Sunday, April 25, 2010

Co-op Collages

These are some collages that represent my co-op experiences over the past few years at Kaleidoscope, i-mate, and Astro, respectively. They include some pieces of design from each of those companies, but also a lot of inside jokes or things that remind me of my time at each place. For example, the Logitech webcam in the first composition was a simple rendering I did of the webcam I purchased in NYC, which represents my only form of communication with my family at that time. These were fun to make - I learned this style of image board making from Finn McKenty. Ask me if you want to know anything else about these!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

KRAM/WEISSHARR: Embedding Intelligence

This is my second post about a designer I like, this time the design duo of Reed Kram (Representing Columbus, Ohio!) and Clemens Weissharr. Their office, KRAM/WEISSHARR, was founded in 2002, with locations in Munich and Stockholm. I first saw KRAM/WEISSHARR’s BREEDING TABLES at the MoMA this past winter during my co-op at Kaleidoscope.

KRAM/WEISSHARR on the BREEDING TABLES: “In this project their approach towards intelligently intertwining product development and media design, while taking advantage of the newest technological possibilities, is paradigmatically outlined. The product of BREEDING TABLES is tables — not a single one to be copied, but an indefinite number of different tables. With BREEDING TABLES the designers bid farewell to the idea of designing one product to be mass manufactured as a reproduction of the original prototype. In fact they have developed a process that allows for the production of a multitude of individually different products — tapping the full potential of current production technologies. The projects of KRAM/WEISSHAAR stand for a new form of integrated product and process development — and thus for a new way of thinking design.”

The part about “intelligently intertwining product development and media design” is most interesting to me. After exploring their site a little, I found that KRAM/WEISSHAAR use a customized program to generate the virtually infinite number of configurations for the BREEDING TABLES. They may have training in creating their own design tools like this one, or they may work in conjunction with software developers; it’s not really important. What IS important is that they’ve figured out a way to automate some of the mundane decision making in their design process in order to focus on higher-level priorities.

Any piece of design lives within a series of constraints, and it is these constraints that give meaning to the design and often guide the design process toward some solution. The beginning of a design process usually revolves around identifying these constraints (sometimes called problems) in order to give context against which a solution can be evaluated. In the case of the BREEDING TABLES, KRAM/WEISSHAAR have programmed their constraints into a piece of software that does some of the thinking for them (the metal parts can probably only be bent to a certain degree, for instance, and the table’s weight should be centered between the legs). You can see in the video that as a certain parameter, like table height, is modified, the other dimensions update dynamically according to all the constraints they’ve given the software. The designers have thus offloaded some if the task of designing onto their software in a practice called embedding intelligence, something I am reading about in Richard Ogle’s Smart World (a book review will be in a later post). The concept of KRAM/WEISSHAAR’s software actually thinking for them (the same way a slide rule helps us solve a trig problem) comes from Andy Clark’s idea of the extended mind, and how a lot of our thinking and being creative actually takes place outside our head.

Embedding intelligence into their custom design software, KRAM/WEISSHAAR are free to focus on more subtle things like the silhouette of the table from the front and side views. By developing their own software, they have also multiplied their ability to create something unique, much like Johnny Greenwood favored his own programs to using software that 1000’s of other musicians might be using to make sounds. So, next time you have to knock out 200 sketches for Tony Kawanari… how cool would be if you could randomly generate 1000’s of sketches based on a few constraints, and then use your training as a designer to select the best ones?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Scott Hansen: Communicating Efficiently

If you look at this blog, you are most likely already familiar with the work of Scott Hansen, aka ISO50, aka musician Tycho. However, being one of my favorite designers, I’d like to talk a little about his approach here, and perhaps introduce his work to those that don’t already know it.

Followers of the ISO50 blog can expect a combination of good (and often retro) examples of design, music mixes posted by the other editors of the blog, and pieces of Scott’s work, which usually combine photography with a mastery of the Adobe creative suite (Scott once worked for Adobe if I understand correctly). He doesn’t claim to be an authority on design, and in fact doesn’t hold a degree on the subject. Scott’s singular style is informed by 1960’s design, what he calls the zenith of an art form rooted in the Bauhaus movement, which was then altered forever upon the advent of television, and later the internet.

Scott Hansen on design: “Design, to me, is the search for efficiency. Efficiency in conveying a message, efficiency of form. In this way I see some of my own work falling into the category of design, while some of my other work falls under the umbrella of illustration. With the more illustrative pieces my primary goal is to create something beautiful or striking in a visceral sense. These goals remain intact when I create a purely design-driven piece, but there is the added goal of minimalism and efficiency which constrains the process and limits the content. It is these constraints that force us as designers to reveal the core of the idea we are trying to express and to seek the most direct route to it. In this way, all of the periphery and excess of illustration and fine art can be shed to expose the roots of visual communication and express them in a concise and instantly understandable form. When I see something that embodies these ideals it is always very moving, these are the things that drive me to create”

"Design, to me, is the search for efficiency. Efficiency in conveying a message, efficiency of form"

Scott’s message about efficiency rings very true to me. Too often when working on design projects, we get caught up in the surface level stuff, the execution, and sometimes completely neglect the actual message that we want to express. I have noticed that when someone is proficient at something then (and only then) they are able to take shortcuts to accomplish whatever end they seek. As casual observers, we have all experienced those moments of “they make that look easy!” A great presenter can deliver an effective speech in a minimum amount of time and without a bunch of “umm”s, my favorite guitar player is able to convey the strongest emotions with an economy of notes, and the trained painter can render an image with just a few marks of color. Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”, and the list goes on. By internalizing strong, fundamental skills, we can free up some brain space to focus on the next level of communication, the essence of our message, something I will discuss in following posts.

