Pixel Perfect: How Craftsmen Cope with Changes in Material Practices at Work

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaperProfessional


In the literature it is assumed that if material practices at work change, for example because of the introduction of new technologies, people are likely to adapt their own skills and expertise. At the same time, studies on craftsmanship showed that people can be so attached to their established ways of working, that their entire raison d'être hinges upon it. In such case, adapting skills might be complicated, which begs the question of how and why craftsmen cope with changes in material practices at work. To answer this question, we conducted an ethnography of designers at one design firm whose work changed from designing tangibles (e.g. products for users) to designing intangibles (e.g. strategies for business). As a consequence of this shift, designers did not feel emotionally connected with work, felt lost in ambiguous design processes and sensed the need to establish legitimacy as a separate occupational group. In response, to (re)establish a connection with their work, the designers spend a lot of time on making and using artifacts typical to their former design practice, like visualizations of customer journeys, and new artifacts like board games. Our findings contribute to the literature on work and occupations, by suggesting an embodied view on material practices and emphasizing the importance of studying emotions in occupations.


WorkshopInternational Spring School - Organized Creativity: Approaching a Phenomenon of Uncertainty - Freie Universität Berlin
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  • Artifacts
  • Craftsmanship
  • Work practices
  • Occupations
  • Service Design
  • Ethnography


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