My Epiphany || Ramblings of The Tired and Stressed

In my attempt to blog recently, I’ve found myself pretty stuck for inspiration, so I’ve closed the laptop and walked away. This evening I decided I would sit down and not get up until I had posted. Turns out inspiration doesn’t take kindly to being forced, and with the whole internet in front of me, I didn’t stay on that blank “New Post” page for long. Inevitably, I found myself on reddit, my source for pretty much everything. It occurred to me that r/design is a thing, and instead of clicking through links and arbitrarily up-voting, I could be posting about this stuff, and so…

The top post in the design subreddit today is this. I don’t like the design itself, it’s too busy and completely loses it’s original meaning (in my opinion), it also doesn’t help that some of the renders, particularly on the car, look very dumped on. However it has inspired me and therefore served it’s purpose. Personal branding something I’ve always been interested in, and not very good at. I’d like have something that marks work as mine but I get bored with things and rework them too often to have any real trademark. My favourite colour is never the same two years running, it’s always blue but the shade changes dramatically (I was all about pastels when I was 8, then it got brighter until it was turquoise, now it’s sort of navy). Naming this blog was my first solid step, because unlike most things (unimportant things like my signature or my fundamental opinions on anything) I can’t change the URL without going to a certain amount of effort. I don’t like effort.

Practical Abstractions was a name born from accident, like all the best things are (where would you be without post-its, honestly?) and it has sort of inflicted an identity upon me, because my portfolio is here and transferring that would, again, be effort. For that I love it, I have to stick with it and now have a basis on which to build my personal brand.

I don’t really have a proper ending to this post but I have to stop because this is going nowhere and pretty soon I’m going to stop making sense to even myself.

And they all lived happily ever after. (If it works for Disney it works for me)

Sometimes I Wish I Had Free Time

So it happened again, I went a week without posting. It can this time be largely attributed to this monstrosity:

Speaker Concept 2
I swear it’s laughing at me

Remember when I posted at the end of the 50 concepts project, I mentioned that our next brief was injection moulded speaker housing? Remember how innocent and full of hope I was? It didn’t last long. Don’t get me wrong I am nowhere near the levels of depression and aimless rage I reached in such projects as: the cardboard chair(I tore that effing thing to pieces after grading), or the go-kart (THAT WE SHALL NEVER SPEAK OF!) But it’s not running as smoothly as it could be. For one thing I can’t draw it on paper, and for another, moulding it is going to be a complete pain. Final hand-in isn’t for another while but I’m behind schedule, and when you timetable your life like I do, diversion from schedule is not acceptable. I’ve got an Easter break coming up in which to get myself back on track and I shall go into it with as much optimism as possible.*Feeble “Yay”*

Trompe L’Oeil

The CDC Design Project (worth 15%) required us to have a go at trompe l’oeil. Using electrical tape and imagination, we, in groups of 4 set about vandalising the building in which the PD studio is housed with some guerilla art work.

My group, myself, Caoimhe, Lorraine and Safa decided to use the tape to continue a stairway and this was the result (picture angle slightly off because I’m shorter than the average)

Trompe L'Oeil

We went through ideas like having a ball rolling down or a bottle leaning before deciding on the legs. I think the trick to this project was that there wasn’t a projector involved, we had two sheets of acetate and the “Up a bit, down a bit” method of transferring the image to the wall. We also had major problems with the tape sticking to the large amounts of dust on the wall rather than the wall itself.

I enjoyed it, but I’m not really sure what we achieved, especially seeing as the college removed all our works within hours. Yay team work?

Baby’s First Rendering

This semester (4th) was the first time we were introduced to using Adobe CS for design (same for Solidworks but I’ve been playing with that for the last 5 years). It was something I was looking forward to because I prefer doing things on the computer approximately 100% of the time. It depressed me hugely that I was not instantly amazing at it. After a couple of weeks learning Illustrator and week of colouring basic shapes, we were given a speaker image to reproduce in orthographic, due yesterday.

