any of you ACTUALLY make stuff?

ive been reading over the posts and it seems to me that more people are interested in learning about something that is dependent on actually handiwork. designing furniture with a pen and pad is fine but it takes the hands on approach ot come to a full understanding of how wood moves, whats possible and all the other issues that arise. i dont design at all, im currently studying furniture but the approach im taking on is from a craft based perspective. am i totally missing out on furniture design/craft by not having any cad experience? much respect to those of you who live in the wood shop(im not saying being in the shop is better than being behind a pencil, im giving out respect to those that understand HOW LONG it takes to make furniture)

So, is this some kind of rant? It seems to me that you’re claiming that we (designers) don’t understand materials and/or manufacturing. Which is entirely wrong. All successful designers know the properties of their materials and the process by which their products are made…it’s no use trying to produce something that can’t be built, or falls apart because you made it from the wrong stuff.

It’s a bit insulting for you to imply that designers do nothing but sit and sketch products, then have someone else build them. While that’s true in various cases (for example, a junior designer making CAD models from sketches), I don’t think you’ll ever find an industrial designer (certainly never one who’s graduated from an ID program) who has never built a model or prototype.

When you mention CAD experience, it really has nothing to do with the actual conceptualization stage (maybe now it does more, with tablets and programs like Sketchbook and Painter becoming more common)…that’s still done almost entirely by hand. Drawing (sketching) is just as intensive a skill as furniture building.

That said, thanks for the compliment you have given to every designer worth her salt:

As I stated, any designer that’s any good at what he does will understand the manufacturing of their product.

I would guess that most furniture designers have some experience creating furniture, or at the least, are very familiar with the processes and materials involved. Personally, I don’t think any ID’er can perform on a professional level if they do not fully understand the materials and manufacturing processes their product will be produced with, weather this is chairs or toothbrushes. I think I am agreeing with you here on needing to understand the nature of furniture construction.

My education stressed hands-on experience with various materials and the associated manufacturing processes, and this has allowed me to jump into furniture design with both feet right out of school.

As far as CAD experience goes, I would say that it is not essential for low-volume production where the designers are heavily involved with a hand-made product. Otherwise, its a crap shoot to hand-off some sketches and see how they are interpreted. You would be suprised at how many companies still scratch some things on paper and send it to a manufacturer to produce - you see this evident in all of the crap furniture that is retailed. Of course, you can build prototypes and models for manufacturers to build from, but this is simply not economical when you are producing a large number of pieces each market cycle (which is very common in larger companies). Check out the thread in general discussion on CAD vs. hand sketching for a better discussion. Ideally, a furniture company would build full-scale prototypes while heavily involving the designer(s) with a relaxed development schedule to prevent corners being cut and poor furniture from being pushed onto the market. Unfortunately, I don’t see this happening any time soon in Big Furniture.

Having hands on experience definately gives you greater insight on what you can and can’t do with materials, but IMO, this should also be coupled with some design education. Its also possible to just do your own thing, but the line between designer and artist/craftsman is blurred and often misunderstood.

IMO, the furniture industry needs a fresh approach as the current ‘manufacturers’ and importers are dinosoars that will see extinction soon if they do not change they way they handle design. Some of this is simply corporate politics at work, but also many of the old school furniture designers (and the old hands that run the companies) have run out of tricks or are unwilling to explore new materials and processes.

not a rant. not out to make net enemies. (which is pointless). im saying that ive read a few posts here from people who hwave said something similiar to “i studied furniture design but i dont have the skills needed to make the stuff” which to me is an odd thing to say. thats like sayin…“hey i know everything about cars but i dont know how to drive”

No. Saying that would be like saying “I know everything about furniture but I don’t know how to open a drawer”. What you’re complaining about is more equivalent to “I design cars but I’ve never used a laser welder before”.

Its not really whether you have the skills to operate the machinery (or simple hand tools) that will be used to make your product, it’s more whether you understand how they operate and what their limitations are. Although I believe that (most of the time) it’s easier to design a product if you have actually tried out ot at least seen the machinery in operation.

well said

[quote] I don’t think you’ll ever find an industrial designer (certainly never one who’s graduated from an ID program) who has never built a model or prototype.

I don’t think KERF was implying that designers never build models or prototypes, just that many aren’t doing it enough. I see it alot currrently in school, when it comes down to the end of the semester the CAD lab at our school is packed while the shop is empty. I think a balance is important, CAD is a very powerful tool, but will never replace holding and looking at an actual object to figure out scale or working out the mechanics of a prototype. After all we all work in 3-d, which at least for now can not truly be experienced by looking at a computer screen.

Stereolithography. :stuck_out_tongue:

I know what you mean, though, and I agree.

I took the original post as two questions:

do many designers have experience building things?


as a craftsman, would it be worth learning how to use cad?

