Been pretty slow through winter – things will be picking back up in the Spring. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite Instagrams from the winter months.
In keeping with my pledge to not take on so many new projects (eye roll), I’m working on a poster of chess openings. Eventually I’d like to craft a board and pieces for the shop; I don’t know if I could get used to modern pieces, but I could give it a shot.
This is my first pass at a minimal 2D view – probably needs some work, but it’s already grown on me.
This is the Sicilian Defense.
Leave the gun. Take the cannoli!
Making chairs is fun right? Look see the entire prototyping series here (all three!).
I’m sure there exists people who don’t like rocking chairs, but I’m not one of them:
No. 188; James Ford.
Earlier I was trying to think about why people like rocking chairs. There is something comforting about the motion, something visceral. I think mostly it’s the rhythm (the same fuzzy reason why we all like music. Sidebar: currently listening to Imagine Dragons, recommended), but also the fact that you’re not sitting still. You’re sitting, you’re comfortable, but you’re also a little bit in charge. There’s a certain neat quality about the control you have over the back and forth, how much or how little. It’s fun.
For a few years now I’ve been thinking and designing a smaller class of rocking chair; typically you see a rocking chair action applied to what otherwise would be a lounge chair, but I have been trying to combine that action. I want to rock wherever I can, I suppose.
Erin being a little silly.
A lot of plywood in my prototypes, you say? It’s interesting – when I first latched onto plywood it was a means to an end, the most logical way to construct certain designs I had in my head. As my brain often does it took a few of these ideas and iterated and extrapolated it to hell. I think there are legs yet – it is definitely not an exhausted medium.
I want to make chairs that people can afford. I have some notion of how high design gets to be so expensive, probably just enough to know that it shouldn’t be that way. A lot of my plywood designs are made to be inexpensive. The frame for this chair isn’t one big silly shape – each side is made up of 8 individual pieces, double stacked and lapped for strength. This approach gives a high material efficiency. In a world of dwindling resources it seems like a good idea, and the end product costs less; win / win I say.
Detail shots beyond the jump!
Great words from a good movie; keeping perspective is handy.
I’m not sure I understand Fast Company – are they also loose? If so, with what exactly? Or are they just expeditious?
Those questions aside – yours truly was quoted in the latest issue! It’s their big Design Issue in which Pinterest is featured prominently in an article by Max Chafkin. Somehow they got to me, and I told them how freaking addictive the stuff is.
It can be difficult to tell people I like Ayn Rand and be taken seriously. I mean, I named my dog Atlas:
Look how cute she is! She holds the world on her shoulders but doesn’t seem to mind. (No comments on the couch. It was free.)
Ayn Rand’s writing is often trite, hackneyed, and overly simplistic. She describes a philosophy that is interesting on a personal level, but quickly spins off into a macro level that doesn’t take a concept called “Reality” into consideration. I pick and choose what imbibe from her writing with the best of them, but my approach is more nuanced.
I think “overly simplistic” is probably too kind. The Hero characters are consistently tall and thin, with taut, angular faces. This works for them because they exist in a place called Fantasy Land. They eventually forge Fantasy Land relationships with other Heroes and engage in Fantasy Land behaviors. Seriously epic Fantasy Land Behaviors at that (the world is total crap, let’s remake it how we see fit!*). Aside from the Heroes there are the Moocher-Looters (fat, slovenly, stupid). And well that’s about it. I get it: it’s a fable, it’s not reality. It’s about the dangers of what could happen if society went down certain roads. Again though she takes it too far: she invents actions taken by the government and large corporations that don’t correlate to Reality. In Actual Reality I believe we have an obligation to our fellow Peoples because we live in this thing called a “Society”, which is a thing that exists where a large group of people with different beliefs hang out and all have to get along. In a Society I believe empathy is a requisite: there are those that are less fortunate, and we should help them. Some of these people can’t rise above the situations they are mired in through no fault of their own, no matter how much you believe in the American Dream. Sure, there are parallels that can be drawn with reality (like any fable), but she carries it to an extreme to justify the message she is trying to deliver.
