Category Industrial Design

Digital Oils.

After spending a month in Modo, I decided to switch gears and experiment some in Corel Painter.  While my digital illustrations created in the summer of 2010 were created using Photoshop, I wanted to branch out into a true painting application.  While it takes some getting used to, I am really impressed with the digital oil brushes that are just a few of the tools contained within the application.

Being able to use “natural” digital mediums is extremely helpful when attempting to visualize a concept without introducing the complexity of 3D into the picture.  The combination of the Cintiq and Painter’s digital oil arsenal makes for a very fluid and rewarding workflow.

While my latest injury has taken me off the court for the long-term, it will not steer me away from running!  In the spirit of footwear design, I sketched two sneaker concepts using digital oils.  The first is one I call “Y-Axis” and the second “H2O” given it’s clear origins to water and fluid motion.

(Coincidentally, I started using Painter in 1999-2000, but quickly abandoned the program when a few of my early paintings became corrupt after the program crashed.  Ironically enough, while this version does not exhibit this particular issue, it is still problematic.  Frankly, I’m puzzled why this program is still plagued with issues – particularly after more than a decade of experience.)

Nike Design: The KDIII and the Kobe VI

In a desire to break out of my typical exercise routine, I joined a basketball tournament at the gym where I am a member (Note: It’s always helpful if you know how to play before you join a tournament :-).

Ironically enough, my new sneakers led me to further explore Nike’s web site, where I was surprised to find videos of the industrial designers who work at Nike.  The videos are really interesting because they go into the background behind the shoe, calling attention to the unique design elements that make these shoes truly unique.

Nike Zoom KD III: Leo Chang Discusses the Nike Zoom KD III

Nike Zoom Kobe VI: Eric Avar Discusses the Nike Zoom Kobe VI (The Black Mamba)

7: Concept Vehicle – Initial Sketches

Right now I’m unsure how many sketches I’ll post on a daily basis, but here are a few from day 1.  Prismacolor pencil is, I think, the best way to get some initial ideas on paper; doing a similar exercise in digital just isn’t the same.

As you can see here, I’m leaning towards a vertically-oriented cockpit and am exploring the use of various power / transmission mechanisms.  (Click on the images below to enlarge)

(Click on the above image to enlarge)

Seven Days.

After some brief thought over the past twenty-four hours, I’ve decided to spend the next seven days designing a new vehicle concept.

Given this type of experiment, I am not going to spend a lot of time developing a creative brief because my goal at this point is pure creative focus, and less so on adherence to a specific need (fabricated or otherwise).

This journey will start with some exploratory sketches using traditional media (pencil, markers, etc.) and will ultimately conclude with a final 3D rendering using Modo and Photoshop.  While I’ve done several designs and models, these efforts have been separate and distinct – thus, I think it’s going to be a challenge (at least right now) to incorporate both into one project, particularly within such a short duration.

The benefits of this challenge are many.  Two that immediately come to mind include the following:

  1. Be able to independently start and finish a design void of any external forces (clients, instructors, etc.).
  2. Develop techniques to accelerate creative thinking.

If this experiment proves successful, it’s entirely possible you’ll see other seven day challenges appear on the horizon throughout the year.

Additional Renders

(The first render is based upon a Modo tutorial by Andy Brown and the second is a digital sculpture using a combination of curve extrusion and cloning.)

Immersion: Challenges & Opportunities

Portfolio Development: My portfolio has evolved fairly well over the past several years – particularly in the graphic design arena.  The evolution from where I began and where I am today shows a clear positive trajectory.  Recent digital illustration work using the Cintiq and Photoshop also show tremendous potential.  The opportunity here is two-fold.  First, when solid progress is being made, I tend to move on to another challenge without spending additional time to further develop / refine my existing skills.  In some strange way, the possibility for greater success deters me from moving forward.  Second, while the portfolio is looking increasingly professional, it is heavily weighted in graphic design and less so in other disciplines (e.g. 3D modeling, rendering).

