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is model making important

Postby pdog » February 23rd, 2008, 9:28 pm


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So its been great to follow the discussion thread regarding the importance of sketching ability. For the most part I agree with Yo! For the single reason that the likelihood of getting a job where you are working at the inception of the idea increase if you are able to rapidly produce several concepts-with an understanding of volume and form, among other attributes-on paper.

Having put my two cents in on that discussion, I'm curious to hear others opinions about prototypes and model-making. How much emphasis was placed on you in college to produce well crafted models of your projects? Did your college teach a model-making specific class?

It’s been my observation while working as a model maker at a prominent consulting firm, designers, no matter how well their concept was realized in sketched 2D drawing and CAD, were still evaluating form and details after seeing the product in real life. My point is not to create animosity between model makers and designers but to suggest that like sketching ability, fabrication skills in the shop are also important to fully realizing form.

I would argue that developing good sketching skills enable us to communicate the total form of our concepts. Even at the CAD stage some aspects of those forms don’t reveal themselves until we see the form in real-life causing further revisions and refinements.

Think back to those moments perhaps in school or at work when, after you’ve gone through several iterations, refined your idea in CAD, when you were hacking away at your foam model and had one of those “ah-hah” moments that led you to a better design solution than what you started with. How important is prototyping and fabricating for you?

Postby Blaak » February 23rd, 2008, 11:53 pm


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There is two levels of model making. 1) Models to study the form, 2) "Prototype"/presentation models. Having a good drawings skills and good model making is a plus but we don't all have time to do everything. Especially in a mid-size/large design firm. That's why there are different departments.

I really enjoyed doing models back at school and I was pretty good at it. Today, I do lots of concept illustrations and I also do mostly study foamcore models (product design) when freelancing for design firms or for props in the movie business. Good way to show the client the design before doing any 3D CAD work. You can "touch", feel the product versus just virtual image that can't be handle.

Here are some models I made for the props dept. in the movie business:

Deathrace:

Model to be presented to the director for approval.
Image

Based on technical drawings I made: (refering to my model)
Image

Model to be presented to the director for approval.
Image

Based on technical drawings I made: (refering to my model)
Image

The Day after Tomorrow:

Model to be presented to the director for approval.
Image

Based on technical drawings I made: (refering to my model)
Image

Postby CWatters » February 24th, 2008, 9:07 am


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I worked in the consumer electronics industry for 20 years and model making was important but generally it's not something that the designer did personally.....

The company I worked for designed set top boxes. The electronics and software was designed by our company but we used an outside design house to style the enclosure (eg the front panel). The designer would produced several different design concepts and these would be refined into a "final" design or possibly a small short list of designs. Some or all of these designs would be sent electronically to a model maker who turned them into solid models using a CNC or stereolithography. The purpose of these solid models was to select the final appearance of the product. They looked like the finished item on the outside but wern't fully representative on the inside, no fastenings etc. Typically they had unrepresentative wall thicknesses and didn't come apart or at least not in the way the finished product would. This was done to reduce the cost and timescales required to make the model.

Once the appearance had been decided engineering drawings were produced. These included all the details required to make the finished parts. For example these drawings include the correct wall thicknesses, fastenings etc. Items made from plastic have to take into account issues specific to injection moulding - how they items will be ejected from the mold, flow mark avoidance etc Once these drawings were completed it was normal to have several sets of parts made by stereolithography. Typically we would get three to five sets produced followed by larger quantities - perhaps as many as 50-100 units - no mean feat given they all had to be hand finished and painted. These were used for a wide variety of purposes including engineering tests (EMC, safety, packaging design etc). If the product was being designed for a third party client some would normally be shipped to the client.

In parallel the engineering drawings were then sent off to the tool makers. The process of producing an injection moulding tool was quite expensive and sometimes took upto 16 weeks. Several test shots were made before the tool was given it's final textured finish (anti scratch, matt. gloss etc). Sometimes early samples were hand finished/painted and also used for marketing or engineering test purposes.

Hope that's of interest.

Postby CWatters » February 24th, 2008, 9:17 am


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pdog wrote: It’s been my observation while working as a model maker at a prominent consulting firm, designers, no matter how well their concept was realized in sketched 2D drawing and CAD, were still evaluating form and details after seeing the product in real life.


Sure, it's because humans have multiple senses, we like to touch things, feel the weight, even smell it.

Postby yo » February 25th, 2008, 12:06 am

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Cool to see those sketch models Blaak, thanks for posting them.

Unfortunately, I think physical model making is under emphasized right now. For me, as a junior designer, I did tons of model making and it helped me to think things through more clearly. I became a better designer. I learned how to sketch through, and sculpt on paper vs throw down cool lines. Now, working with a team of 3d modelers I draw on that experience. It taught me how much information is enough (or not enough) to hand off and get started, what things to explore in the model, and what priorities and parameters to set up from the get go.

Similar to sketching vs rendering, I think the real learning comes in the quick, sketch models (like the above) vs the finished beauty shot models... the second look great in a portfolio...

Postby pdog » February 25th, 2008, 1:23 pm


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Forgive me if this turns into an essay. Or maybe just some rambling. I guess I had a few motives for posting the question.

I've worked for several years as a model maker both within consulting firms and in stand alone prototyping shops. I've done the CNC machined, highly detailed cosmetic models. But its the quick form studies made from rough 2-D drawings out of 10lb foam and styrene-shaped by hand with some manual machining that is more fascinating to me. That collaboration and negotiation between sculpting, machining, making and designing is where the epiphanies happen for me. I see this process of working directly with the form and materials an important creative process much like a good set of exploration sketches. Both are important when appropriate to the scope of the project. Just a different medium and set of problem solving skills.

