Good Work vs Bad Work

by | Dec 22, 2019

When your work becomes art…

On February 10 1982, a team of engineers at Apple held a signing party. They were signing the hard tool that moulded the plastic case of the first Mac. Andy Hertzfeld who was there that day recounts:

“The Mac team had a complicated set of motivations, but the most unique ingredient was a strong dose of artistic values. First and foremost, Steve Jobs thought of himself as an artist, and he encouraged the design team to think of ourselves that way, too. The goal was never to beat the competition, or to make a lot of money; it was to do the greatest thing possible, or even a little greater.”

Andy Herzfeld

Can you think of the work you do as art? If this feels like a stretch try to think of it in the words of acclaimed graphic designer Milton Glaser. In his book “Art is Work“, Glaser gives us a great framework to think about our work as art and what separates bad work from great work.

“There seems to be much confusion about what we mean when using the word art. I have a recommendation. We eliminate the word art and replace it with work and develop the following descriptions: The sad and shoddy stuff of daily life can come under the heading of bad work. Work that meets its intended need honestly and without pretense, we call simply work. Work that is conceived and executed with elegance and rigor, we call good work. Work that goes beyond its functional intention and moves us in deep and mysterious ways, we call great work.

Milton Glaser

Business is not often associated with art but these engineering and graphic design examples should make us think about deliberately practicing our craft with the intent of delivering our best possible work. Who knows? We might move someone in deep and mysterious ways.