It's tempting to want to be proficient at something overnight, but those people who can blow your mind with a couple notes on a guitar are the ones who have put the most time into it. Being efficient (effective) isn't about not trying, but quite the opposite. This is a reminder to all of us to always seek the core of the idea we are trying to express, and find the most direct route to it. Your unique way of being resourceful and finding that route will naturally reveal your personal style.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Orange: Glastonbury Solar Concept Tent

Last month, between school and getting ready for co-op, I had the opportunity to work with Kaleidoscope to design this solar concept tent for Orange (the European telecom company). It is used as a promotional piece for the Glastonbury Festival, which Orange sponsors.

Here is some of the process work from the project. The project timeline was relatively short, so we worked back and forth with the client to deliver just what they needed. I learned that it’s very important when taking on a job like this to choose a workflow that allows you to make changes quickly and easily. When working remotely, it’s difficult to get all the communication right the first time, so it helps if you’ve
designed a process from the beginning that lends itself to easy adjustments. I still used a combination of 2D and 3D tools, but only modeled what would be difficult to edit if, say, the client asked to see the tent from a different angle entirely.

Exploration sketches to find a form that would highlight the features of the tent and be distinctive enough to stand out in a blog post or magazine article.

Development of 3D model and adjustments in Hypershot.

The tent has been featured on Engadget, Gizmodo, and Core77, and the official post by Orange, which talks about all the tent’s features, can be found here. Thanks to Kaleidoscope for giving me the opportunity to work on the project, and special thanks to Finn Mckenty for a great job managing it! Happy camping.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Strength in Networks

As we dig into yet another quarter of our design education, I suggest we continue to use these blogs as a way to keep each other current with our thoughts on design and our day-to-day experiences (and that the people who don’t have them yet, make one!) The blog seems to be the most effective way for us to update the entire studio in a casual and convenient way; I would love to hear about everyone’s co-op quarter, for example, but there isn’t really an opportunity for us to effectively share the things we’ve learned in class or just talk about cool things we experienced (I’m sure you all hate telling the same stories 20 times like I do).

The reason I mention this now is that I’ve realized the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. We pay a lot to be here, to have a room to work in, and professors to guide us and offer their criticism. The real value of our studio, though, comes from each of us. Every single one of us brings unique skills and perspectives to the table, and the biggest crime we can commit is to not share them (through projects or otherwise). The blog is an extension of that; it’s a simple format that allows us to share our thoughts and work with the whole studio.

I haven’t been the best about blogging, but I’m definitely starting back up now. I have some advice to help you get posting if you’ve gotten into a rut like me:

  1. What’s the point? Try to make your posts as concise as possible, but still offer a complete thought or pose a question to get feedback.
  2. Use pictures. Last time I checked, we’re all still designers.I know I’m probably more likely to read something if there’s an image to draw me in. This might also be motivation to take photos and document your work this quarter.
  3. Stay regular. Force yourself to make a post per day until you get going. It can seem like extra work at first, but once you’ve established a time to make posts, it should just be like jotting down a homework assignment.

I am honestly excited to be here this quarter. I’m going to put everything I have into design work for the next two months and I hope you all will do the same. See you in studio!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lenovo Flash Drives

I've always liked the look of my ThinkPad, so when this USB flash drive project came up, I decided to explore what some Lenovo memory sticks might look like. Here are my design ideas, demonstrated using a combination of 3D and 2D tools. I built a basic model in Alias, did some quick renderings and then finished out the images in Photoshop. First, here are the sketches that led to the final designs:

And next some VERY quick 3D models with some sketching/exploration on top. An IBM branded version and then a cool click-open-click-closed design that I really liked:

Finally, I tweaked the model a little and added rounded corners, rendered again, and finished it out in Photoshop:

I've learned that there's not always one perfect tool for any given task; sometimes the best choice is to make your own, combine, manipulate, or re-configure. I've also realized that by doing this, you have the opportunity to create your own unique visual style (imagine if every designer used the same design programs and all the default settings!). Just like learning to write or draw, desginers must deveop a personal digital style.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Love. This. Trailer... Oorah!

Movie trailers are in some ways just as important the movies they are made for. I'm keeping this in mind as I continue to build my portfolio as well as some "teaser" postcards to send to potential employers.

My favorite trailer from the last few years was for the 2005 film, Jarhead. I remember the teaser immediately sparking questions at the theater: "How do you make [what looks like] an action movie about a war in which the US Marines saw little action?" "Why are they playing football in NBC suits?" "Why is Jake Gyllenhaal running around wearing nothing but a Santa Claus hat?" I remember coming to the realiztion that the film must be a brutally realistic depiction of the war, telling the stories of the soldiers rather than just creating cool action sequences. The trailer succeeds because it sets in intersting stage, but at the same time it's obvious that there is much more to the story.