For the first question, I’ve seen many designers who (despite thier own opinions) could use more time in the shop. However, as already stated, any designer really worth their salt is probably the kind of designer who could build a piece of furniture they designed without much trouble. That said, actually building can sometimes help develop an idea much further than with just a pencil- all of it is important, but as said, it takes a long time.

For the second, I think CAD can be a real time saver sometimes, regardless of your approach to designing furniture. It can also help develop ideas in its own way, and let you try things without wasting materials. Can also help speed up dimensional drawings. Just don’t expect to do everything with it.

Patrick Jouin’s SLA chairs are awesome!!!

To the original poster, as you can tell, most of us here are not craftsman or artists, but designers of mass-production. Obviously many manufacturing methods are beyond our ability to accurately prototype by hand. Take extruding, or injection-molding for instance. Industrial Design is more about the end justifying the means, not the other way around.

You can’t give Bill Stumpf crap because sawdust wasn’t involved in the Aeron chair.

There is an old saying: Jack of all trades, master of none.

POO-POO to that!

A good designer must be a master of many trades. Wood, metal, plastic. Bolts, welding, bonding. Cutting, forming, injection. Sketching, CAD, 3D.

Me? I need lots more practice with welding, forming and sketching. My advice: learn CAD and add a new tool to your box of magic.


thank you all for the many opinions about the original post. its hard to post anything with out it being read all other ways but the way you intended.


well, MY big brother can beat up YOUR big brother … and he won’t need a shavehook to do it!

Kerf Cut
In Production design: I use cad, I use a prototyping shop, I draw. I model.
I begin with the concept, do some sketching model it, rework the sketches, remodel. Sit on it for two or three weeks mulling it over. Mock it up in full scale.
Work some drawings(by hand), work the scale, the construction, work the detailing to match the whole, work full scale drawings and back to the construction detailing. Then its off to CAD. I work the castings/ details send off to the manufacturer, Those get CNCed, lasercut/ compression bent/ etc. We rework any tooling issues or construction barriers, then rework the issues ouot of the problem. This results in a better product and a more refined piece. It goes to the plant to be built. Calls and visits will come to pass in which to see the process and develop and other issues into refined detail. On occasion small details are reworked, but more often than not it has all been worked out in the initial design stage and the piece comes off seamlessly. The answer: time and thought. So the more processes you understand and use, the better. The more time taken in critical thought and discourse the better the distillation of ideas and concept to flesh out the project.
Thanks for your other posts. I find your demeanor to be delightful and your curiosity, quite pleasant.
You’ll go far.

indeed, much more pleasant than some of the other posers, oh, I mean posters

i know how to build the ideas i design, but i rely on fabricators to make it. division of labor, blah, blah…i still like to get involved. i value their input and expertise and often ask them when i run into manufacturing concerns, not the engineers. i find they understand the balance.

oddly, working with wood drives me nuts. i know it’s intricacies and behaviors, but the tolerences give me fits. i’m more a fan of metal and polymers.

interesting point brought up by Force Mc,

I wonder how many designers out there stay involved with design through the manunfacturing process. I have heard about many projects that were simply “handed off” and many times the intent or power of the design is lost. It seems to me that staying involved and working with engineers and manufacturers through the manufacturing process is the only way to ensure your intended design makes it to the shelf.

I recently attended a lecture by Johnathan Ives and found it quite interesting how the ID team at Apple functions. In my opinion, the only way Apple is able to keep producing such highly refined, beautiful computers is through the ID teams role, and their involvement with the various technology and engineering teams at Apple.

that really depends on the client/situation/project.

some of my clients are “hands-off”, meaning they want me involved all the way through final production. some just want a direction or good set of drawings so they can finish the rest. the end results can be surprising, but you still gotta be able to let it go.

I agree and am not saying that it is due to laziness that designer’s simply “hand off” projects, but rather as you say it depends on the client. I would guess the designers at Apple have a fairly unique position, and I wonder how often designers are capable of and utilize a similar role with manufacturers?

I was at Penland School of Crafts last summer for a jewelry workshop, and I stayed on an extra week to take a wood class. The instructor, it turns out, was a famous furniture designer whose ‘work’ has been in prestigious museums all over the globe – and she had NO IDEA how to work with wood. She ‘conceptualized’ the piece, and came up with different ideas for decorative surfaces that related to her ‘concepts’ – but had minions build the stuff for her. She came from a background in advertising as an account exec, and decided that she wanted to be a furniture designer, and now sells work to the likes of Robin Williams and his family.

I found this a bit depressing, since I’m so craft-oriented (as a jeweler, I do have a production line that I have produced by manufacturers, but feel guilty about it) … but I know that this is more along the lines of the reality in today’s world. I constantly struggle with this issue, since I love making things with my hands, but also hate selling my work for the miniscule amounts that make it saleable, so therefore feel like I’ll almost be forced to do production using manufacturers to make my business a viable one…

Does anyone on these boards work with manufacturers, or only produce their pieces by hand, or some of both – and have any thoughts on the matter?