Hidden between Craft and Industry: Engineering Patternmakers' Design Knowledge

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Design History, 2019, 32 (3), pp. 280 - 303
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© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Design History Society. All rights reserved. Craft is currently experiencing an academic and popular revival, as evidenced by increasing interest in 'makers' and artisanal practices, both within and beyond design history. Yet, in this moment of craft's resurgence, some aspects are regularly overlooked. Industrial craft in manufacturing, for instance, is a field ripe for closer analysis. Engineering patternmaking is an industrial craft that remains almost invisible in design history, despite the design-related nature of patternmaking, and its centrality to many industrial manufacturing processes. Drawing on oral histories with Australian patternmakers, this article emphasizes that patternmaking is both a manual and intellectual practice that requires thorough knowledge of drawing, materials, geometry, three-dimensional visuality and manufacturing processes planning. Accordingly, I argue that patternmakers possess and enact a specific type of design knowledge, a form of expertise that has thus far been undervalued in both design and craft histories. Making use of Nigel Cross' influential theorization of 'designerly ways of knowing', this article explores the connections and divergences between design and patternmaking knowledge sets, reminding us that the making of manufactured objects is deeply collaborative across professional and class formations. In doing so, I highlight the significance of industrial craft knowledge in the actualization of design. This example has broader historical implications for how design history frames and values the knowledge, skills and influence of those engaged in industrial production.
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