Why DIY?

Stacey Kuznetsov and Eric Paulos at Carnegie Mellon University recently published results from their study into DIY projects, communities, and cultures. They said:
A year or so ago, we invited DIY enthusiasts from Instructables , Ravelry , Adafruit , Craftster , Dorkbot , and Etsy to fill out our survey on DIY communities, projects, and cultures. We received 2600+ responses in just a few weeks. Many many thanks to everyone who contributed!!
Our work explores DIY as a vibrant culture with a long history of learning, creating and sharing. We hope that our study inspires more discussion and future collaboration within and across DIY and academic communities.

For a more complete description of this study, go here.

DIY's Means of Persuasion

It is very interesting to look at DIY from the perspective of Aristotle's means of persuasion, namely Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, to decipher exactly how the community presents itself, and why. 
The goal of argumentative writing is to persuade your audience that your ideas are valid, or more valid than someone else's. According to Aristotle, rhetoric is "the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion." These are:
  • Pathos (Emotional): The appeal to the emotions of the audience. Language choice affects the audience's emotional response, and emotional appeal can effectively be used to enhance an argument.
    • ex: "Those foreigners took our jerbs! American jerbs!"
  • Ethos (Credibility): The appeal based on the source's credibility, the speaker's/author's authority. Ethos driven arguments rely on the reputation of the Author.
    • ex: an expert witness in a trial.
  • Logos (Logic): Appeal to reason or the rational argument supported by arguments or justification. Aristotle's favorite, this appeal includes deductive and inductive reasoning.
    • ex: statistic-heavy essay about why people should recycle.
The Pathetic appeal of DIY would be to illustrate and condemn the negative effects that consumerism has on our environment and on us as individuals. This may be done by showing pictures of fluffy bunnies whose forest homes have been cut down or the materialistic fad-crazed 13 year old who makes us all wonder where childhood has gone. This is possibly the least present of the three appeals within the community itself, but it is one of the most strongly supported arguments for news outlets and serves as something of an explanation and an inroad for those outside the community wishing to or wondering why they would enter.

The DIY appeal to Ethos would be to call upon the masters, the craftsmen, the experienced craftspeople, and have them explain why they and we should choose making over buying. (for example, my quoting Megan Nicolay on the this page) By showing us what the experienced and the determined gurus of DIY have accomplished, it gives the beginners hope and the intermediates something to strive for with their own creations.

The DIY appeal to Logos is very similar to that of Pathos, which would again to illustrate the negative effects that consumerism has on our environment and on us as individuals. The first may be done by giving statistics on how much energy goes into making a single t-shirt, or how many pounds of salvageable textiles are thrown into landfills each year. The second might explain the joys of having clothing that truly fits your own body or having furniture and decorations which are not some mass-produced pottery barn piece, but instead something you lovingly crafted with your own hands and which represents your personal aesthetic as nothing else could.


One of the most frequently seen images througout the DIY movement is it's unofficial logo:

This image represents many things to many different people; for some it is an incarnation of the idea that if you're not creating you're not living, for others it displays the necessity of using what we already have instead of always producing more. This logo is ubiquitous to all forms of craft, all personalities, and all members of the DIY community. Some of my favorite examples of the use of this logo are:

(I took this one)

These are just a few of my favorites which I've saved over the last year or so, and from Cross stitch to skateboards, it's DIY or DIE.

The Visual Rhetoric of the DIY Movement

In many ways the DIY movement is predominantly a visual movement, because for most DIYers the fun is in creating something that fits your own unique aesthetic. 

Some people have very interesting aesthetics
Most of the items made by DIYers are valued mostly for their visual appeal; clothing, home furnishings, art, jewelry, and even the little necessary items like office supplies can be made out of things most people would throw away. These 'trash treasures' can be made into something unique and beautiful, and having been given new life, they can fulfill more than just the purpose they were initially intended for, if only someone is willing to put the time and effort into it!

The DIY movement is not concerned with creating great change in government policy, it is an individual grass-roots movement which is ubiquitous to every area of the world, and this community most often utilizes the internet as their medium for connecting, encouraging, inspiring, and sharing their various areas of interest and projects. 

These websites are, of course, massively visual. Aside from the content posted by users of their individual projects, they also inevitably have some sort of logo which becomes a rallying point of sorts for users and usually has a re-purposing, DIY, renegade creation feel to it. Some examples of these logos are:

Their main logo
This image is often animated to show needles pricking both fingers, and then the thimbles descend and the attacking needles simply bounce off
The site's main logo featuring a self-portrait of its creator Crafterella
Learn HOW TO make stuff. So simple yet so inspiring. has many logos which cycle randomly in the upper left hand corner as you navigate through pages, each with a funny tagline and cute picture.

And I just like this one:

The Ultimate Tutorial

Each and every one of these images are created with the encouragement and support of the DIY community in mind, and most of them use a little touch of humor to make them a wee bit less intimidating.



The first online DIY community I discovered was ThreadBanger, which pulls together a little bit of everything you could want from a DIY community; written and video tutorials, a user forum, themed shows including home decorclothingsustainable livingprojectstechniquesidea roundups, and more. This is a great place for beginners to start, or just to wander around and get inspiration for your own projects.
The site says of itself:

ThreadBanger is the home of DIY fashion how-tos, home décor tips, and more! Let us teach you the techniques to make your OWN style. 
Today's hippest trends aren't in New York, Paris, or Milan. They're waiting for you in your closet, your attic, and the thrift shop down the street. Make your own style, send us proof, and become a ThreadBanger!

The thing I found most inspiring about ThreadBanger is how open and inclusive a community it is. Most of the projects are made to be simple and easy to follow, even for a newbie like I was two years ago. The projects themselves are so creative and have such awesome uses for otherwise useless or wasted objects that it seems silly not to do them!

Some of my favorite ThreadBanger projects are:

How To Make a Shirred Fabric Summer Dress

How-to Make a Halter Top with Megan Nicolay

How to Make a Scoodie

How-to Make a Vest

How to make a Bomber Hat

Mad Hatter Costume

Eco Friendly Clothing, Conscious Clothing

Indie Clothing, Chaos Clothing

Last year the site changed dramatically when its three core video hosts left, and since then the new posts have slowed down some, but the forums are still thriving and there is a huge backlog of projects to check out, as well as a couple of very determined Threadheads still posting regular video tutorials.