Handcraft as a Rhetorical Prop: An Investigation into What Handcraft Techniques Offer the Discipline of Graphic Design.


Author: Saskia van Kampen

This thesis paper examines how handcraft (making an item by analog means using specific materials) can be a compelling rhetorical tool for graphic designers to harness. Contrasting handcraft techniques with computer graphics software “unsettles” rote graphic design practices. The meaning that lies in the physical act of making, the materials that are used and the contexts with which particular handcrafts are associated can support, as well as carry, visual rhetoric in design works. 

An analysis of the unconventional handcraft work produced by Stefan Sagmeister (USA), Mathias Augustyniak and Michaël Amzalag of M/M (Paris) (France), Marian Bantjes (Canada), and by this author (specifically, a design book produced in tandem with this paper) is used to demonstrate how complex meanings contained within handcrafts can be revealed and used in graphic design. The combination of handcraft and digital techniques enables designers to interweave the disparate social, physical and material qualities of the two processes into their work. In this way the work engages in disciplinary and societal discourse.