Archive for September, 2008


Now we’re going somewhere…

September 24, 2008

Report from the middle of the night – I think this is actually starting to work out ok. I’m up working on a 3d model in SolidWorks, planning to get it printed as soon as the 3d printer opens up, likely tomorrow evening. That means I have plenty of time to get this finished off, but I also need to get on top of my boards tomorrow – I don’t want to be up all night Thursday working on those.

Current plans for the model vary from optimistic to worst case scenario. Worst case scenario, I get the model printed just in time for presentation, and I have a snazzy white model that looks snazzy. One step up the rungs from that is a quick coat of primer, and then hit different parts with one coat of paint – just to differenciate materials to compliment a nice computer render on the boards. Best case, I get it printed in time to do some real priming, filling, and sanding – get the thing looking like a real injection-molded piece of plastic. However, with time slipping away as other people print stuff, I’m becoming less optimistic I’ll have time to do a good job on that, and am lowering expectations somewhat to match.

I may find a middle ground… hit the body with just a quick coat to give it a color, and then spend the real time on the buttons – prime, sand, fill, and then apply some decals to put logos on the buttons – it’d look real snazzy if I can pull it off, but we’ll just have to see how much time it’ll take.

All that talking, and no picture… How about this one?

Solidworks is fun!

Solidworks is fun!

You’ll notice a couple things: One, Blackberry image on the front – I’m using it for reference for size of buttons, trying to size up how hard it’ll be to use the thing. Its kinda small, especially if we want to take people with decreased mobility into account. To that end, I’m thinking of adding a plug to the bottom (USB or something similar) – to allow people to plug in a full sized keyboard if they need it – The thing would already need most of the functionality of a computer in it anyways, and USB isn’t all that complicated.  Another thing to notice, a square below it on another sketch plane, thats the outline for the space I’ve blocked out for batteries. I’m thinking of going built-in rechargable, with another plug to keep the USB plug company. That also keeps people from running through boxes of non-rechargable batteries over the course of a project, but it’d limit mobility if you had to have it plugged in… but I guess that is somewhat unavoidable – I’ll keep thinking on that one. Third, I’ve blocked out the screen with another sketch, ready to cut that out when I shell the part. I’ve spec’d out a basic LCD screen from some electronics supply places to figure how much space it’ll take up, and its only 8mm thick – so not bad at all.


-Design the buttons, and make that nice array of holes.

-Create holes for camera, and label printer. not all that complicated, actually, just need time.

-Shell, open up the holes, create groove around edge to keep things fitting together nicely.

-Create button and other spare part inserts to fit in the holes as seperate parts.

/Back to work.



September 21, 2008

I’m not sure what it is about this project… but I’m not quite into it. Thats probably a bad thing at this stage in the project, especially when I’m running catch up anyways. I’m working on ironing out the form right now – current plan is to hang out in the shop tomorrow and make foam models. Monday pick a final form, get a final model done in the computer by Wednesday and printed out (or just built, depending). Then, spend Wednesday, Thursday getting some boards together – they will be an essential part of the presentation, with some storyboards, development information, etc on them, and they need to be top notch for this to fly.

I have a feeling that may be part of it – the whole missing a week just after project kickoff was distracting, at the very least, and created a real disconnect right when I was beginning to form a problem and think about what I was working on. Thinking back on this project, but also many of the other projects I haven’t enjoyed all that much (and thus, get mediocre results from), they typically are the ones where I don’t follow a good design process – for instance, last year when doing the bodyfit project, we had 2 weeks to design and build a ‘body fitting’ object. Since I burned the first half of that time away doing some basic ‘research’ and making a mold of someone’s arm, I didn’t get around to doing much ideation – my problem had an ‘easy’ solution that I went with for the sake of expedience, most sketches were basicly ironing out some minor mechanics and coming up with a form that looked (in retrospect) really boring and uncomfortable. Getting off my game for a week kinda interrupted the generation of ideas – I have a feeling thats part of the problem.

The other possibility is that electronics just arn’t my thing. I always thought of electronics as one strong design field that I could get into, but may just be its not my cup of tea, or something like that. I’m slightly more skeptical of this possibilty, given that it may just be that the unholy spawn of a camera and a label maker just isn’t my thing, but thats how the project is going.

On the other hand, perhaps I just need sleep.


I made it on the internets!

September 19, 2008

Gray sent me this link – not sure how he found it, but this looks like something that’ll end up in my portfolio or on my resume or something.

“That seems obvious while perusing both the professional and student levels of “Made in Georgia.” In the latter gallery, careful sketches outline small, beautiful handmade architectural models, which at first glance exist as tiny art pieces themselves. Grayson Thibadeau’s sleek “Lakeside Lounge” seating design is equally as functional as Bryan Ake’s spindly “Spyder Chair,” but the two visions couldn’t be more different. And these works give the older, more experienced designers cause for optimism that the future of their field lays in capable hands.”

link to a PDF of the chair, for those who haven’t seen it:



What does it mean to be a designer?

September 17, 2008

Designers are the wizards of the digital age.

That statement is going to make me sound like a geek. But it makes sense in my head.

A designer’s job is to be a mediator for people, to be a go-between between them and the ‘magic’ of new technology. The majority of people can’t deal with raw technology, and the majority of the people who come up with technology can’t understand why people can’t handle the technology like they can (see: Aware Home).

And so you have the designer – our job is understanding stuff. Not quite to the point of an expert on either side of the field – we generally arn’t inventing new tecnologies, but we need to understand those that the Nerds in engineering and comp. sci. come up with. We don’t need to be completely up to date on all the details of psycology and the social sciences, but we need to be able to relate with people and make things for them.

Thus the ‘wizard’ analogy. We arn’t in the business of discovering the ways that magic exists in the world, but it is our job to use it to help the common people, and put it in forms that people can use.

That looks worse on paper than it does in my head. I’m thinking Lord of the Rings here, not Hairy Potters or anything of that sort. Nothing against it, just not a fan.


Back on the horse again

September 17, 2008

Back to work. Its taken me a couple days to get back into the studio groove, but I think I have a plan for where I’m going again. I’m going to run with the storage problem, while not directly attacking the storage problem. From what I’ve seen in my research, older people store lots of stuff they don’t really need. The reasons for this tend to vary – I’ve seen a couple. One, they’re afraid they might need it later – one source attributed this to growing up in harder economic times, or back in the day when products were made to last, and did, instead of the environment of today, when things are meant to be used and disposed of.

Then, there are a couple other reasons – for some, even if they don’t need something, they thing someone else in their family does – my grandmother had 4-5 sets of dishes in her basement, because they’re still technically good, and who knows when one of the grandchildren will be moving out and needing a set, or if another relative will need them, etc. There are boxes of things waiting to be shipped to family who moved out of state, especially the grandchildren, there are boxes being saved for children who ‘will want them once they get more room to store it.’ On the other hand, you have the sort that stores stuff because it was expensive one day, and would be worth a lot to the right person – one grandfather has boxes of vacuum tubes in his attic, and because of their age, they’d be quite valuable to someone who needs them to restore an antique, or putting together some piece of retro technology. In this case, its not the usefulness of teh item that is the problem, its getting it to the right person that is at stake. I mean, when my grandfather was moving and needed to clean out some, he invited people over and was giving stuff away if they could use it.

This proposes a couple options – the direction David proposed to take the project is to make up a business that would help solve the problem and create a product that they would need to interface with the customers and their stuff in their homes (while still keeping it a domestic product?). For one option, I’ve found websites that allow people to swap books and movies – you post your stuff and what you want, and it calculates options of people that want that same swap in the opposite direction – the facilitate the trade by printing shipping labels and stuff. That sort of program would work for some stuff, but in many cases, people don’t need all that much stuff – they just need to get rid of some stuff. I could see some sort of online system that allows people to ‘buy’ stuff, and then those people who sold it can trade in that currency for either more stuff, or trade it in for resturant gift certificates or something else they can use.

