To a man with a hammer, all problems are nails.

Or to put it another way, how profound an influence does choice and use of design tool have on your studio practice?

I recently interviewed a middleweight industrial designer on his use of design tools: CAD, sketching, RP, modelling. one of the interesting things that came out of this was a claim for an ability to name the kinds of modelling software used in a given consultancy by merely looking at the design aesthetic of their product outcomes.


I’ve heard similar comments about Architecture and Autocad releases.

  • Different software packages do certain operations easily or in a certain way and MANY (not all) users gravitate towards those functions ,it’s true. One thing that comes to mind is radii, most people create G1 radii as that is what the software does easily with a command rather than building curve continuous (G2 or greater) surfaces for there radii.

  • I was also thinking about how Rapid Prototyping machines may effect or dictate a final product outcome. Awhile back I was the primary operator for one of our Rapid Prototyping machines, and I remember one part was just barely too big to fit in the printer envelope and rather than break it into pieces the engineer made it smaller. A few weeks later another version of the part came through and the size stayed the same, so the final part size was effectively dictated by the print window of the Rapid prototyping machine, it was a minor change, but still it made me think.

Agreed. This is why I have always preferred to have an expert CAD modeler whose sole job it is to be as good at CAD as possible so there are no remnants of the design tool. By neccesity, there will be traces of the manufacturing tools, no need to overlay an unneeded layer just because we can’t trick CAD tools into being as sculptural as we can be with a piece of foam.

Nice Title :wink:

And nice examples IDiot

So yes I think the tools you can use have an effect on the outcome of a project. Or maybe we should say: the skills you have determine the outcome. If your a bad sketcher you’ll probably struggle with having many ideas and communicating them. If your a lousy CAD-jockey then you’ll probably stick to basic geometry with some fillets and chamfers. Bad prototyping skills will lure you to Rapid prototyping. Each phase/skill in the process has it’s value so my advice would be to train all of them. And try to be good in each one of them. So the designtools/skills don’t characterize your outcome. (or as Yo stated it: Have a team arround you that houses all these skills)

and people who use G1-blends are lazzy and it does show in the final project. Good Surface build up is so undervalued but so important to the final outcome.

I think it can be true, but maybe it’s something to do with workflow more than software limits…

This is really generalizing, but in an Alias/Rhino, it seems that designers usually approximate manufacturable parts, hand of surface models, and engineers to take over at some point and rebuild the parts in more of an engineering software. I’d dare say they concentrate more on the exterior design than the internal details.

In Solidworks or ProE, your working part will often eventually be the part sent to manufacture. From what I’ve seen, designers using the software have a value-add of being quasi engineers, thinking as much about the internal details as well as the exteriors and sometimes taking the parts all the way to manufacture

between those two scenarios, I think the different workflows would affect the design. That said, it makes financial sense to have hybrid designers for small businesses. There are also those that do s e x y design no matter what the software or responsibilities.

I second the view, that it is a workflow problem. This is why (in the old days) I always did
a raw scetch first and went straight for the workshop. Carving it out of foam, or what ever.

Rebuilding what we found in the foam as a Rhino Model was sometimes tricky. But building
the Rhino Model first might have twisted the design intent into something that was easier
to build in 3D.

On the other hand. Model making does have other limitations.

all the best.

yours mo-i

I noticed it with my first internship/freelance job out of school. I had to make some hand models of printers and they showed me the technique of making sketch models with foam core, scoring for the curved surfaces, etc…and then making the final model out of sheets of styrene using the same technique.
At that point I instantly understood why all office printers and copy machines looked the way they did with the exact same radii that matched common foam core and styrene sheet thicknesses, because that’s what they used to make the models with. After that experience, “foam core model products” just stand out like a sore thumb to me, it looks very obvious once you’re familiar with the tells.

So, co-dependent relationship between the skills and expertise of the designer, the different requirements of studio practice and the design ‘tools’ characteristics themselves.

I’ve been looking at the way students use CAD and other tools and it seems that they have a tendency to gravitate - general tendency - to CAD sooner than practitioners. Or I should say they tend to crystallise and commit to design ideas more quickly. And that some tools, CAD included, but also sketch model making and other physical design embodiments, compound this tendency. This is in contrast to practitioners who - again generally - tend to remain more open in their studio practice.

having said that, practitioners also hold different attitudes to the use of tools - particularly more junior ones - and this goes back to influence of working culture I think - there choice and use of tools is influenced by the kinds of practices employed by the consultancy for which they work.


Guess its pretty logical that you can tell what tools that have been used, since they all work differently and put their characteristics. (I really like your approach Mo-i, i need to try it whole heartedly)

I was thinking about a similar topic a few months ago. When i started building my current thesis project in SW I partly chose it due to the characteristics that the SW influence the outcome. I was looking for more of an engineering touch to it, and from that aspect, it was a successful experiment. (I’d be lying if i said it was the sole reason, because there was a bunch of others too)

Isn’t it natural that a craftsman uses the most appropriate tool that they think would suit the task? Of course the toolbox gets bigger, better and tailored to your preferences/strengths as you pogress your craftsmanship. (And some tools become redundant)
Very interesting topic though, from a students pov…

This is why it’s important to flesh out a design before going into virtual 3D (sketching and foam models).