Speaker Original

Here’s what I handed in:

Image

I like things that have a definitive right and wrong answer, I would keep tinkering with something subjective like this forever if I were left to it. There’s no way to be perfectly right, so I can never think of it as finished, no matter how many times I do it and re-do it. This means I will likely never be happy with anything I render on Photoshop ever. That’s a cheery thought.

Wearing In/Wearing Out || An Ode to my Pencil Case

For last weeks class we watched the documentary Objectified. In an interview with Bill Moggridge, co-founder of IDEO and inventor of the first laptop (the GRiD Compass laptop), the idea of wearing a product in rather than wearing it out came up. I have mixed feelings on this. The example he used himself was of the GRiD Compass, that the spots where the magnesium shows through the paint make it feel “better”. I love my laptop, a Dell Inspiron Duo.

DSCF0004

It has an incredible ability to still amaze people despite the fact the technology is at least 18 months old (I think it was around for about 6 before I got my hands on one November 2011). Even though it’s forced me to buy a second computer to run Adobe CS and SolidWorks, it’s very good at what it does and I wouldn’t swap it for any other. I would, however, swap it for a brand new one of the same. The “dings” Bill Moggridge felt improved the machine, bother me no end. The peeling on the casing, the scratches on the screen, the two missing rubber feet and the lumps missing from that time I dropped it. I hate them.

I’m not totally opposed to the idea of wearing in though, people of the internet allow me to introduce you to my pencil case.

DSCF0025

I bought this case in September 2005, on my first day of secondary school, I’ve never been far from it since. I bought it because I needed a pencil case and this was the one in the shop that didn’t have a football printed on it, I didn’t ache for it for months, weeks or even days like I have done with many things I’ve bought, and I remember thinking at the time that it would do until I found a better one (better meaning blue). Now, nearly 8 years later, it’s stained with years of pens, pencils, and highlighters, stabbed with compasses and screwdrivers and with me at all times (and I mean it’s in my handbag on a night out). It’s seen me through every exam I’ve ever taken, got me into my college of choice and won me an art competition or two to boot. It houses the pens and pencils used in any of the drawings on this site. I am more attached to this battered piece of fluff than I am to most people. When it comes to it’s annual trip to the washing machine, I spend a couple of agonizing hours wondering whether I’ve finally outlived it, whether this will be the time it comes back to me in pieces. But it always survives, and long may it.

50 Concepts, 4 Weeks

Bless me WordPress for I have sinned, it’s been more than a week since my last blog, I’ve been busy. First studio project of the semester was due this week which was, as the title suggests, 50 Concepts in 4 Weeks. It wasn’t horrendous but it wasn’t my favourite project of all time.

Nature Watches

It doesn’t escape my attention that out of 50 ideas I’m only happy with the 11 above. That’s kind of sad, but I shan’t dwell on it. The brief was 3 mini-briefs with the focus on idea-generation: nature inspired watches,  methods of mixing and applying bone cement and ways of addressing the issue of bikes on buses. The last two were fairly slow going but after 2 lazy weeks and a couple of 14-hour panic days, it got done.

No rest for the wicked it seems though because the new brief was on us 15 minutes later, 10 new concepts (of injection moulded speaker housings) due Wednesday. That combined with the mountain of Photoshop rendering due the same day make my feelings of “Thank God it’s finally over” completely unjustified. I’m going to enjoy them anyway until it’s time to stress out again on Monday.

Cathal Loughnane and Design Partners

On Tuesday we had our first guest speaker for the CDC module, Cathal Loughnane of Design Partners. One of the first things he said to us was that the company were weak at marketing themselves, but giving a talk to 40 students who are then obligated to go write a blog about you can’t hurt. Just saying.

Cynicism aside, it was a really interesting lecture. Design Partners is a relatively small firm with studios in Bray, Co. Wicklow and San Francisco. It works mainly in the areas of consumer electronics and home wares, but is starting to branch out into the area of consumer medical products.  It sets it self apart in two ways, one being it’s continued heavy use of physical model-making (as opposed to CAD) and it’s focus on creating and maintaining a relationship with it’s clients.

