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Friday, August 1, 2003

CDF Week Five Wrap-Up

Hard to believe there is just one more week of class left before summer session is over...

This last week has been fun and an interesting juxtaposition with the previous weeks. The main message of the first four weeks was all about being careful and making deliberate, design-oriented choices. This week's message has been about allowing in the random, the unplanned, the accident.

We spent today applying images to our sketches, black and white via cut up, photocopied photos or in color, via the slide projector. It's amazing I didn't slice the tip of my finger off with my xacto knife. We took photos and I'll try to get them off the server soon and post them.

Next week is information design and I might teach a mini-software-bootcamp session on Dreamweaver and basic HTML. Also next week is when we'll be assembling our Process Books, which collect and make sense of the work we've done over the course of the class. It's what our grade is basically based upon.

posted at 01:54 PM in 3D, big ideas, classes | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, July 31, 2003

Exploring the Accidental

More work on our 3D sketches today. Here's one of mine (click for larger size):

For fun, I took a small movie (344k mpg) of our class hard at work, sticking pins into pieces of paper and foamcore.

Part of what we're learning is how to accept accidents and unexpected things in our work. It's difficult to visualize how things will look in 3D until you try them, until you play with shapes in space. This is tough for people like myself who do all their designing in virtual space or on paper in 2D to accept.

We're also starting to mix images in with our shapes, projecting them with a slide projector and glueing them to the planes. Unfortunately, all my pictures of this look terrible, but the effect is amazing, especially with the slides. Again, it's nearly impossible to determine before seeing it how the images will work with the form. It has to be seen and played with. Play is very important in design.

There was also a field trip to see Pittsburgh Platforms: New Projects in Architecture + Environmental Design and Panopticon: An Art Spectacular at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Both exhibits were well worth seeing, but the Panopticon's exhibit space, with paintings stretching 20 feet to the ceiling and covering every wall, with sculptures and chairs in the middle of the room and growing up columns like vines, was awe-inspiring. You could spend hours there.

I could immediately see why Craig sent us to see the chairs: if you look at them a certain way (ie like a designer), you see that they use the same planes and curves that we are working with on our sketches, just not abstract. (Although some of the chairs are pretty abstract!) They have the same play of axes, the same use of negative space. Nice to see the classroom translating into real world activites.

posted at 04:36 PM in big ideas, design 101, field trips | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Planar Construction

We spent today's class making small sculptures ("sketches") out of foamcore and paper rectangles, the dimensions of which were based on the measurements we took of our bodies back on Monday, scaled down to 1/4 size. It's all about how planes relate to each other in space. Not surprisingly, there were a lot of Fallingwater-influenced designs, and quite a few that looked like Frank Gehry leftovers.

It's strange to think of 3D shapes as sketches, able to be changed easily. It was equally strange not to sketch out on paper these sculptures, but just relax and train your mind to move freely about the space. The next step is adding a black-and-white image to the planes of the sculpture. I'll post pictures tomorrow.

Reading: We're also reading Elements of Design, which is a collection of the thoughts and processes of Rowena Reed Kostellow, an influential and innovative design educator.

posted at 12:37 PM in 3D, readings | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The Wright Stuff

Our class went to two of Frank Lloyd Wright's houses today: Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob.

Fallingwater is generally considered a masterpiece, one of the top five houses ever built. And it's easy to see why:

What's fascinating to note are the smaller compositions within a bigger composition: like the fireplace inside the living room. Harkens back to our discussion yesterday about the Japanese bento boxes, where each element is composed inside the whole of the box.

Wright's command of light is pretty amazing, too. A darkened hallway warns guests not to go that way. Skylights drop light inside only during certain seasons. Skylights are hidden in an herb garden to let light and air into a bathroom.

Equally impressive is Wright's command of his clients. His nearly total control of every detail is an unusual state for a designer. His "consessions," especially at Fallingwater, are pretty minor.

Fallingwater, by the way, is a mess, structurally. It's taken two years to fix all the problems. It was sinking into the river, basically. It also doesn't seem like the most comfortable place to live, although with the dozens of people going through the house with you, it's hard to tell. You get about 2 minutes a room, if you're lucky.

Kentuck Red is a little more relaxed, both as a place and the experience of touring it. It's a much more humble and warm house than Fallingwater; much more like Wright's earlier Prairie Period houses (1901-1922) that I like so much. It's a beautiful house in its own right, with some nice views on the property as well:

Kentuck Knob only has two right angles in the whole house, and those are in the showers. Everything else is at 30, 60, and 120 degree angles: even down to the dental molding around the skylights.

All in all, a worthwhile day, looking at some beautiful architecture.

posted at 10:49 PM in field trips | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, July 28, 2003

Forms in Space

This week's instructor is Craig Vogel, Director of Graduate Studies here in the college of fine arts and former president of IDSA. We're learning about 3D objects: how to create and manipulate forms in space. To that end, we're working on one individual project that stretches the week. It's some kind of small sculpture built out of foamcore and paper. We don't know what it is we're building yet, except that some of the pieces are taken from measurements we did of each other's bodies today. Neema got the pleasure of measuring yours truly.

But today's class was a pretty high-level overview of some of the theories, people, and processes of industrial design. We examined two cars, the Aztek and the PT Cruiser, to see why the Cruiser worked (from a design perspective) and why the Aztek did not. Products, it turns out, can be driven from either a quantitative point of view, or from a qualitative point of view. Too often, as with the ugly Aztek, the quantitative has been the driving force. But in the new world of product design, there needs to be a shared understanding of what the engineers (the quantitatives) and the designers (qualitatives) do to create better products. The best products are the ones where all the elements of it work seamlessly together to form a gestalt. Hybrids fuse different perspectives into new gestalts.

In preparation for our fieldtrip tomorrow to Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, we talked a little about Frank Lloyd's Wright's notion of "Subliminal Mathematics," which is about using underlying, invisible math as a starting point for form.

We looked at the work of notable product designers like the Eames, and Raymond Loewy. Loewy came up with the idea of MAYA: Most Advanced Yet Acceptable, which is the underlying thought behind innovative designs such as the Cruiser. We also looked at Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim as an example of qualitative design leading quantitative.

Briefly noted was the influence of Japanese design on products and architecture and the Japanese notion of asymmetrical balance.

We also talked about how previously, products were designed for men whose body shapes were in the 50th percentile range as far as shape, height, weight, etc. Now, products are designed with both men and women in mind, ranging down to the 1st percentile of women and up to the 95th percentile of men.

If this entry seems crammed full of stuff (and I've only mentioned half the things that were tossed at us today), it's because the class was as well. As we've seen from previous weeks, it's a trail to get everything in about a topic in only a week.

Tomorrow is our field trip to "one of the greatest and most sophisticated uses of space and form ever made."

posted at 09:08 PM in big ideas, classmates, design 101, faculty, projects | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Perspective Drawing Images

As promised, some images of me and my partners Andy Ko and Matt Easterday working on our final project for Drawing...I mean, Visualization: a 3D drawing of a 10x10x12 room for an Exploratorium-style exhibit for kids on typography. (Wow, I can see the kids lining up for that one!) Click on any image for a bigger size.

posted at 12:06 AM in projects | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


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All straight lines circle sometimes. - The Weakerthans