Tag Industrial Design

A Mind Forever Voyaging II.

Several months after I stopped writing in August 2011, I noticed my creative and thinking abilities had lessened (I label this collective “design”).  While I was still thinking of new ideas and concepts, I found they lacked the time (and “environment”) to develop.

Now that I’ve restarted this process, I am slowly regaining a sense of “flow” that I have been able to periodically achieve over the past several years.  It’s this sense of flow that ultimately drives new ideas and initiatives, both of which help pave the way for new opportunities.

The basis for building a solid design foundation is to continuously create.  In my opinion, writing, drawing, programming, building and reading are activities that  positively contribute to this “foundation” and are a method of creation in their own right.

While creation is key, it’s important to heed frog founder Hartmut Esslingen’s warning:

The way of design is only achievable via creative model-making and prototyping by the designer. Tools, both real and virtual, connect our mind with the real world. However, tools also define how we shape things: tools’ limitations enhance our deep involvement with them and the materials, and honing our skills ultimately leads to mastership. The curse of “easy” digital tools is to become complacent after relative early “successes.” This can lead to mediocrity and a loss of creative excellence. Like the new “polystyrene slates” of many new electronic products, where excellence is defined by how well the corners are shaped (a re-run of 1950‘s boxy design), our modern-day digital design software is the cause for zillions of repetitive and bland products. Charlie Chaplin’s classic film of mechanized dehumanization, Modern Times, is a déjà vu of our current state.

While his opinion is perhaps based in the industrial design arena (frog helped develop Apple’s foundation design language), his comments clearly apply to design disciplines outside of ID.

This is one tension of many that I will need to factor into my development strategy, and will be further explored in future posts.


Inspiration: DRIVE.

Ever since I became interested in concept design in 2006, that interest continues to expand through the work of talented concept artists across the world.  One artist and designer who I have learned from via Gnomon DVDs, and met briefly at the Art Center College of Design, is Scott Robertson.  Late last year, Scott released a new book called “Drive” which includes a wealth of new and unique vehicle concept sketches and renderings.

Here’s the official description from the Design Studio Press site:

DRIVE features Scott Robertson’s very latest vehicle designs intended for the video game space communicated through skillfully drawn sketches and renderings. DRIVE builds upon the success of his prior two vehicle design brooks, Start Your Engines and Lift Off. Featuring four chapters, each representing a different aesthetic theme, Aerospace, Military, Pro Sports and Salvage, conceptual sports cars, big-rigs and off-road vehicle designs are beautifully represented through traditional and digital media sketches, and renderings.

This is definitely one I will be adding to my concept art collection very soon.

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)

Mental Evolution III (“Lessons”)

January 1, 2011 marks the beginning of the tenth chapter (“Plane”) in the Planescape saga – a chapter I call “Immersion.”  While the details are still being mapped out, I am becoming enthusiastic about what this new framework entails.

In advance of sharing more details about Immersion, I think it’s worth sharing a few things that I’ve learned over the past year – particularly over the past sixty days – all of which will be incorporated into my larger advancement strategy.

  1. In the workplace, team chemistry is perhaps the most important thing to me.
  2. I have a much clearer sense for what I should ultimately strive for, and what I can leave behind.
  3. I have a better understanding of my strengths and skills, and also have the confidence to let some of those skills lay dormant as I develop new skills and further improve my strengths.
  4. I believe that if I am not happy, moving somewhere else will not necessarily change this.
  5. I am uncomfortable with a significant amount of uncertainty, but I have learned ways to accommodate where extreme uncertainty exists.
  6. I have learned what it feels like to be unemployed and the psychological effects of the job search.
  7. I have a better understanding of the types of companies that interest me – and those that do not.
  8. I know I need to centralize my development around design, technology and business.
  9. I need to be more careful and conscious of future decisions to increase my life satisfaction.
  10. The past several years of effort have ultimately paid off in terms of being able to tell a more accurate story of who I am and where I’m going.
  11. I am interested in leading design efforts with proper experience / education.
  12. I have learned that a continuous bombardment of failures can result in a sense of “learned helplessness” which can be corrected.
  13. I have a better sense of who to trust and when trust should be given.
  14. I have learned better decision-making skills given past failures.
  15. I do not wish to work at home or alone because it is psychologically very draining / alienating for me.
  16. I have a better understanding of what I want and do not want in my life.
  17. I have learned that I can become blocked when facing too many significant (life) decisions at once; thus, employing some type of partitioning strategy is necessary to make these decisions in confident, thoughtful and expedient manner.
  18. I may never be completely satisfied with my life, and maybe that is okay.
  19. My graphic design portfolio is fairly strong, but I need to spend more time developing the other sections of my portfolio (e.g. 3D).
  20. I would like to expend more time on entertainment design, but realize that it may always be a passion but not necessarily a career.
  21. A robust ID portfolio and MFA degree could open a lot of doors for me in the long-run.

Lessons in Efficiency.

I am currently taking “Design Drawing I” – a foundation Industrial Design course at the Academy of Art University.

One of the interesting aspects of this class is that while I am gaining considerable knowledge about perspective drawing, sketching and rendering, one of the foundation lessons involves the development of an efficient sketching workflow.  Understanding the reason behind the prescribed workflow, working within that workflow, and streamlining all aspects of the workflow is key to succeeding in the course (and beyond).

The workflow conveyed in the course typically involves the following four steps:

  1. Thumbnails – very small sketches designed to be created in five minutes or less to determine composition.
  2. Sketching from still life – a loose sketch designed to distinguish light and dark areas.
  3. Drafting – drawing the objects in proper perspective using the life sketch as a reference point.
  4. Final Render – transferring the draft to charcoal paper for the final NuPastel render.

The first several weeks of the course were very challenging for me because while I understood the workflow in principle, I didn’t really grasp the importance of each step until fairly recently.  Because of this lack of awareness, I started to work outside of this workflow.  Not surprisingly, I was less efficient and early on I began to see the class as a “means to an end” vs. the true learning experience I originally signed up for.

Ironically enough, one reason why I originally worked against the workflow was to try to be more efficient.

One of the early lessons in efficiency (i.e. overcoming procrastination) is to “work on the most difficult task first”.  The reasons for doing so are obvious: eliminate your main barrier and everything else will be much easier to complete.  Because of this lesson, I focused on the drafting and render first (the most difficult steps in the above workflow) before spending time on the thumbnails and life sketch.

After realizing my error, I decided to abandon this early efficiency lesson and instead work within the defined workflow.  Due to this change, the past week has been significantly better both in terms of overall (sketch) quality and personal satisfaction.

This concept has applicability to the workplace as well. In general, companies that operate efficiently do better than those that do not.  This is one reason why companies focus their energies on process engineering and process improvement methodologies such as Lean and Six Sigma – i.e. highly efficient processes mean the company can do more with less (e.g. time, money, resources, etc.), and this makes them more competitive.

As with my experience in the classroom, associates who work outside of or against these established processes (for various reasons) can frequently find this behavior to cause them (and others) greater dissatisfaction and efficiency loss in the long-run.

Perhaps the lesson here is not really about efficiency gain – it’s about understanding what you hope to gain from the experience.  If you are treating the activity as a “means to an end” (e.g. a specific result, grade, etc.) then you will likely be less efficient in the long-run, and you may never achieve your objective.  In contrast, if you operate with the mindset that you are working solely for the experience, your satisfaction will increase and you will be efficient by default.