Life before CAD

Being relativly new to ID, I am very interested in how products were taken to market before CAD/ CAM packages were commonly used?

I take it draftsmen hand machined tooling parts?

When was the main introduction of CAD/ CAM software…

Just trying to picture life brfore CAD!!!


Some of the greatest products ever came off humble drafting boards because they were made possible by great minds before great tools.

Think the Concorde supersonic airplane, for instance.

Seems only a few decades ago there were more designers and engineers with daring ideas and the courage to implement them. CAD has made it all too easy for anyone to take up “design”.

Make it easy and the “creative” masses will flow to it. And provide us all the cheapness we live in today.

A fancy tool doesn’t make a good designer - although it should help a good designer realize greater things than before.

I think that there are still some great and daring designers today, but they are buried under all the flashy “design” stuff that most people pay attention to.

‘New supersonic airplane? Who cares! I wanna see a chopper/new Ferrari/brightly-colored chair from whoever/etc.’

CAD can be learnt. Creativity cant.

I recently attended ‘an evening with Jonathan Ives’. He believed students should sent more time sketching and less learning CAD…

Do you agree? Being an undergraduate I feel a balance is required to have a realistic chance of getting a job when leaving Uni.

Mr Ives also explained the only computer they have in their studio is a imac in the corner for playing music! They just sketched all day, is this a common practice in many design firms?

what works best for you. but you have to realise that we’re moving with time and our tools are changing.

fifty years ago you didn’t have a cnc machine, everything was done on a milling machine sometimes using more hand than machine. things have changed. the tools we have today are getting smarter. maybe someday they’ll even be integrated to our biological sensory system( i think there’re already projects underway towards that direction).

sketching is very liberating and fun, no doubt. also very convenient, but today’s industry has become too technically advanced for the more relaxed space of pen and paper. chances are whoever has better data access and maneuverability will get the product better designed and faster to the market.

maybe someday they’ll make smarter papers, but right now they’re just same as they were thousands of years ago.

A very insigtful post UFO. I agree, he with the most clear data, gets to market faster. But I also think faster is not allways better. Good design takes time, and often pen and paper.

It’s all about appropriate tools. You wouldn’t use a sledge hammer to adjust the micro screw on you sunglasses right? You don’t need Pro E to rough out a concept, but you DO need it to hammer it home. The good thing is you can hire someone to crank out a CAD model for you, you can’t hire them to make design decisions for you.

So when the project starts, break out the sharpies, when the decisions are made, it’s time to click.

The new tools have greatly reduced the time, money and number of people it takes to bring something to market. The First Concord prototype took 200,ooo designers and engineers, 20 years, and $6 BILLION dollars to make (there was a PBS special on it last week). Of course the upside is the more brain power you have on something, the more chances for creative synergy. There are elements of the Concord that are still cutting edge today! Over 30 years after the first test flight!

“So when the project starts, break out the sharpies, when the decisions are made, it’s time to click.”

I don’t think it’s so cut and dry, Yo!..creative decisions should be made from beginning to end, where the majority of those decisions are made depends on your process, your skills, etc. If the decisions end when the sketching stops your design is in serious trouble!

I think of myself as equally skilled at sketching and CAD(Alias)…so called “creative decisions” are made as needed, regardless of which tool I’m using or which phase of the process I’m in. Sometimes I’ll start designing IN CAD, (heaven forbid) or I’ll sketch it right up to the end…when we start pigeon-holing tools into levels of creativity we give creativity a bad name.

good points. I over simplified.

I make design decisions up until the end, but I usually sketch out seveal variations over CAD model print outs, or directly on taped up prototypes. I still think the pen is the fastest exporatory tool, and the mouse the fastest implementation tool, at least for me.

just curious, (I’m not bating you), are you profficient in CAD?

in modern day and age good design takes brains, business strategy and logistics, strong back-up resources and work force availability and support, most advanced design tools, and state of the art technology.

the rest is jive.

