Apprenticeship Patterns: Craft over Art

While forms of craft and art may seem similar to one another, sometimes it is important to note the distinction. This is the exact distinction that Craft over Art outlines in Chapter 3. The point is that crafts have utility, and works of art are made for beauty and reflection. It’s important that, if you’re crafting something, that you treat it that as it is meant to be treated — because it is something that may be used in the future by someone else. Sure, there is room for artistic expression in your craft, but they shouldn’t be anything more than decorative or stylistic touches. As they point out in the book, craftsmanship is built on relationships. It’s about delivering value to a customer and using that to earn your living. Art is usually something that comes from a very personal, self-reflective place that others may connect with. “After all, there’s no such thing as a starving craftsman.”

I like this pattern because it encourages the reader to focus on doing something useful as opposed to something beautiful, as stated in the action paragraph. I feel as though this is important because as of late, I’ve been focusing on this a lot myself in anticipation for upcoming coding interviews. Although I may not be working on things I find myself feeling extremely passionate about, I do feel happy working on what is expanding my skill set. Practicing the language fundamentals of both Java and C, doing interview-style questions, and my independent study have been a blessing in terms of knowledge and learning. They’re all things that will allow me to push the boundaries of my skillset for my future projects.

I will disagree partially with one thing about this pattern, though. I feel as though with the degree that web development, specifically front end, revolves around design choices, that programmers with an artist’s mindset have become extremely valuable. With the amount of emphasis placed on good website and app design, there is absolutely a place for those programmers who seek to make beauty with code where there may have been less of a place for them in the past. Granted, these are UI/UX designers who are partaking in a craft themselves — their art has utility and is meant to be used by others.

Regardless, I found this pattern fairly interesting as a reflection of what programming is and what it is meant to be. Placing yourself in the mindset of a craftsman makes a world of a difference (at least, to my geeky brain) in terms of how you should conduct yourself in the work environment.

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