I personally, hate the idea of real model over digital models, but whatever works I suppose.

The body of the talk was about “Design Principles”, without going into huge detail, my takings from them were were:

  • Story: Have a point to the product, don’t just create it for the sake of having your face in the market, otherwise it’ll just get lost in the competition
  • Magic: Have something  about the product that makes people say “Oh, that’s really cool/clever/etc.” (I don’t know how to get this across, but in my head that’s said in a kind of surprised way)
  • Invisible: If the customer doesn’t need to see it, don’t let them. Why let the laws of physics stand in your way?
  • Mastery: Pick a skill and be really good at it. Specialize, have something that you can say, “That’s my thing”
  • Flawless: Go for perfection, and be disappointed with anything less (from yourself). Be hyper-critical (again of yourself, and not, say, eyelash curlers?).
  • Generous: Give the customer more than they expect. (The surprise thing in Magic works for this too)

The lecture also made the idea of “Portfolio” seem more possible. To now, the whole concept has just been a terrifying word with a horrific amount of work attached  As you may have noticed, the portfolio section of this site that I went through all the trouble of setting up (with subcategories and everything), is completely empty. This is hopefully changing as of tomorrow.  There were slides of portfolios from accepted candidates and, whilst they were fantastic work, I definitely looked at them and felt, with a bit of effort, I could do that.

This post has been far too positive and it just doesn’t feel like me, so I’m going to throw in that my right leg went dead at one point and I sat there in a moderate amount of pain for about an hour.

Eyelash Curlers

Eyelash curlers are something that, design-wise, have always bothered me. It’s a metal implement not unlike a scissors in appearance that one is expected to clamp down on their eyelashes with. Then hold it and don’t blink. Blink and you’re dead, or at least, blink and you’re eyelash-less.  Who’s idea was that? Google patents tells me it was Chables W. Stickel’s in 1928, and it hasn’t changed almost at all since. Except that now-a-days most have a spring in them, because putting something spring-loaded in your eye is always a good plan.

Regardless of whether it’s done up with pink plastic or it’s the particularly nasty looking object on the right  by Urban Decay, it looks surgical. It’s just a matter of whether its for “Biopsy Barbie” or a zoo vet.

It must work though, right? Why else would a product that looks like it was dreamt up by the Spanish Inquisition have stuck around unchanged for 85 years? Well yes, provided you’ve got an average shaped/sized eye, but as I was told by my lecturer in ergonomics, the average human doesn’t exist. My eyes aren’t even the same as each other not a mind to say as anyone else’s. This is something the Urban Decay beauty above claims to address, but I’ve never tried it and I think if I was given the opportunity, I’d sooner run screaming.

More recently, we have electric, heated curlers like this:

It’s like a hair straightener. Only for your eye. There’s no way that can go wrong…

E-Ink Keyboard

As someone just learning Adobe Illustrator and trying (unsuccessfully) to keep its keyboard shortcuts separate from those of Photoshop and SolidWorks, I completely agree with Gizmodo when they say this “needs to become a real thing”

Designers Maxim Mezentsev and Aleksander Suhih took the existing idea of dynamic keyboards which use LEDs, but crossed it with e-ink; drastically lowering the power consumption and making it wireless.

I want.

First Post

I am not a writer, I  have never been, I’m incapable of making it past a paragraph without turning it into an argument with some non-existent opponent. Great when I was debating, not so great when I was supposed to be writing essays on “The Theme of Love in Wuthering Heights”. Having left secondary school for a B.Sc (with an engineer-ingy feel) I thought I’d left my days of prose behind me, but no.

As part of my studies in Product Design and Technology, specifically the module Contemporary Design Culture, I am required to start this blog about my observations of design (actually I was required to start it 2 weeks ago, but shush). In all honesty, I’m horrified at the idea of it, but I shall endeavor to try, and provided you don’t mind asking yourself “who is she so angry at?”, this will hopefully be an interesting read.