Archive for the ‘Studio’ Category


And a cup and saucer in a Pear Tree…

January 8, 2009

I’m really enjoying the current project for studio, Cups and Saucers and Plates. I’m also trying to branch out a bit with my project – I typically design things that are on the modern, simplistic, and geometric side of things – while I don’t have a particular problem with developing a style, I don’t want to get myself stuck in a corner quite yet.  My three words are: Playful, Exciting, and Funky. I’m trying to expand my horizons, and its kinda working thus far. The stuff I made in studio this morning didn’t quite have the desired affect – I was attempting to suggest human interaction through deformation of the form to fit the shape of the hand – however, it ended up looking slightly ‘squishy’ or a bit too crafty.  Funky should be a fun word to work with, I’m hoping to make a form that is just “slightly out there”, or just odd enough to be exciting and something you want to pick up and drink out of. I’m not exactly sure where its going to go, but I guess thats the reason for the design process that I’ll be spending the next couple weeks in.

Also, with regards to the New York idea that David suggested, I have to say I’m rather excited about the whole concept. I never end up following through with some of that sort of project since I”m doing them by myself, and don’t have the benefit of someone to ask questions when I get stuck on a detail. I think we can pull it off, get a lot of very useful experience, and have a lot of fun all at the same time with the right motivation, and a trip to NY may just be what we need for that.



Post Mortem – Project 2

October 3, 2008

Long delayed – I’ve been thinking too much and blogging too little as of late.

Project 2 bombed. Like, just didn’t do well as it should. Part of that was due to loosing a week of development thanks to a death in the family. But, I don’t think I can blame it on that entirely – When I came back I didn’t quite ever dig in and get down to it like I should have – was a bit hard to get into it or something. So yeah, it didn’t go to well. I’m definitely going to look into what I need to do further to push this to a B, since I’m just not cool with getting  C for a project in studio, looks like I’m just not trying. Plus, I’d like to get some cool stuff for my portfolio.

Speaking of which, I’m getting some pictures for my portfolio, mainly stuff I did last year, since this year has been suprisingly bland in terms of what I’m actually producing. I think my problem is the process. Last year, all the good projects (such as the chair, or lamp), I did volumes of sketching, making 50 concepts, all that sort of thing. I still have study models from the chair stashed in a drawer, all sorts of stuff like that. I really just need to get back in that groove – and I think this project is starting to head in that direction more.



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.


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.



Waiting for a project.

September 4, 2008

Today, it seems, is one of those days. I don’t have anything to do. No homework for any class (except Design Research Methods, for which I have yet to be motivated to go work on), and lots of time to do nothing. As such, I can’t help but get that annoyed feel that I don’t have anything to do, since I know that if you give me a week, I’ll be back to staying up all night for nights in a row. If we could spread that out a tad, that’d be great.

On the other hand, I’m getting to do all sorts of stuff I would usually consider ‘goofing off’, or such. Yesterday and today, I’ve been working on a little project – I’m working on a design for a clock. I was actually had my original idea before class started, so this is pre-seniors-working on clocks, but it should be pretty cool. My current goal is a completely custom clock – I’m working on making oversized gears and mechanics that I can cut out on the laser cutter and bandsaw. I’m hoping to emphasize them in the design – they really are the most interesting part of a clock, so why hide them all behind a face? I’m thinking of meshing it with the style of my Lamp from last year – I think the simplistic style + emphasis on angles will work pretty well. That, of course, may change as the project goes on.

First step on that, although I’ve done some initial sketching, I feel I need an idea of what sort of space to allocate to mechanics at this scale – so my current plan is to cut a set of gears and get a working prototype, so I can then design some around it. Its probably a bit more towards the engineering side of things, but since I don’t have an engineer working on this with me, its pretty much my job. Good thing clocks are relatively simple, right?

I’m also doing some prelim work on a sketching ideation tool for my website – just a simple random item generator to solve the problem of “what should I sketch?”. Thats kinda boring, but it helps with stuff.


Studio-wise, we went on a field trip yesterday – and can now say I have a good idea of what it looks like when computer scientists try to get into product design by throwing every cool trick they know in one pile of technology. You get ‘high tech’ ways of tracking grandma’s activity in her house through cameras mounted in her ceiling, which, when you boil it down, consists of breaking up the video feed into pictures and doing some programming at the level of what is taught in CS1315 to everyone at Tech. I mean really, I’ve done more complex programming in my spare time. And to top it off, everything was rife with assumptions as to “oh yeah, that would just work”, or “we haven’t gotten to that part yet…”, or “If you don’t tell old people its a computer, just say its a tool, and they’d be fine!”. I mean, really. The only thing that approached to a complete concept was the computer console that was meant to help someone use a complex technology device, but I’m still not convinced it would be a commercially viable design. Not only did they assume every manufacturer would comply with a single standard to let them interface with the device, but each manufacturer would have to make a complete instruction set for each of their devices, for something that really boiled down to nothing more than a bigger display screen for a glucometer. If a manufacturer was to put that much effort into something, wouldn’t it just be one hell of a lot easier to make the thing better designed in the first place?

