For the longest time I thought I had to make everything myself.

If it was to be used in one of my designs, I had to have either made it myself or paid a decent amount of money for it.

The icons had to be mine, the photos original, the typefaces rare (I was stupid, but not crazy enough to think I should also make my own typefaces).

It wasn’t because I thought nothing was good enough for my projects, that my work was somehow too good for anyone else’s input to be included in any form.

It was quite the opposite.

I held such reverence for the work of others that I thought it foolish to use something they cared about for some meagre concoction I was stirring.

Much of the materials we can easily source on the web are often crafted objects in themselves. Or, perhaps, milestone-as-artefact as others develop their own craft.

I thought of these things with the highest regard, and wished to do nothing but honour them. Which, for me, meant leaving them alone.

I was being foolish.

These materials, especially the ones which are well crafted, are made for one reason – to be used. Not simply looked at and fawned over, or Liked on a half-dozen social networks and galleries, but to be put into another person’s work. To be part of a symphony of crafted materials.

I felt like it would be taking advantage. Using someone else’s work as if it were my own, gaining some credit for their handiwork. I chose to ignore the words “Free” or “Download Here” or “Just send me an email.”

It’s easy to assume that in pursuit of our crafts we must create everything that we use. But this is as similar as saying the carpenter should carve the wood and smelt the steel of their hammer, or should cut the trees for their chairs.

But what a disservice that is to others who are chasing their own crafts.

In all the time that I thought I shouldn’t use the works of others in the pursuit of my own craft, I was, in effect, saying that it’s only my path that matters. I wasn’t allowing them an opportunity to perform the services they were wishing to render – to inspire and make life a little easier for others.

I still wish to honour other people’s work, works that inspire and ignite excitement.

To do so doesn’t mean ignoring them – it means putting their elements to work and doing so well and with care.

The more I think about craft in web and app design, the clearer the idea of curation becomes.

It’s starting to feel as though if you are to do your craft well as a web and app designer, you have to be able to curate well.

You have to be able to deftly choose what’s brought into the collection that will help complete your project.

Put another way: You have to keep your ear to the ground and have taste.

I wonder how you develop taste? Lots of looking could be it, but that can get in the way of actually making things.

What do you think?

Hit reply and answer one of the following:

  1. How do you feel about using someone else’s free materials?
  2. How do you develop taste?

I hope you’ve got an awesome week ahead of you, and please feel free to send me an email if you’d like a quick chat about whatever’s on your mind :)