As for what this leads to in Product designs, I’d imagine they would need a retail location to create their online product list… and some way for people to easily get stuff to and from the store. They would need mailers to get rewards to people, and boxes or other packaging for the stuff they’re shipping out. People would need to somehow document the products in a consistant way, as well as some way to keep stuff somewhere they can find it. I can see a ‘rental’ sort of system working, similar to those big storage containers people rent and put on their driveway – people rent a unit that helps them store stuff, and get it to a ‘retail ready’ state, taking pictures, writing descriptions, etc.

The other option, and I’m not sure what sort of product options we have here, is for the people who need to get stuff to family if they want it – I don’t know what I could do with that, but I’m still thinking on that.



September 11, 2008

I don’t have anything studio related to talk about, since I haven’t worked on studio in the last couple days – my grandmother had a heart attack Tuesday, and didn’t make it through the night. I missed studio yesterday, and will miss it Friday (lots of family getting together and stuff), then will be busy all weekend – there is a chance I’ll make it to school today though, there isn’t anything else going on and I don’t have anything else to do (out of town family still not arrived yet).

In the meantime, here are some links I’ve found while browsing the internet in the last week or so, compiled for some intriguing thought. Best towards the top – definitely read the first one.


Intel is working on… Wireless power for your laptop. Definitely an interesting concept, I can definitely see some room for product development with that sort of fun stuff.


A collection of some pretty sweet bookshelves  – the ones at the top are especially cool. I want some for my hypothetical home one day.


Some sort of design blog – not all design-ish stuff, but pretty interesting still.


Little tutorial on making a logo. Interesting to see someone’s design process, definitely stuff to learn here.


Enjoy –



Where things be going.

September 8, 2008

I can’t say I know exactly what I’m doing – I think I have some good ideas though.

I’m trying to avoid the cliche-ish old people projects – trying to avoid fixing an easy problem with a horribly complex solution. Yes, a pill dispenser would be nice, and would save some headaches, but such an animal already exists, and redesigning it really isn’t necessary. Although I could design a new chair-lift to get people up and down stairs, it doesn’t require any real innovation. In other words, I’m looking for a more open-ended problem that can really inspire some innovation and let me do something really interesting.

I have a couple thoughts. One, addressing the stair issue, how can we eliminate the whole chair lift thing in the first place, by reworking the stair design to make them transversable by people with limited mobility, without making them unusable to normal people? The idea would be, to allow for disability without creating unhealthy habits such as Elevators and such – they are required in buildings because of building codes, to help people who can’t get up standard stairs – but it ends up with perfectly normal people who use them because they are too lazy to walk up a flight of stairs. On the other hand, only the disabled people use the chair lift – but because of its design, it is basically a social stigma to use it – how do you avoid that, while not enabling laziness?

My other thought, was that old people have lots of crap. As in, too much stuff in their basements that they really should throw away. Both sets of my grandparents have a bit of a packrat issue, collecting completely different stuff – one collects stuff best catagorized as “garage sale crap”, with the justification that “oh, Tim will want that one day” – and on the other side of the family, we have an overly large collection of old technology stuff, everything from boxes upon boxes of vacuum tubes in the attic, old electronic components, boxes of equipment, whatever. All extremely useful stuff in its time, but not something my grandfather will ever use again – at least not something he is likely to use in anywhere near the magnitude of what he stores. Again, a fair amount is being stored for when ‘someone else’ needs it. And in many cases, there is some useful stuff that ‘someone’ needs, and that shouldn’t be thrown away, but that person finding that thing is highly unlikely.

When you add this tendancy to store everything with decreased mobility, dexterity, and all sorts of other problems that come with age, you have a problem of epic preportions, where the only person who knows where stuff is can’t handle it, and those who could use it don’t know it exists. This seems like a nice complex problem that could use an elegant solution – some sort of storage system that would help with all that. But, how would it be implemented so its different (and better) than every other storage system, and is that problem better stated as ‘what should be thrown away’?

mmm… research.