I see the creative process like a equalateral traingle with Art, Design and Craft at the 3 points-a sort of 3-way continuum. Depending on the nature of the project, the creative process necessary to solve the problem may be weighted toward one or two points of the triangle. For example the craft of model making is servant to the needs of the design process. Pure exploration with no design constraints would place the work closer to art on the continuum.

When I was in school, there was no access to CNC or rapid prototyping technologies. I’m now teaching a design studio part-time at a school that has invested in a 3D printer. I’ve occasionally had students enamored with the technology and simply wanting to go straight to CAD and click “OK” to print a part without any sort of iterative process either in sketches or form studies.

Postby Blaak » February 25th, 2008, 2:25 pm


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In automotive design, clay modelling is still used! However, for product design, it's a different story. We are from the old school generation that still believe in model making. As you mentionned, now it's CAD and then press the button. There's no more emotion in the creative process. CAD is so synthethic and cold.

Some old school model making (high density foam) 10 years ago :shock:

These are dog bone designs. The one in red is in production, ten years later.....
Image

Image

Image

Postby Kinl » February 26th, 2008, 4:49 pm


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Kudos to Blaak for the movie prototypes.. I love them lots, but I have a question.

do you really need to feel, touch and smell something that is to be on the big (2d non interactive) screen? wouldn't CG modeling and comping skills be more valuble to the design in this case?

I think certain things need to be felt in order to achieve good design, which would be mainly things of a certian size and ones that have human interaction as an integral part in their practicality.. having said that how many obvious design flaws are in most of the commercial things we buy and use? so do any of the communication skills really matter when you dont have a good designer and a client with insight?

If you were to build a scale model of a building would it really help with insight into how the full scale building should look and feel like over a CG mockup or great sketch/illustration? afterall how often will anyone see it from that perspective? or does it just impress clients more as it looks like more effort has gone in to the presentation? or maybe its that they get to point at the thing with a lazer pointer, which everyone likes :)

I think good design is not in any way related to the communication skills (modeling, sketch, 3D rendering, prototyping etc) required to prove to a client that it is good.

In terms of using these skills in the working out stage of design, you can learn alot from very ugly versions of all of them, ugly enough to under sell a design.

what designers (in an ideal world) really want to do it to show the finished thing in order to prove the concept and anything short is always going to be a compromise in one way or another, a good designer knows what compromises are best for each specific project.

Postby chastrich » February 26th, 2008, 5:42 pm


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I worked as an in house designer at a Toy company for 3 years. My role was both conceptual, acting like an in house inventor as well as product manager, working closely with the factory and landing the concepts.

While all products went through professional model makers it was incredibly important that my team and i had the ability to work with our hands on several levels.

1 - Sketch models, card and plastic to experiment with size, layout and function. It is amazing how complex you can make a product with sticky tape and cardboard. We would have incredibly serious board room meetings around pop up models with stuck on character design. They became tools for storyboarding TVC and all sorts of different uses.

2 - Customizing and editing the models that came back from the professional model makiers. 9 times out of 10 it was easier to edit their models than it was to explain our changes to them. These would generally be in relation to function than form (remembering that these were toys that looked like fun little characters).

I found that people I hired that could not make models, could also not understand how to put a product together, and would take increased training and time from my perspective before they were useful. Invariably, these people did not stay with the team for long.

I now work with someone who is a scenario planner, and now explores the very intangible world of innovation within business. While he represents a different direction that industrial design is taking, he was probably only capable of making this leap built upon and extended from his capacity to make things with his hands.

Postby cryzko » March 6th, 2008, 11:57 am


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i would say models are still needed...... it's better to see product in 3-dimensions and in front of you...... 3-d renderings still seem flat and hard to judge scale...

from speaking with an architecture background looking to get into I.D., we had to build models in school......this was in the 90's..... still to this day, firms want a presentation model to help win over clients/etc and it helps those without a trained eye to grasp the overall idea.......

Postby id8 » March 7th, 2008, 10:33 am

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I think model-building is very important. Mock-ups and sketch models to show how something works, , its interface, its construction, it's proportions and as platform to "think-through" a design hands-on I'm finding reduces iterations in the product development cycle while also being a good way to present along with sketches, renderings and illustrations to non-designers of the team/company the design intent. It's helped me after sketching out the general idea of a design to delve deeper into its details. We mock-up and create models for all of our designs at my company and use outside model shops for the high-fidelity appearance models.

Postby hitch » March 7th, 2008, 8:33 pm

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Interesting related article in Wired from a couple of weeks ago -- "How DIYers Just Might Revive American Innovation":

http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/mag ... t_thompson

Postby diamondblast » October 16th, 2008, 2:45 pm


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[quote="Blaak"]There is two levels of model making. 1) Models to study the form, 2) "Prototype"/presentation models. Having a good drawings skills and good model making is a plus but we don't all have time to do everything. Especially in a mid-size/large design firm. That's why there are different departments.

I really enjoyed doing models back at school and I was pretty good at it. Today, I do lots of concept illustrations and I also do mostly study foamcore models (product design) when freelancing for design firms or for props in the movie business. Good way to show the client the design before doing any 3D CAD work. You can "touch", feel the product versus just virtual image that can't be handle.

Here are some models I made for the props dept. in the movie business:

you are really talented!!!
I wish I was as handy as you are...
I can hardly make a paper airplane :) form paper I think it worth to give a visit at discussfitness.com, and at jemsite.com.
try to make a model exhibition
Last edited by diamondblast on October 22nd, 2008, 2:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

Postby carton » October 16th, 2008, 4:02 pm


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I just want to know how you expect to design a product someone is going to touch without actually touching it? CAD is a really great tool and all but seriously, would you shoot a movie without looking through a camera lens?


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