Archive for March, 2006

The hall display and SketchUp

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

Our third assignment for furniture design class was to design a modular system or casegood for the 8′-wide, 9′-high design department hallway. The design was to be derived from the concept used for our second assignment, the chair. (Click here to see the concept diagram and resulting chair.) The display was to house both 2D and 3D student projects, with some security arrangement to protect the projects from vandalism. Finally, the design was to be relatively inexpensive to build.

My design is straightforward. Non-reflective glass panels are suspended between floor-to-ceiling canted copper-clad uprights in front of cork-faced panels with maple trim. Copper splines connect the rectangular modules. S-curved ceiling lights highlight the artwork. The design incorporates the materials (sustainably-harvested maple, cork, and recycled copper), forms (splines and rectangles), and lines (S-curve) used in the chair design.

I wanted to learn SketchUp so I tackled the program for this project. SketchUp is easier to learn than AutoCAD but is quite sophisticated. It’s available to students at a low educational price. Even though I have a lot yet to learn to be able to use the program expertly, I did manage to come up with a decent drawing for this project. Here it is:

AutoCAD and the final chair

Monday, March 20th, 2006

I decided I had to learn 3D CAD to create perspectives of my chair for my furniture design class. I wanted to learn it anyway, but my impetus for getting it accomplished now was to enter the chair in a design competition. I’ve noticed that the winning entries for design competitions are always created in 3D CAD, not hand-drawn. So 3D CAD it had to be.

Now, AutoCAD is the only program taught at my school and our class got only partway through 2D, so I knew I had some work ahead of me. I’d tried to learn 3D before and had given it up in frustration. AutoCAD is not an intuitive program.

Nevertheless, I tackled it for my chair. Hours – no, days – later, after frustration and more frustration at not being able to figure out how to do something despite two thick how-to manuals, I finally did it! I managed to create a solid model of my chair, with straight, canted, angled, and curved lines and different materials for different parts. There are a few things I’d like to tweak, but it would take another solid weekend to figure that out and I have to move on to the next project.

The chair was developed from one of the “trait” sketches produced earlier in the class. This one depicted the trait “strong”.

The final chair has a maple frame, cork seats and back, and copper splines.


Meanwhile, I submitted the chair, which I call Sspline, to the HotSeat 2 chair design competition. Not much chance that I’ll win – there are sure to be a lot of professional entries – but it’s fun to give it a shot. Plus, I finally learned something about 3D AutoCAD.

24 hours

Friday, March 17th, 2006

The chair saga

Monday, March 13th, 2006

After having developed sketches of personal traits earlier in my Furniture Design class, I picked two to turn into chairs. My initial 3D models are rough and now I am tasked with making final drawings and models. Only one is due, but I’m aiming to complete both designs.

Here are the two “trait” sketches I picked. The first is “strong” and the second is “tactile”.

Here are the two little rough models:

These models were build with Taskboard. This material, made from wood scraps from sustainable forests, is available in stores in some cities and online and it’s quite nice to work with. It’s dimensional, cuts beautifully, glues quickly with white glue, and can be bent over steam and sanded.

Creating the final drawings of these chairs is just a matter of spending time at the drawing board. Making finished models is another challenge altogether. Finding materials that can be cut, glued, formed, and so forth at this small scale has been a challenge. Because my school has no shop and we receive no instruction on model building, we’re on our own. So, off I went to the craft store to see what was available and came back with more Sculpey, Celluclay II (an instant papier mache mix), WireForm (a wire mesh), foam, felt, wire, a couple of rolls of thin sheetmetal, a roll of cork, and some basswood.

The model for chair 1 worked out pretty well. I managed to bend very thin pieces of basswood enough to create the few curves. The rest is flat. Here is the model:

Chair 2 is still in the works. To create the multiple-curve seat, I made a mold with Sculpey, baked it, lined it with plastic wrap, and then formed the seat with papier mache. This is not very precise, but it seems as if it will give me something to work with. More later.

The blog experiment II

Thursday, March 9th, 2006

Not much has happened on the blog experiment front. After the December flurry of sprucing up my website and signing up for blog indexes (see my earlier post describing what I did), it’s been pretty much me writing posts and nothing else. I’ve gotten a handful of thoughtful comments on my posts and another handful of spam “comments.”

Now that school has started, finding the time to work the web by reading and commenting on others’ blogs has been difficult. Because everyone is busy, particularly designers, my guess is the long-term answer to my early question of whether blogging is a useful tool for business networking for designers (see my post posing the question) will be no. Most people don’t have time to write or read blogs and post comments often enough to create anything more than occasional and fleeting contacts. On the other hand, I’ve only been at it a couple of months – it may simply take a long time to attract readers and commentors.

