Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

Wedding project

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

This semester I am enrolled in a Project Management class in the business school as an elective for my Interior Design master’s program. This is a very useful and informative class and one that I would urge all design students to arrange to take, even if it has to be done through another department or school. Design work is project work and these skills are invaluable for all design positions.

Our term project was to plan a multi-cultural wedding where the bride and groom were of two different religions (neither could be Christian). The wedding was to be high-society, it was to be held in DC, we could only bring 10 relatives from other countries, and we had to spend $1,000,000. Our deliverables were a business case, statement of assumptions and constraints, work breakdown structure, project network/schedule, risk and change management processes, metrics, and lessons learned. The work breakdown structure identified a range of wedding-related tasks, including guests, stationery, site, transportation, hotel, decor, food, media, security, and honeymoon. Our team of 8 divided up these deliverables and activities and each contributed to the final Powerpoint slideshow and notebook. The slideshow stressed the cultural aspects of the wedding and summarized the business deliverables; the notebook contained the full text of the business deliverables.

Our team choose a Nigerian bride of the Igbo people who follows traditional worship practices and a Muslim groom from the northern part of Sudan. We did a lot of research to learn about the very interesting wedding traditions of these two cultures. In both cultures, weddings go on for several days and festivities are usually held in tents, so we decided to plan for two days of wedding events – the first for the Nigerian ceremonies and the second for the Sudanese ceremonies. We would install three large tents in the meadow at the National Arboretum in DC – one tent to represent the groom’s family compound, another for the bride’s family, and the third for dancing. Both events would be held in the evening. (Links to websites that discuss Nigerian weddings: BBC News, article by Utibe Uko, Motherland Nigeria, Top Wedding Links, Chicken Bones: A Journal, African Wedding Traditions. Links to websites that discuss Sudanese weddings: Nile Kids, African Wedding Traditions, Al-Ahram Weekly.)

My particular area was the interior design, which included the tents, tent decor, lighting, flooring, equipment, furniture, linens, plants, and flowers. Because this was a business class, I wasn’t expected to go beyond listing activities, obtaining budget information, and developing a schedule, so I didn’t develop my design beyond the concept stage.

For the Nigerian ceremonies, my design concept was to create a lush tropical garden with dappled sunlight shining through the leaves. I envisioned filling the tents with tall coconut palms to create a canopy over the guests and using other tropical plants to create borders and dividers as needed to demark the family seating and guest dining areas, covering the ground with natural raffia or palm woven mats, and draping the tables with neutral but lush table linens. Because the guests and wedding party in Nigerian weddings typically wear very colorful traditional clothing, color would be provided by the clothing and by tropical flowers on the tables. Lighting would be a combination of accent lights shining through the palms to create dappled light and shadow, tiny sparkle lights in the palms and on the tent perimeters, and unobtrusive direct lighting as needed for dining, food service, and other tasks.

For the Sudanese ceremonies, my concept was to create the feel of an exotic and ancient bazaar with rich colors and textures and dramatic lighting. My plan was to drape the ceilings and walls with rich red silks and cover the floors with deep red carpets. Diners would sit on floor cushions of gold and black silk around low, custom-made square tables of dark wood. Palms would create boundaries and intimacy as needed. Lighting would be a combination of dramatic uplighting through the palms, sparkle lights around the perimeters, gentle downlighting as needed for food service and dining, and a profusion of warmly-glowing copper lanterns of all sizes hung from the ceilings, lining the pathways, and lighting the tables and seating areas. Food service would be on copper trays.

I pulled the slideshow together after each team member had provided input on her or his part of the project. Because this was a business class presentation and not a design presentation, my decor slides showed only the basic concepts. The slide show as a whole is interesting because it has lots of pictures and explains the wedding traditions of these two cultures. Click here to see the show in PDF format.

This was a good project – it was fascinating to learn about the wedding traditions of these two cultures, weddings are happy occasions so planning them is fun, I learned the various stages involved in the business side of managing a project, and I had a chance to experience team dynamics.


Saturday, October 21st, 2006

I finished the model that was assigned in my Building Technology class. It is a composite model of a commercial interior and contains several building systems including (1) structural systems (concrete masonry unit wall, nonbearing metal-frame wall, open-web steel trusses, concrete floors), (2) a suspended acoustical ceiling, (3) electrical systems, (4) sprinkler system, (5) HVAC system, and (6) various finishes. This was so much fun!

Here are some pictures.

Here is the Process Book I created for this project.

Building Museum

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Recently I made a trip to the Building Museum in the Pension Building in Washington, DC to make some sketches for a class assignment. Here they are:

Pension Building, vault

Pension Building, tile floor

Building Museum, Green Building exhibit

Furniture design class finale

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006

The last project for my furniture design class was to design another piece of furniture for the “line” we had begun with the chair and the display system. I designed a dining table. Here are the models – the dining table, the side table, and the original chair:

[flickr size=”small”][/flickr]

[flickr size=”small”][/flickr]

The design process got easier the further I got into the semester. Once the initial concept was worked out – the most difficult part for me – and the lines and form of the first piece established, it was relatively easy to envision other pieces. I chose a dining table for my last piece because the chair seemed to want a table, the table was relatively simple to draw in 3D CAD and to build as a model (time was running out on this semester!), and the forms and lines of the first two projects lent themselves nicely to tables.