Community Engagement: The past several years have focused heavily on portfolio development and the creation of my personal brand.  While there has been significant success in both fronts, the communication and level of engagement has been unidirectional.  My original belief of “build it and they will come” places heavy responsibility on external parties to not only learn about me, but to engage in further discussion.  There is an opportunity to change this unidirectional approach through increased engagement / participation on my end.

Process of Elimination: One of the challenges that I’ve faced with Big Generator is that it has lacked clear direction.  While it started out as a pure information design firm, it quickly expanded to become involved in brand strategy and other related offerings.  The opportunity is to refocus the company and establish a clear business strategy so that it can truly be successful over the long-term.

Out of Balance: One of my biggest challenges that I’ve been working to correct over the past two years involves a clear imbalance between my professional career thus far and the skills that are required to move beyond this realm of expertise.  While my efforts have shown true promise in correcting this “right brain / left brain” imbalance, there is still more work to be done.  The opportunity here is to take greater and more strategic steps to bridge this gap and clearly convey my strengths and potential as a design leader.

Emphasis on Innovation: Being creative for creative’s sake is beneficial, but leveraging creativity to solve real-world problems can be extremely powerful.  While my thoughts and designs are truly “mine”, the bulk of my efforts has been focused inward (self-development, strength building, creative exploration).  The opportunity is to shift gears and transfer more energy towards addressing real-world challenges and designing and creating with true purpose.

Mental Barriers: One of the keys to one’s success is the ability to maintain a high-level of optimism independent of the challenge faced.  With a realization that my optimism level is classified as “average”, there is a clear opportunity to employ constructive techniques to quickly move past barriers that would have normally impeded progress.  With the world moving at a faster pace, there is no better time to find ways to accelerate my ability to navigate through these challenges.

Happiness Accelerator.

Having sold my iPad and after visiting the local Staples store for several weeks, I decided to purchase the latest Kindle.  I sold my iPad primarily because the manner by which I was using it wasn’t too far removed from what my desktop or laptop could essentially do.  Which isn’t to say that either are “touch-enabled” – rather the type of work I do doesn’t require this form of technology (at least right now).

I decided to purchase the Kindle because I read a lot and I don’t feel there is a need to physically take up more room with books that I may never look at again (the vast majority of my books aren’t opened again after reading).

After using the Kindle for just a few weeks, what really surprised me was how much faster I am reading.  Amazon’s goal of enabling an “immersive” experience – in my opinion – has been fully realized.  I originally thought the device would distract me, but the combination of the paper-like screen (“electronic paper“) and unobtrusive controls significantly streamline my ability to take in new content at an accelerated pace.

There are a couple of metaphors I can use to describe this immersive experience and the efficiencies gained through this technology.  The first is what I call “traffic flow.”  The concept basically involves the speed at which one will drive depending upon the conditions beyond the actual roadway.

Taking traffic and road conditions / markings out of the equation, one will tend to drive faster on a road that is void of signs, buildings and other “distractions.”  In contrast, when that same driver enters a town or area where there is an abundance of these “distractions” (natural or manufactured) she/he will reduce their speed to allow their mind to process this additional information.  Reading with the Kindle is similar to driving along the former roadway.

By removing the physical book you automatically eliminate numerous “distractions” – the weight, continuous adjustments to maintain the book “posture”, as well as the psychological barrier when reading books of significant length (Dhalgren is a perfect example).  While the Kindle has a way of conveying “progress” I’ve found the manner by which this information is displayed eliminates this distraction.

If I expand this concept a step further, the size of the Kindle’s screen accelerates the reading process even further.  By displaying only a small amount of content, the reader is able to digest this content much more rapidly and easily than if the page were larger in size.  Because pages are smaller, pages can be turned faster which translates into a feeling of progress.

While reading is not something that needs to be accelerated or rushed, the elimination of “distractions” translates into an immersive reading experience.  It’s this experience that translates into increased enjoyment and learning – and it’s these feelings that ultimately build upon themselves over the long-run.

Consumer Credit and Sustainability

[While I wrote this article nearly two years ago, I’ve decided to repost it here given its focus on creativity and innovation. – A.D.]

The Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) publishes a quarterly magazine entitled “Innovation”.  In the Spring 2008 issue, Craig Badke and Stuart Walker contributed an article entitled “Designers Anonymous” which compares Western society’s consumerism with that of an addiction.  In reading this article, I was able to uncover additional insights which I think are worth sharing.

By making a comparison with the twelve-step program found at the core of Alcoholics Anonymous (which addresses the cause of the problem, not its symptoms), the authors present a similarly structured program for both designers and consumers that encourage sustainable design and purchasing behaviors.

As it is with every addiction, people will need more of what they are getting, or something new to satisfy their desire.  With fewer resources at our disposal and an ever-increasing focus on the environment and our planet, I believe that we’ll eventually reach a tipping point where consumers will come to realize that their purchasing behaviors ultimately impact the environment, and are temporarily satisfying a need that could be fulfilled through other (positive) means.

Because the vast majority of consumerism is driven by credit, credit card companies and other lenders can start moving towards a business foundation in which sustainability is an underlying goal.  Today, these companies are focused primarily on providing the customer access to credit based upon their needs.  This may not be enough for the long-term.

In the future, I believe it’s the lenders responsibility to provide the customer with a “model of sustainability” that can perhaps alter their spending habits for the benefit of the planet.

A similar “model” exists today in the fast-food industry.  Think about how traditional fast-food establishments are making incremental changes for the health benefits of its consumers.  By providing customers with clear nutritional information about each of their products, they are providing a “model of health” that was unheard of five years ago.

Due to the pervasiveness of fast-food in today’s society, companies such as McDonald’s were “required” to make necessary changes in order to adapt to growing demand for healthy eating choices.  Consumer credit is just as pervasive, which is why I believe that lenders will eventually have to promote positive change.

However, this is not to suggest that consumers do not have a responsibility to fulfill.

While following a twelve-step program is a bit extreme and perhaps “prescriptive” (to use the authors’ words), I believe that eventually all consumers will need to pay close attention to what they are buying and decide whether their purchases are truly adding value to their lives at the expense of the environment.

I believe a fair number of consumers are more aware of the impact they have on the planet and are taking steps to make appropriate corrections.  Replacing traditional light bulbs with CFCs, and increasing recycling efforts are good practices in themselves, but omit many other aspects of true sustainability – including the core social impact.

Today, most companies are unable to (either due to lack of knowledge, or desire) provide consumers with a true impact assessment of what it took to produce their product and deliver it to the consumer.  Likewise, most consumers do not have the knowledge yet to think about these factors, nor are they necessarily ready to alter their lifestyle even if this information was presented to them.

Given this information, I believe there are numerous opportunities in the sustainability arena.  Here are a select few which I think may be of interest:

  1. Think more about the “twelve-step” program concept and employ its use in other areas – i.e. use it to focus on the cause of a given problem and less about the actual symptoms.
  2. Employ the use of “models” that truly add value to the customer’s life in the long-term, and encourage companies to build strategies around this mindset.
  3. When working with lending companies, encourage them to re-invent themselves for the long-term benefit of the planet by promoting better purchasing decisions through a “model of sustainability”.
  4. Take sustainability to the next level by utilizing and implementing sustainability frameworks (e.g. Environmental Footprint, Cradle to Cradle, and LCA (Life-cycle Assessment)) in companies who may be unfamiliar with these frameworks and require expertise to integrate them into a long-term sustainability strategy.
  5. Think about sustainability as a never-ending goal and remind companies that implementing small changes over time can make a significant impact over the long-term.  Short-term (incremental) solutions do not have to be perfect.
  6. Encourage greater transparency with customers – especially in this area.  By being transparent, customers are more likely to be accepting (at least temporarily) of a company’s current flaws and are likely to remain customers over the long-term (assuming steps to correct these problems are made).  From a sustainability perspective, providing information about how products are manufactured, and clearly displaying their “sustainability” label are two good examples.  Treat customers as business partners.

The Hierarchy of Needs.

In one of my earlier posts, I discussed the concept of “Flow” and how the key to achieving flow – and ultimately happiness – is being able to live a life filled with involvement and enthusiasm in all areas.

