to others.

We tend to think of craft in the tangible things—in the elegant drape of handcrafted fabric, in the smoothness and style of the arm of a chair, in the way a well-made tool eases into the palm and places no burden on the wrist. But I’ve come to see craft in the intangibles as well—in the rhythm of a well-written sentence, in the exact number of pixels separating two columns, in the lucidity that emerges from an orderly line of code.

In this manner, the web is itself an enormous place for craft—in that every bit of markup or CSS, every decision about font-size or color, every float, and every sentence have within them the opportunity for craft—the chance for the maker (be it the designer or the engineer or the writer) to put more of themselves into it than they have to. The tools have changed—from wood and blade to keyboard and cable—but the craftsmanship is hardly diminished.

It is for this that I am especially excited to be joining Etsy, a place where the craft reaches outward towards the sellers and buyers who make up the community, as well as inwards to the talented people who create a place for that community to flourish. There is craft in all directions, right down to the relationships created when one person connects with another to exchange something of value. Because that too is craft—when you turn away from a nameless, faceless corporation and choose to connect with another human being—that is as much a work of craft as that of the carver who labors to shape the bowl in a perfect wooden spoon.

I am saddened to be leaving Norton, my home for nearly a decade. But they say all good things must come to an end, and inasmuch as Norton has been very good to me, this ending was prefigured. I leave behind an enormously talented group of people who will no doubt continue to publish some of the best books in the business, books I eagerly look forward to reading.

Related books

The Craftsman

Richard Sennet

Sennett defines craftmanship as the desire to do a job well for its own sake. In so doing, he frees it of the bounds of carpentry or metalwork and extends the work of craft to that of the programmer, the doctor, and the parent.