The final designs are fairly basic. Given more time, I would refine the details of all the pieces, making subtle changes in form and finish details, and then expand the line to include other tables, a credenza, a freestanding cabinet or chest of drawers, and perhaps even kitchen cabinets. I have a ton of ideas.

This class was a good one. I learned lots about the design process and had fun with the modeling. I managed to incorporate some extras – 3D AutoCAD, SketchUp, and model building – that I feel rounded out my knowledge nicely.

More about this class:

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.

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.

Trait drawings

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

A day or so ago, I wrote about my difficulties translating between verbal and visual and my current Furniture Design studio exercise of turning six personal traits into drawings. [Verbal::visual, Feb. 21, 2006]

Well, I did sit down to draw and after about 50 sketches, this exercise began to make some sense. Here are the final six drawings. The drawings represent Trapped, Tactile, Strong, Driven, Flexible, and Inquisitive.

This trait list was developed from my original list of 10 traits that I felt described me, added to and changed by my classmates and teacher.

The next step is to take one of these drawings and develop a chair from it. So far, so good. This is getting to be fun.

3D sketching

Sunday, January 29th, 2006

Our first design assignment in Furniture Design class is taken from Elements of Design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and the Structure of Visual Relationships, by Gail Greet Hannah. The book discusses the life of Rowena Reed Kostellow, who taught industrial design at Pratt Institute for more than 30 years and developed a course of study which she called “foundation.” Apparently, similar courses are now used in design classes around the world.

Rowena Reed Kostellow’s belief was that three-dimensional designs should be sketched three-dimensionally, not two-dimensionally. The tools of her studios were clay, cardboard, wire, glue, and so forth, not paper, pencils, and markers. She felt that 3D sketching reflects “the direct visual experience of the thing, how forms and spaces and movements ‘speak’ to one another” (page 46).

Our first exercise, adapted from this book, was to create 25 small sculptural compositions of three volumes each, using Sculpey or another modeling material. The parameters of the assignment were:

  • Each volume must be linear, not curvilinear.
  • Each volume must be different from all the others used in the exercise.
  • One of the volumes in each composition must be “dominant,” one “subdominant,” and one “subordinate.” The dominant volume must be the most prominent and have axial movement. The subdominant volume must respond to the dominant volume and complement it. The subordinate volume must complete the idea.
  • Each composition must incorporate one of three joints: “cradling” (a rabbet joint), “wedging” (one piece fits into another in a non-joint way), or “piercing” (one volume pierces another).
  • Each composition must convey one of a given list of 25 emotions, for example anxiety, playful, strong, trusting, confused, victorious, and so forth.

This exercise was annoying at first because I couldn’t easily connect the little Sculpey shapes with the emotions we had to depict. How can one convey “patience” with three little shapes of clay? So I simply sat down to work and let the compositions happen and, interestingly, they began to acquire emotional qualities. I had trouble making my volumes completely linear – the soft Sculpey tended to move and bend as I tried to form it, taking on curvilinearity. Some of my earlier attempts had to be re-done and some of the compositions don’t adequately describe the emotion I assigned to them.

Click here to see my little compositions, plus a few from a similar exercise.

Overall, however, I think this was an excellent exercise. In the first two and a half years of my interior design program, we’ve only been taught two dimensionally. While drafting and rendering are important skills, interior designers, like architects, are responsible for three dimensional spaces. Although I haven’t done a survey of architecture programs, my sense is that architecture students have a great deal of exposure to 3D sketching, table-top modeling, and even full-size building projects. If interior designers are to be taken seriously in the architecture and design community, interior design programs need to have the same emphasis. We need to learn how to sketch, model, and build in 3D in addition to the 2D training we receive.

It looks like Furniture Design is going to be more than furniture – it’s going to give me some much-needed basics in 3D design.

Process Books

Monday, January 2nd, 2006

Yesterday I uploaded some of my writing to this website. A few of these entries are Process Books that illlustrate the design development steps I went through in each of the design studios I’ve taken so far in my Interior Design Master’s program at Marymount University. These books contain a description of the design problem, my concept, programming information, sketches, final drawings, presentation boards, design elements, and sometimes lessons learned. If, in looking through the pictures in my Design Portfolio, you see a project you’d like to learn more about, you may find a corresponding Process Book in the Writing section of this website.

I prepare these booklets during the week or so after the end of each studio class. It’s a lot of work and expense to pull together all the parts of the project; scan, photograph, or copy all the drawings, boards, and diagrams; figure out how to get large drawings reduced to usable size; find paper that won’t bleed through; design and set up the page layout; write and edit the text; create a cover; get a good printout of the finished booklet; and bind it all together.

But each booklet is a tremendous learning experience. It gives me a chance to review each project and gather my thoughts on what I learned from the exercise. I’ve acquired technical skills – becoming proficient in Photoshop, InDesign, and Acrobat; experimenting with digital photography under various lighting conditions; gaining familiarity with different font families and image formats; and improving my page layout capabilities. All this learning is paying off, as the quality of the booklets has improved over the course of my four studios.

The booklets are also a terrific addition to my physical portfolio, showing prospective employers how I think through a project and the effort I put into my work.

School is time-consuming and often stressful, particularly at the end of the semester when the projects are due, and by the end of the term I’d usually rather be catching up on the rest of my life than spending two more weeks on a project, but the benefits of these process books far outweigh the hassle.