The Craftsman and Design 4.0: A Reconsideration of Creative Value

From Firenze University Press Journal: Fashion Highlight

University of Florence
3 min readFeb 21, 2024

Nicholas Bortolotti, Università degli Studi della Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”

Transition Time

The historic era we are finding ourselves in presents remarkable and dynamic changes which allow to deepen the necessary and worthwhile research in order to comprehend the situation we are currently called to investigate.The evolution of the 4.0 industry brought especially significant mutations in the fashion industry, for it may be the field which better understands the urgency for an evolutive process in Italian manufacturing and artisanal systems. Its nature allows it to orient, condition and tell about the values and the involved territories to an international audience. The concept of circularity, sustainability and digitalization introduces a crucial shift to the Italian manufacturing practices.Terry Irwin identifies the concept of Transition Design, an emerging research area which underlines the recognition of being amidst a time of transition (Irwin, 2015); in this framework, he places the natural condition to rethink more sustainable futures and elects design as the means par excellence to pursue this aim.Detecting Transition design and Design 4.0 becomes therefore fundamental, for it entails the necessity to reconsider the methodologies and tools which were previously applied, along investigating new trajectories to be found. Within this dimension, the concept of Made in Italy itself can find an evolutive rebirth, as the relationship between manufacture and handcraft, design and territories of production transform. Hence the need to reconsider the roles of their characters, lands and identity. Specifically, the figure of the artisan is capable of regenerating itself and contributing to the creation of value, where experimentation is fueled by research and technological specialization. Identifying design as the central element, understood as a process of connection and reconfiguration of resources (Vacca, 2013), it generates a complex supply chain characterized by the coexistence of artisanal and industrial processes, which are hybrid and multifaceted.

Designed in Italy

Designed in ItalyThe artisanal component has always been inherent to our territory, both in terms of realization and in regards to the conception and implementation of design practices closely linked to Italian design (Rossi, 2015). In this dimension, knowledge related to tradition and craftsmanship actively contributes to the enrichment of our cultural heritage, preserving them while simultaneously allowing for a reevaluation of the design process, giving it new boundaries and forms. The powerful dichotomy of tradition and innovation finds space for a significant reinterpretation today, where the vast production capacity allows for great experimental leaps, leading to the reconfiguration of the value chain itself.The work conducted by Paola Bertola and Federica Vacca in the book “Eccellenza italiana: artefatti ad alto contenuto culturale” is particularly interesting, as the authors identify the main variables in which the strong relationship between design and craftsmanship in Italy emerges (Bertola & Vacca, 2020).The reflection finds its starting point in the ability to articulate a design language that is capable, on one hand, of preserving artisanal knowledge by emphasizing specialization and engaging with material culture and territorial tradition. On the other, it is activated through reinterpretations of traditional practices and techniques that acquire new meanings. Hence, there is a need to enhance the content by harnessing and utilizing new technologies which are capable of conveying different meanings and adapting to the changes that design is called upon to address nowadays. The aim to reconfigure the value chain takes shape in the debate between the traditional dimension and an approach focused on process redesign and new design forms. While historically the distinction between industrial and traditional products was linked to the quantity brought to the market, the current scenario supports the concept of small-scale ultra-luxury production. This dimension highlights exceptionalism, uniqueness and dynamism through customization and the definition of a private and intimate sphere of consumption (Branzi, 2009; Colombi, 2009).These considerations allow us to interpret the Italian context, understanding the complexity of the relationship between design and craftsmanship, without neglecting the process of cultural innovation with which these practices continue to enrich our heritage. Their presence ensures the perpetuation of the concept of excellence as a cultural quality that manifests through techniques and innovations, influencing and guaranteeing a distinctive sense of identity and differentiation.


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University of Florence

The University of Florence is an important and influential centre for research and higher training in Italy