Her Heroes also have zero empathy. I do believe in rational self-interest, but one that factors in an empathy component. You have to be selfish for what you want out of life, but you also have to realize we live in a Society where people other than you matter. There isn’t a threshold for empathy. One more time: not Actual Reality, kids. I’m not going to go about visiting her intentions, but I’m pretty sure it’s not meant to be.
The main issue I have with Atlas Shrugged is her extension of a personal belief system into a political system. It’s frankly a bit silly, and doesn’t take into account the breadth of human existence. This world is not black and white, and empathy is not a bad thing. Helping those that need help makes us a better society. Those at one end of this “spectrum” are not moochers; they are often stuck in a quagmire that nobody in this world could easily escape from. Those at the opposite end of the “spectrum” aren’t a “hero class” that can “save the world” – a particularly offensive conceit. We have complicated issues that require complicated solutions; hers are overly simplistic, entirely aside from the lack of merit.
Enough of the Bad, what about the Good and the Design? Personally I derive a great amount of personal energy from some of her ideas, which starts with establishing a personal belief system based on logic. Things aren’t true just because you want them to be, and feelings aren’t facts – objective proof is required.
Another Good is the emphasis on doing good work, and always doing the best you can**. A simple concept to be sure, but an amazingly powerful, difficult, and inspiring one. This particular idea got drilled into my head repeatedly as a kid, but it took me a while to come around. If I had a nickel for every time I heard “don’t do a half-ass job,” I would have a bunch of nickels.
Her notion of a rationality-based lifestyle is also a good way to think as a designer: check your premises, take everything back to zero, don’t assume anything. It coincides so well she used it as a metaphor throughout The Fountainhead. In a lot of ways I think The Fountainhead is the superior book, if only because she doesn’t hit you over the head with her Objectivist mallet; it’s more of a metaphorical soft sell. And it’s about neat buildings.
The last concept I’ll mention is the idea that there are no contradictions: everything in this world happens as a result of something. Causality, action/reaction. I mention this only because we do in fact live in a rational world, no matter what anybody says. This gives me hope that I’m on the right track. To a lot of people my admiration of Rand is a contradiction, but really it’s not (see above).
*a designery notion if I’ve ever heard one, I’ll admit.
** I do actually believe that doing bad work is often required as part of the process towards good work, but that’s the subject for another post.
Making chairs is fun. See the entire prototyping series here (all two of them so far).
This is the 67th chair I’ve designed, which sounds a lot neater than it is (the great and horrible thing about the creative process is that 90% of the junk you come up with is just that). Or maybe it’s just me. It’s probably just me.
I really like this chair. It needs two or five more iterations, but damn if it isn’t comfortable.
As is typical, this started with a bad sketch:
When I sketch I deliberately don’t think about how to construct the thing; I work that out later. I’ve heard many designers say the exact opposite, but for me I like to toss every last idea on the wall to see what sticks in my brain visually – some end up working and most don’t. 167 is one that worked.
I’ve been thinking of a good way to describe my process (quick aside: have you ever read design briefs? There’s a lot of bullcats going on (I’m using ‘cats’ as a substitue word to keep this family friendly). I mean I get it: it’s hard to not sound like a dbag when describing your very precious creation. It’s a thing that you made from mothercatting scratch – of course you’re proud of it. You want to put it in the best light and blah blah blah you get a bunch of sanctimonious cat. Not all designers do this mind you, but there’s a lot of it out there.)
I’ll give it a go: I try to take everything back to zero. I say to myself, “Ok, what elements do you need to sit comfortably, and how can I get to that point?” You need a seat and a back, and sometimes arms. How do you get there?
For 167 I used a common riff of mine, rhythm. I often create (what I hope is) a powerful silhouette, then repeat that into the third dimension. The problem with that concept is comfort – a flat surface can be uncomfortable after sometime. You need som variation. To that end I had the thought of using rebar housed in a CNCd plywood base. When you sit the rebar flexes and conforms to your body. It’s actually quite fun to see people’s reactions between when they see the thing and when they sit down.
That’s not me.
Anyway, it’s a fun idea that still has some kinks to work out. The concept is sound – expect a new round of prototyping fun in the near future.