No baiting, I don’t use 3d software at all. Why would I when someone else can do it for me and I can redline their work until it’s the way I need it to be? Not everyone has this luxury, I know.

the pisser is when you’re older and haven’t been able to keep up with the software curve.

long on design, prototyping, and manufacturing experience …

short on “3D” seat-time …

= low on the hiring list.

it’s true. many think that cad modelling is a waste of time for designer but then why do %99 of these job postings require knowledge of at least one cad software for the senior designer they’re gonna hire for concepts? are they crazy?

as for design management it sure helps to know cad. what if you’re in china and you need to do an ECO on several products and you’re troubleshooting some work on spot. are you gonna drag your design staff, cad operators, and prototyping people out there, or sit behind your laptop for a week or two untill everyone gets it right in office somewhere in US or asia.

think again.

think again

It’s not the same everywhere.

i think i already figured that out.

“No baiting, I don’t use 3d software at all. Why would I when someone else can do it for me and I can redline their work until it’s the way I need it to be? Not everyone has this luxury, I know.”

Yo, I have that luxury. I take advantage of it at times because it can be more efficient, but trust me, the further a designer takes a design in CAD before handing it off to a CAD monkey the better it will be…I’ve done both, I work where you work, I know the processes you use…it still holds true…

I understand, and I’m with you.

I also think it is very important for designers to manage what they are the best at. A corporation is going to ask a designer to do what he/she is the most proficient at of course. You know it is easy for a designer to become trapped in that CAD monkey position you mentioned.

I agree that it helps if the designer can get the design intent into 3d, roughed in, ready for someone to clean up. Nike equipment does it that way correct? Most of those implemtation guys have ID degrees I think though right?

I plan on learning Alias this year if possible to see what benfits it will have for me in footwear as a designer. If it helps get my job done faster, with more efficiency and helps me communicate my ideas more clearly, then I’m all for it.

It seems that the deliverables for designers continue to escalate on both the front end and the back end, while marketing and enginering responsibilities shrink. That’s cool, cause it gives us more control, but those other guys aren’t exactly taking pay cuts are they??? Thoughts? I’m not too into burning a whole lot more time to make a vendor’s job easier. I’m pretty warry of this? Crazylegs, you got any thoughts on this. I’d like to chat here, or at the office on it.

As Johny Cash would say “I walk the line”

CAD is much newer to Industrial Design that you probably realize.

Alias, Catia and other surface modelers enabled designers to realize complex surfaces in the early 1990’s on pricy, exotic Pixar, SUN and SGI workstations. Before that, the only option was equally exotic solid modeling engineering software like Pro/Engineer, but you could forget surfacing.

No wonder the 1980’s gave us such 2D CAD-friendly products.

In the later '90’s (say, 1995-1999) Alias became a popular option for designers, with data frequently dropped into engineering tools like Pro/E.

But the dirty secret is many of the toolmakers in Asia were (are?) taking that data and hand-tooling and finishing. After all, the front end tool is only as good as the backend tool.

Funny, I was considering starting a thread this week from completely the opposite direction: if designers are all expected to know one or more CAD packages, and are proficient enough in them to get the form and detail they want in a format that can go straight to engineering or manufacturing, then why bother learning 2D at all?

Of course, good points made on this thread already – clearly there’s nothing faster than pen and paper for throwing ideas out. It’s been interesting to notice, though, how much a designer’s “worth” seems to stem on his/her ability to make a beautiful 2D image. I’ve seen recent grads with excellent drawing skills and very poor conceptual ability get great jobs, because their portfolios are impressive.

Or (to put it cynically), pretty.

I’m not debating that fast, accurate sketching is a crucial skill, but given that it can take as many hours to do a single high-quality hand-rendering as to build a well-rendered model in Alias or SolidWorks, what’s the point? Is this just me being bitter because my CAD skills are better than my pencil skills?

The problem with CAD is that it is tied to a computer. If your hand sketching skills aren’t up to snuff, that means you are tied to a computer to record ideas with any kind of accuracy/speed/quality/whatever.

Often I get ideas when I’m away from a computer and sketch them out on paper so that I can recall them later if need be; forget trying to remember them - it seems that failing to remembering details is directly related to the passing of time, at least for me.

Ultimately, I think it all comes down to what you can use most efficiently to express concepts and ideas, no matter what the medium.