All the other things pretty much boiled down to a video camera and a researcher sitting in a backroom simulating a $1000 device that would save you $10 in messed up cookies. All while looking creepy. Throw in that you’d pretty much have to have the kitchen designed around the thing to keep it from looking akward…

To summarize, the whole thing gets a resounding ‘meh’. congratulations, you’re a big waste of money. That said, I do see what they’re trying to do – I just don’t think looking to high (scary) technology is the way to address the problem. Old people don’t like video screens, cameras in the roof, etc, anything that looks like a computer. At least, not this generation. That’ll work in 40 years when my generation is retiring. I’m all for having a robot help me cook. And/or help me blow things up. Who said you have to get boring when you retire?



Project Post-Mortem

August 31, 2008

To wrap up the last project, and get ready for the next one, a proper post-mortem to figure out what happened.

To put it bluntly, I didn’t like how my presentation went. I think the project really needed more time, and that time I had ended up misallocated thanks to some shoddy planning on my part. Lets go through some feedback I got from the reviewers and other classmates:

1. The model backpack I made was nice, but could have used some more work on certain things.

2. Most of the work I did ended up more on the engineering side of things, and even that didn’t quite have enough work put into it.

3. Needed more work on Ergonomics

4. Boards were hard to read in parts where colors overlapped.


And, honestly the reviewers were right – I did spend far too much time on the engineering side of things, but in my defense, in a way, I kinda had to. If I had an engineer on my team working with me, sure, that would have been their concern, but I was told to tackle a problem that had a large amount of ‘how it works involved, and I wasn’t quite comfortable working on ergonomics of the pack when there was such a gaping hole in the plan, such as “how the things fit together”. As not to be completely depressing, It isn’t without its lesson – in the future, an approach closer to Wes’ (leaving the mechanical details in the air to some extent, and use some awesome computer renders to distract the reviewers) may work better.

I think the model backpack was what killed me – scratch that, I know its what killed me. When I have roughly half a week to go from vague concept to presentation, I just didn’t have time to be in the shop chiseling out a backpack from a block of sign foam, nor the time to spend another 5 hours gluing fabric on said block. With another week, that would have been a valid addition to my presentation, without some of the corner-cutting, such as proper-looking padding for the ergonomic people, and perhaps some more care taken when gluing to allow for an ‘open’ view or something. Unfortunately, a lesser model wasn’t possible, ignore fabric and you have an ugly brick of sign foam, ignore the sign foam and you have a hopelessly complicated sewing job. The route I probably should have gone would be a nice render of sorts, but since building a good computer model is, once again, nearly impossible for fabric in the programs I have in my skill set, marker would probably have been the way to go, allowing me more time to work on other more important issues. But, alas, I’m not sure my marker skills are up to the task – yet another thing to add to my to-work-on list.

As for boards, I was quite disapointed with them – I had such awesome plans, but just plain-old ran out of time – despite only stopping work between Wednesday and Friday for classes on Thursday and 3 hours of sleep Friday morning. Didn’t help that most of that was spent gluing fabric on a brick of sign foam, but yeah, we’ve been over that. Next time more planning is in order, with the hope that something nice’ll come out of it.



And a Project in a Pear Tree….

August 28, 2008

I enjoy this part of the studio project the most perhaps – Most of the uncertainty has been ironed out of the design, and most of what is left is the little detail bits to make it look finished and cool, and then prepare all the needed models to describe the design and get it ready for presentation. I spent lots of money on fabric and zippers today, and the sad part perhaps, is that I spent more on materials for a form model (fabric laminated over sign foam), then I did on my current backpack.

Making a foam model isn’t all that hard – you start with a foam block, and take away everything that doesn’t look like a backpack. Horribly overused sayings aside, I basically spent 5 hours with a chisel and hammer, knocking off pieces until it didn’t look like a block of sign foam any more. I haven’t started covering it with fabric yet, but I’ll have some of that done before the morning sun pokes over the horizon. Did I mention that I started writing this post at 11:00 on Wednesday, and am finishing it at 5:30 on Thursday? The model hasn’t gone quite as fast as I hoped it would, but its coming along, so I’m happy. After the model is finished, I have one more model to make out of Styrene (a model of the fastener system), and then comes the SolidWorks model of the frame, followed by some photoshop to play with the model photos – compositing, color adjusting, etc. Once all that is sorted, I”ll finally get down to my boards, preferably before late night tonight, so I can get some sleep and be ready for a presentation.

And, off I go to walmart to get a cut of a more tame accent color, and try to track down a fabric that looks suspiciously like a mesh that you’d find on padding – I’ve been mostly ignoring the side of the pack that interacts with the human, I should probably whip up some straps and padding. Oh – and one of the zippers I bought is too long. Here’s hoping Walmart has what I need, since nowhere else is open… may have to rearrange my to-do list order of operations.