For the Aspen Ideas Fest: The Artisan-Entreprenuer


Below is a transcript of my "big idea" speech as well as a collection of videos of beautiful products, the stories of their creation, and the brilliant craftsmen & women from around the world. These are the people who are creating objects with stories that are more than just an object, something that gives people love of ownership.

My transcript from the opening big ideas talk:


Hi my name is Matt Crowley. I'm a recent Stanford grad and now work at Apple as a manufacturing designer. I'd like to ask you all to take your phones out and look at them. Really look at them. Have you ever stopped and wondered about all the 100's of parts that go into making that phone? Where they all come from? How they're made or what they're made from? You probably haven't.

See, the past generation perfected mass production and distribution of goods, be it a car, fridge, bike or your phone. But in that process they managed to separate the product from the story. And a product's story is its genesis; where it came from, who made it, and why it was made that way. My former professor, and the founder of IDEO, David Kelley once told me "that if a product were a jet, than its fuel is the story." What happens though when you lose the fuel?

As much as companies would like you to think that that phone you're holding shows up at your doorstep untouched by human hands the truth is that it takes a huge amount of time, effort, and skill to product these objects. And when you stop understanding this, like we have now, you start getting wasteful. You no longer respect the product and you no longer have pride of ownership so it's easy to discard or throw away when it gets dinted, broken, or a new one comes along.

The good news is this is starting to change as designers start to realize this problem. Thanks to the internet, for the first time since the industrial revolution, a person can make a decent living by just making one product extremely well. This new generation of craftsmen and women are taking advantage of this by starting companies like Rickshaw Bags, DodoCASE, and Cut Brooklyn.

And on their websites they not only showcase their products but have videos of how they were made and who made them. They take pride in the product and the process so that you can too.

So that's my big idea. The next time you're about to buy something take a moment and try and find its story: who made it, how it was made, why it was designed that way? Because if you can give a product back its story you'll not only notice you'll keep it longer but you'll start to love the things you own.

Thank you.