OOAK or Unique

How do you define OOAK or unique? Do they still mean what they once did? Many are using the terms interchangeably. Perhaps so much so that they are losing much of their value. And, how does that impact their use in product descriptions?

The irony is that even a quick check of Dictionary.com yields six different definitions from a single source just for the word unique:

1. existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics: a unique copy of an ancient manuscript.
2. having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable: Bach was unique in his handling of counterpoint.
3. limited in occurrence to a given class, situation, or area: a species unique to Australia.
4. limited to a single outcome or result; without alternative possibilities: Certain types of problems have unique solutions.
5. not typical; unusual: She has a very unique smile.
6. the embodiment of unique characteristics; the only specimen of a given kind: The unique is also the improbable.

Using the same website and looking up the phrase one of a kind (OOAK) the definition is:

A unique instance, as in There are no others like it; this hybrid daylily is one of a kind, or She’s extremely generous, one of a kind.

So, when writing product descriptions, which one should be used?

What is unique?

Some would argue that there are rarely things created in the arts and crafts world that have never been created before. But, you say, “No one makes it the way I do.”, “I created my own pattern.”, “I hand-dyed the yarn/fabric/paper.” Yet, if you are honest, is it still truly unique?

Someone who makes a sock monkey isn’t making something all that unique. But, if they crochet one using their own pattern it becomes a bit different. Seems like that would fall under the definition, not typical; but it runs afoul of solitary in type or characteristics.

Here’s the paradox, the definition of unique is itself a contradiction.

When to use unique in product descriptions…

For what it’s worth here’s my suggestions.

A handcrafted item that is unique should fit in one of the following:

  • The materials used are not typically used for making that item.
  • The pattern used is only being used by one artisan.
  • If the pattern is what is being sold, it has characteristics that make it somehow different from what others are making that is of a similar nature. For example, there are many Amigurumi squirrel patterns, but how many are for ninja squirrels complete with their own arsenal?

OOAK Definition

A one of a kind item is just that; one in which there are no others like it. The trick here becomes is it one of a kind because the artisan used materials they can’t replace and therefore could never make another? Or is it one of a kind because only one of that color will be made? Is that reconstructed pink poodle skirt one of a kind because there is little chance of finding another vintage pink poodle skirt needing that same exact repair?

OOAK as a Sales Tool in Product Descriptions

One of a kind when used as part of an item description should indicate something exceptional. If everything an artisan makes is labeled with one of a kind, customers will become blind to the phrase and not value the piece as much as pieces by the artisan who uses the phrase sparingly.

I make crochet animals, and rarely if ever use a pattern. Even if I’m making the same critter, there’s just about a 99.99% chance that the stitch counts will be different, the shape will be slightly different, and the embroidered face will be different. It could easily be said that each is unique – I created the ‘pattern’ and each item is “limited to a single outcome or result”.

My critters would also appear to be one of a kind. If I’m not counting stitches or even using the same materials it would appear that each critter will have no others like it; well, not exactly like it anyway.

OOAK is overused

Perhaps it is this concept of exactness that causes folks to call so many of their items one of a kind. I would imagine even the seamstress who makes 100 handbags from the same pattern could argue that no two are exactly alike. While the stitches may all be the same length, their exact location would have to differ slightly from bag to bag or the fabric pattern may not be distributed the same way from bag to bag. Would I call them one of a kind because of this subtle differences? In a word, NO.

Suppose our seamstress uses the same handbag pattern 100 times and never uses the same fabric twice. Here’s where it gets a bit less clear. Since only one bag of the 100 will use the green polka dot fabric, is it one of a kind? Perhaps. But if our seamstress friend labels all 100 bags as one of a kind – would you, the customer feel like you’ve purchased something all that special when you know there are 99 more of them being sold?

Instead of one of a kind or OOAK, if I were marketing this seamstress and her handbags, I would certainly use a phrase like “only one to be made with this fabric”. I would stay away from both unique and one of a kind as it is neither. The exception to that would be if there was something truly unique about the fabric being used and even then I would shy away from using one of a kind.

OOAK, Uniqueness & Salesmanship

Product descriptions and salesmanship go hand in hand. Using phrases like unique and OOAK carry a certain expectation that the item truly is special.

If everything you make is truly one of a kind, your customers will simply know that they are getting something that no one else will have. In this situation, describing every item as one of a kind becomes tedious and trite.

Personally, I would save the phrase one of a kind or OOAK for those items that I will truly never make again. Unique would be something I would use more frequently, but still judiciously. As someone who rarely uses a pattern, all of my items would be both unique and one of a kind. But, for 95% of what I make, I would still make use of other phrasing. Why use an overused and tired phrase when a little thought can lead to a much better description?

p.s. I would strongly advise against using OOAK to describe one of a kind as many do not know what the abbreviation stands for. I’ve seen established crafters in the forums asking what OOAK means. It is a shorthand that seems to have started on Ebay and is not gained widespread usage like WWJD, LOL, or the many other widely used abbreviations being used today.

p.p.s. Be sure to check out the rest of our marketing posts in the Writing Product Descriptions & Photo Usage section of Blog About Crafts.

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