I did sign up for a networking tool, LinkedIn, which sounds as if it has potential. In a nutshell, people who sign up create links with people they know who are also participating. By linking to someone, you become indirectly linked to everyone that person has links with. You can ask your contact to introduce you via the site to any of their links or their links’ contacts. In theory, by using your contacts and introductions to your contacts’ links, your potential network quickly becomes vast and you could have access to people you would never had had an opportunity to actually meet – sort of a six-degrees-of-separation idea.

Almost immediately, I discovered that one of my contacts was linked to a person I had wanted to speak with about a school project. I requested my contact to pass on an introduction to this person. My contact forwarded my request to one of his links who was to send it on to the final person, but, unfortunately, the trail ended there and I never heard from the guy I wanted to interview. If it had worked, it would have been awesome, so I think there’s potential here.

So, no revelations or conclusions as yet and the blog experiment continues. More later.

Chicken stock

Monday, March 6th, 2006

If you cook, you need chicken stock. It’s the basis of many soups, sauces, and other dishes and an ingredient used in cuisines all over the world. But all chicken stock is not the same. To get a good chicken stock, you can’t just pick a can off a shelf. You have to make it yourself and you have to make it from the best ingredients. It really makes a difference.

Chicken stock is, then, much like design. Both are basic and both require the best ingredients. To achieve a product or process that works and doesn’t create harm, you must design it right. To know how to design it right, you need a thorough design education, quality materials, and time for creativity.

As a student, I’m building up my design pantry. I’ve got the chicken stock down pat.

Here’s my recipe for chicken stock:

    Chicken Stock
  • 1 whole fryer, preferably organic free-range
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, washed and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in quarters or eighths
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves or a handful of fresh thyme sprigs
  • A handful of fresh parsley
  • About a Tbs of salt (to taste)

    Remove any giblets from the chicken’s cavity and wash the chicken well under cold water. Wash the neck and giblets too if you want to add them to the pot. Some cooks don’t like to add the liver, but I don’t think it matters.

    Combine all ingredients, including the neck and giblets, in a deep stockpot and add enough cold water to cover the chicken by about 1-1/2″. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and slowly simmer, uncovered, about 1-1/2 hours or until the leg feels really loose when you wiggle it and the meat is tender.

    Pour the stock through a strainer into a large bowl or pot. Taste it and add more salt if necessary. That’s your stock. Use it now, or seal it in containers and freeze it for the future.

    Let the chicken cool until you can handle it, then pick all the meat off the bones, discarding the skin and bones and anything unappetizing (give this part to your dog, but never any bones!). This is easier if the chicken is still warm than if the meat has completely cooled. Now you have several cups of wonderfully flavorful cooked chicken to use in another recipe or freeze for later.

Ideas for the chicken: chicken noodle soup, chicken pot pie, chicken enchiladas, chicken salad, creamed chicken on toast, chicken sandwiches, chicken and rice casserole, etc.

Adapted from my mother’s recipe. Happy Birthday, Dani!


Friday, March 3rd, 2006

Teamwork is important in interior design. Until recently, when I thought of teamwork, I envisioned a soccer squad or perhaps a few people comparing notes around a conference table. Although I can cheer myself hoarse at a soccer game, teamwork in a business context has often seemed rather ho-hum.

However, after participating in IIDA’s 2006 Student Mentoring Week in January (see my post of February 11, 2006 for additional comments on this experience), I really began to appreciate the value of teamwork. Of course, I knew that design firms organized projects by teams and that they often called in outside consultants to assist, but the teamwork that I witnessed during my day shadowing a representative from furniture manufacturer Herman Miller was much more.

In commercial furniture procurement, an lot of people have vital roles to play. Designers create concepts, develop designs, and specify products, relying on manufacturers’ representatives to educate them about their choices. Dealers plan layouts, place orders, coordinate installation, and provide services after installation. Manufacturing plants build and ship orders and freight companies haul the goods to drop-off facilities, which in turn deliver the furniture to the jobsite. Each of these players takes on a portion of the procurement process to get the project done – and the effort is impressive. Even though the team members work for different organizations and sit in different offices, they’re really working together as a team to get the project done.

An interior architecture project is much more than furniture, however. Consider the time required for designing, specifying, ordering, and installing drywall, flooring, wallcoverings, ceilings, lighting, HVAC, safety systems, and all the other components of an interiors project, each of which has a grid of participants much like those occupied in furniture procurement, and it becomes obvious that the amount of work involved in bringing a design project from concept to completion is mind-boggling. Clearly, a finished interior involves more than the work of a single individual or even the efforts of the hard-working members of the design firm team. It involves complicated coordination and cooperation between dozens of people and organizations.

This is the larger project team, without which a project wouldn’t get done. The importance of each and every one of the many players on this team is what I discovered during my Mentoring Week experience, re-defining in my mind what may be the most important word in design – teamwork.

February ‘06 index

Thursday, March 2nd, 2006