Digital artisans think of themselves as blacksmiths, forging their craft in pixels and bytes. When you visit a historic part of a city, you are sure to see ornate, wrought-iron gates and fences stationed outside stately homes. Those structures have been there for decades and have withstood weather, time, and generations of use. Have you ever stopped to think how long it took to craft those pieces? They were not made in a factory in a few hours by automated machines. It took skilled makers months of planning and hard work to expertly design each piece. And to even get to that point, it took countless hours of practice. In the same way, digital artisans work to create beautiful, sturdy, elegantly simple programs and designs that will scale and perform over the course of time. This type of work takes more hours to create, but the outcome is a better, stronger product. These are the guiding principles Artisans Collaborative uses on a day-to-day basis to craft superior solutions.
In order to create a superior product, begin with the best materials. Start building a library of quality UI components, code snippets, and ready-made templates and resources that you can refer to each time you begin a new project. Whether you rely on Adobe Creative Cloud or Sketch for your visual needs, and Laravel (the PHP framework for web artisans) or another application framework, start amassing the best materials you can find and choose the correct and best source code for the job. Websites like Skillshare, Lynda.com, Design+Code, CreativeLive, Laracasts, Dribbble, Sketch App Sources and Behance are excellent repositories for broadening your resources and inspiring new ideas. You should also consider taking classes about topics that are not directly in your field. By looking at the world from someone else's perspective, you will gain insights to help solve problems in unique ways. You can also seek out other professionals whose work you admire and ask them what sources they use. In time, you will know which tools work best for the jobs your customers bring, and may even find new customers coming from your new sources.
You can amass the best tools in the business, but if you do not know what to implement they are worthless. Being a strategist means that you go beyond defining problems and identifying possible solutions. It is having the foresight and planning capabilities to proactively develop a product that aligns with the customer's values, business goals, and marketing message. When you take the time to craft a well-thought-out strategy, you are increasing the probability that you will end with a better, stronger product. Broad knowledge of the trade is required because if you do not know that a cutting-edge software, tool, or resource exists, you will not be able to implement it in your strategy. Similarly, deep understanding of the selected source material is required because if mishandled or incorrectly applied, the execution will be anything but superior.
The last element of building a better, stronger product is the most difficult to realize because it includes an unknown variable – time. As you consistently use superior sources and design superior strategies, then over the course of your career you will develop more refined skills. Skill is nothing more than application of your resources when carrying out your strategy over time. It will take a lot of effort, plenty of failures, and some false starts to achieve the results you want. But take heart, you are not alone. The artisan lifestyle is built on apprenticeship and learning. This means that you do not have to rise and fall by yourself. You should surround yourself with a team of more experienced tradespeople who can mentor you and encourage you on your path to developing superior skills. If you are further along in your career, then seek out others to share your skills with as an artisan and teacher.
When a customer approaches you with a design or development problem, it should be your goal to provide them with more than a short-term fix to their immediate problem. Take some time to source quality resources, plan a meaningful strategy, and execute with all the skills your team has. Practice your craft and forge your career on making superior solutions that provides lasting and meaningful benefits to your customers.