Design Prototyping Advice

Hi All,

I’m relatively new to the core forums and have been learning alot from just from reading some of the discussions. I’m a second yr industrial design student and in need of some advice. I feel I am good at generating various concepts through sketching however I sometimes have trouble developing those concepts to a 3d form. Whether that’s prototyping through CAD or hand modelling. I feel my technical skills are not strong enough to support my ideas. I just wanted to know If anyone experiences this frustration? and what things you can do, to develop your skills in this area? Are there any things I could be doing outside my course to sharpen these skills? as I am looking for placements this summer and it will hold me back.

Thank you

Build build build. Everything expands with practice.

The single most important design show I have seen was the prototype model work of Konstantin Grcic.

It was virtually all cardboard models. The immediacy of the material, the ability to build a form of significant size for next to nothing with cardboard, a knife and glue was eyeopening. Everything from a sofa to a series of Krups mixers, forms explored fast and lots of iterations.

Build cheap, build fast, build to throw away. Styrofoam and a hot wire. Cardboard. Put the emphasis on rapid form as opposed to trying to make a presentation model.

Hi, thanks for the advice, I’m desperately trying to improve my skills in this area. Do you know of any good books, videos etc?.

Check out Jude Pullens various videos

I’m the complete opposite in that I excel in prototyping/developing in 3D where as my sketching is often lacking.

Like with sketching though it all comes down to practice and knowing what materials are appropriate for the job. Cardboard is the simplest medium to prototype in and I used a lot of Jude Pullen’s tips and tricks even before I discovered who he was. At my last job we had a laser cutter and I could deconstruct a product, make the parts in to a net, cut it out and assemble it all together with hot glue, job done.

In regards to using CAD then again practice but it can be a little more difficult to master. I taught myself the basics of Solidworks by watching YouTube videos that built something as they demonstrated the tools. I’d then build it myself step by step. When it came to using it at work I knew where everything was and just practiced until I got what I wanted and even watched some videos in the office when I needed to do something I didn’t know.

I’ve attached some pictures of my models we used for photographs/renders to show you just how far cardboard and hot glue can take you.

Early multiple quick builds minimise risk and do so cheaply. I’m astounded that in a business where you make things, so many people are reluctant to. There is so much information in holding an object in your hand compared to a drawing or an image on a screen.

They are brilliant. You need to show more and process.

Thanks. These were just pictures to demonstrate to the OP where you can take cardboard - don’t worry my projects show plenty of process using the skills applied here :wink:

The Making of Design

@Sketchgrad: Those are beast. Makes me want to do some of that more.

Thanks a lot! I know I keep saying it but having access to a laser cutter was a god send, I was sad to leave knowing my next place wouldn’t have the same facilities. Cutting all of that out by hand would take me at least half a day or more, where as this way laying out the Illustrator file was an hour at the most then it was a push of a button, some hot glue and there we go.

Hi guys,

@edvin_m: Thanks for the link checked the videos out, just the kind of resource I was looking for.

@sanjy009: Thanks for the insight, I totally agree a model can tell you a lot about a design, you would struggle to understand in a sketch form

@nxakt: That book looks cool, will have to give it a look.

@sketch_grad: Those prototypes are inspiring, very nicely constructed, thanks for sharing them. Did you use a laser cutter to develop a net for those cubic forms? I usually spend money on polystyrene foam, now I can just go to the back of a shop and get some free cardboard lol.

It’s interesting how you approached learning CAD, my university taught us creo parametric but most companies ask for Solidworks. So i’m going to have to learn everything again, I have been going through some Solidworks tutorials too and getting a feel for the UI, and found some tools actually do similar things to creo, just different names so hopefully I can figure it out.

Those were made to represent the final design and weren’t process models. What I did was take the 3D file in Solidworks and lay them out as a tech drawing where I had the profile views I needed. I exported it as an Illustrator file and cleaned up the line work and added pieces so that I could construct a net from them for cutting. I would still develop your foam skills and its a great way to quickly experiment with form for smaller products but as you can see cardboard can also be used to achieve great results.

I had to google what Creo was as I only know it as Pro E. From my industry experience it’s only engineers that will use it so it’s strange on a design course they teach it you. When speaking to my engineering colleagues though they said the principals of the two are the same but the buttons both physical and digital are just different so you should be able to switch easily. Its a good tool to know but think the three big players (Solidworks, Alias, Rhino) are worth mastering.

If I were you I would spend your summer teaching yourself two packages be it Solidworks and either Rhino or Alias. Devote a block of time to teach and then practice practice practice that way you’ll know the basics of both by the time you go back and then can use the appropriate one in your projects going forward.

@sketchgrad: Hi, thanks for the advice again, yes creo is a very technical piece of cad software. I go to school in the UK and design here is totally different to US. I guess we use the software because my lecturer, I think has a background in engineering and he is always focused on making things work, even if it compromises the aesthetics. Anyway I’ve been practicing Solidworks, and i’m so used to referencing a lot of things to draw a sketch or extrude a surface it feels weird not having to do that anymore but maybe there’s a way just haven’t looked into it, thanks again.

Sweet mock ups. I’m a huge fan of mocking things up. We still do tons of pink foams (insulation foam studies), foam core mock ups, full size 2d prints (especially when making a tower speaker, the print is so big it starts to feel like a mock up), and now that we have an objet printer in house, 3d prints. Working at the different fidelities really helps, and going back and forth from 2d to 3d, analog to digital I feel helps the ideas mature.

Back to the OP, I was in the same boat. Sometimes you can focus on modeling a part of a concept. Also lower your fidelity bar. Make sketch models the way you would make loose sketches before doing a final 2d render. Build to it.

@Yo: Thanks for the advice, who would have thought you was in the same boat.

I was a very poor model maker. To work on my skills I actually got a summer internship in a model shop. That and at my first job the JR designers often made models for the more senior designers… nothing teaches you more than making another designer’s model. It ale made me a better sketcher.

I wonder if it’s a ‘thing’ among designers?

I’ve noticed this both academically and professionally that those that excel at sketching are often lacking in the model making department and vice versa in that those that excel at model making leave little to be desired in their sketching skills.

I count myself in the latter of those two as you can see I’m more than happy to upload my models but daren’t show any sketches. (I still need to put some up in the thread I started which I keep putting off)

But to Yo’s point I agree completely and a lot of the models I showcase are senior designers project’s that I was asked to build for. They helped me tremendously in seeing how they tackled a product.

Very interesting, I’ve noticed this trend too among my peers, but nobody really talks about it, even though it’s evident in their work. An internship in a model shop sounds like a good idea, ill have to get researching for some in my area. I was looking at joining a local hackerspace if worst comes to worst.

Interesting! I’m definitely much better at CAD and model making than sketching. I have never really gotten the “think with your pencil” thing and it has always felt a bit awkward when I tried to ideate by sketching. Instead I’ve always seemed to get my best ideas when I’ve been building prototype models or making more or less final products. So far, I’ve just put it down to a distinct lack of sketching practice but it might be a bit deeper than so.

I’ve also always approached this product development thing more from a technical side rather than an art side and I’m also studying a program combining engineering and industrial design because of this

You inspired me. I’m doing some fast food packaging and needed a quick 1:1 hamburger prop, so I made one out of cardboard: