There’s a lot of research on the structure of progress in science (Kuhn, Popper, Deutsch, etc.) but what about the progress of professional craft? How do we get better at programming, design, furniture building, cooking, entrepreneurship, etc.
And by the way, if these fields feel like they are unrelated, you’re right. Cooking is not the same as entrepreneurship. That’s why great cooks are not automatically great restauranteurs. But I’d like to suggest that both fields have a lot of commonality in their epistemology. The process of getting better might be surprisingly similar across all these professions.
And these professions do advance, some faster than others. Most obvious in programming. The default answer is that the tools are getting better, but that’s not the only thing. Even if it was, we’re still far from understanding how tools get better.
Just because Figma is better than Illustrator for product design does not automatically make you a better designer. You need process knowledge, understanding of history, a community of practitioners, and much more.
Really, we don’t even have a reasonable list of inputs into good craft. Here are some questions I’d like to better understand:
- What are the constraining factors on tooling improvement? For example, why did tooling grow far more quickly in programming than product design?
- What about the more subjective part of craft? What is beautiful design? What is elegant code? How do our tools internalize and shape subjective practices?
A better understanding of craft would yield great societal dividends. Most people are engaged on a day to day in activities that look more like craft than science.