In retrospect, is this reasonable given that one’s life circumstances aren’t necessarily such where “happiness” or “flow” is the primary focus?  For example, if my house recently burned down, my primary focus will be on finding immediate shelter – not on being “enthusiastic” or “engaged”.  My focus in this situation is survival.

As you can imagine, there is an ordering of needs that needs to be understood.  Such an ordering – the Hierarchy of Needs – was devised by psychologist Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Motivation”.

“Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is predetermined in order of importance.  It is often depicted as a pyramid consisting of five levels: the lowest level is associated with physiological needs, while the uppermost level is associated with self-actualization needs, particularly those related to identity and purpose.  Deficiency needs must be met first. Once these are met, seeking to satisfy growth needs drives personal growth. The higher needs in this hierarchy only come into focus when the lower needs in the pyramid are met. Once an individual has moved upwards to the next level, needs in the lower level will no longer be prioritized. If a lower set of needs is no longer being met, the individual will temporarily re-prioritize those needs by focusing attention on the unfulfilled needs, but will not permanently regress to the lower level.” – Wikipedia

The hierarchy – represented in the form of a pyramid – has the following structure:

– Self-actualization
– Esteem
– Love/Belonging
– Safety
– Physiological

As just mentioned, in this hierarchy the higher needs come into focus only when the lower needs are met.  Thus, the house example presented earlier makes sense given the ordering shown here – i.e. I need to be safe before I can really focus on my long-term goals, etc.  The key is to ultimately address “core” needs such that one can realize her/his fullest potential through a “self-actualization” phase.

This “hierarchy of needs” concept is applicable in other disciplines as well.

For example, in the book “Universal Principles of Design“, the “Hierarchy of Needs” is one of the 210 design principles described.  The specific use of this hierarchy shows how a given design “…must serve the low-level needs (e.g. it must function), before the higher-level needs, such as creativity, can begin to be addressed”.

This particular implementation of the hierarchy of needs looks as follows:

– Creativity
– Proficiency
– Usability
– Reliability
– Functionality

Having some experience with the design lifecycle, this makes complete sense.  An iPod that looks nice but breaks after the first two months clearly isn’t a good design.  The authors recommend using this hierarchy as a “report card” of sorts to determine where modifications should be made to existing designs to further improve them.

Another discipline where this concept is useful is in the project management arena.  Having considerable experience in this space, I was puzzled with the absence of “interpersonal” elements in project management literature given that the team is ultimately the core of any successful project.  To this end, I formulated a hierarchy of needs that incorporates pure project management concepts along with core interpersonal elements.

This hierarchy looks like the following:

– Momentum
– Problem-Solving
– Constraints
– Storytelling
– Constraints
– Foundation

The key behind this structure is that it has a very close relationship to Maslow’s original hierarchy of needs.

The “real” goal of any project is to have a team where each individual is striving to be the best.  If each team member can work within an environment or “operating structure” (the layers listed above) such that they are able to realize their full potential (i.e. she/he is involved and engaged) and reach a state of “flow” (self-actualization), the collective team will ultimately build enough positive momentum to virtually guarantee project success.

Full details about each of these layers will be published in early July 2009.

The thing to remember is that this hierarchy concept can be employed in many other disciplines – not just the three described here.  Think about how a “hierarchy of needs” can work within your particular discipline.  What is the “ultimate” objective / goal?  How can you use this hierarchy to measure not only your performance but others that also rely upon this structure?

New Concept Art DVDs.

When I first became aware of the Gnomon Workshop many years ago, most of my DVD purchases were focused primarily in the 3D realm.  Over the past several years, and especially now, my interest has shifted less from the computer and more towards more “traditional” art and design concepts.  Interestingly enough (and perhaps not surprisingly), I have found my “analog” training over the past several years has given me a new perspective when creating images digitally.

It’s even more interesting that my journey began using mathematics to render shadows, and many years later I am using traditional media to accomplish the same (e.g. Prismacolor and NuPastel).

To continue my education, I recently added several DVDs from the Gnomon Workshop to my collection:

With the near conclusion of Design Drawing I, I plan to explore these videos in more depth and begin to take advantage of the lessons contained within.