A crafted object feels as if it holds a soul within, a little ghost, born though the marriage of artistic and technical mastery.

It isn’t useful for an object to look beautiful if it doesn’t work, nor is it noticed if it works perfectly but is ugly, or plain.

A crafted object solves a problem with grace.

It isn’t uncommon to think that it’s only a physical object that can be well crafted, but I believe craftsmanship has existed in graphic, ui, and web design.

Designing for the screen means tapping into a spider’s web of subsequent knowledges.

In terms of artistry we can spend entire, successful and fulfilling, careers looking at nothing but the UI. We can slave over buttons and input fields and headings and images and the setting of body copy.

Or for the technical pursuit, an equally satisfying path to take towards mastery and craftsmanship, it means understanding how to develop the actions that’ll take place when those elements are touched, or even more fundamentally, how to get them to exist.

It’d be a fools-errand to try and master at once the entire network of skills that’s been spun. Our skills would develop in each little strand so slowly that we’d be bound to abandon such a pursuit, hands in air, a sigh in our gait.

But we follow our interests and in doing so draw our own paths, one which touches on different skills from different directions, often one at a time.

It’s for this reason that designing for the screen is a wonderful place to pursue the development of a craft. We all develop a different set of skills, bringing different experiences and knowledges and interests to the work that we do.

Without trying, with only a drive to follow what piques our own interests, we can each produce unique and interesting work.

Even if we were to spend decades mastering every bend of this web of knowledge, we would each go about it differently.

Which, thankfully, means as each of us works towards our own individual versions of what craft means, we’ll all produce unique offspring.

It’s easy to look at the entire web of knowledge in our industry and freak-the-hell-out. Web and screen design is broad and deep and hectic and messy and ever-evolving.

If you feel like you’re falling behind, don’t fret. You’re not alone. Almost everyone feels that way.

But if you want to do something about it, if you wish for your work to become your craft, then do what the master’s apprentice would do – work slowly, work methodically. Don’t worry about where the other apprentices are – just worry about your own path and worry about developing the skills before you.

That is, focus on one thing.

For me, right now, that’s writing. Next will be podcasting, and after that it will be UI elements – I’m too far behind and don’t want to worry about entire websites. So I’ll start with buttons and fields.

It isn’t as sexy as redesigning Wikipedia or YouTube with semi-transparent colour overlays and HD photos that fill the screen, but doing so will teach me a lot about a little.

That’s how a craft is built. Learning a lot of things about a little thing. Then moving onto another little thing, sticking with it until there’s an understanding and growth.

(But not perfection – what a waste that would be. It would mean we would stick with most of our first problems and not move forward. And what a load for your shoulders. Just focus on understanding.

The next time you come around to the same thing to focus on, you’ll be naturally seeking an understanding deeper than you were aware of when passing through the first time).

So, what’s your one thing? What’s the one, small, insignificant 1% of your craft you’re focusing on?