Friday, April 29, 2011

Design Process

I have never been happier for an acrylic box. 

I was smiling all the way home as I held it on the bus from Rapson Hall on East Bank to home last friday. No one understood why I was clutching my box so tenderly. The tall man in tan exited the bus to the right, and only glanced at my wonderful creation. I wanted to stand up in the middle of the bus, arms outstretched holding my box at arms length spinning around like those cheesy lovey dovey scenes in moves, then I would slowly and tenderly hug my creation and continue to spin in dizzying circles. I felt like announcing to the whole bus of bored blank faces of ipod-induced-coma college students “LOOK! My beautiful creation! Yes it may look like a simple acrylic box with circles cut into it, but it’s so much more don’t you see? I made it! I took it from an idea, a sketch on paper, and now it’s a thing! I’m made something! Isn’t it wonderful?”

Okay…even though I wished to do all those things I sat silently with my heavy backpack in my lap, balancing the box on top. Then I slowly made my way home. Not really anything theatrical. But why would a simple box give me such joy? A simple creation? Well, because it really is so much more than that.

It’s more than a box because it’s part of the whole design process. Taking an abstract idea and ultimately making it into an physical thing is wonderful. For example, I am currently fabricating a luminaire (fancy design talk for a light fixture) for my lighting class. This project is coordinated with my interior design studio work where I designed a coffee shop, and now I am making a luminaire that would be placed in said shop.

A Cabinet of Curiosity by Domenico Remps
I start with an abstract idea or an image, such as the above image which I used as an inspiration for my coffee shop design. Then how does that get translated into a physical thing? I make many hasty sketches on notebook paper, sketchbooks, the back of class assignments, and post it notes. Eventually I come to drawing out specific dimensions. 
After that I mock it up with paper, then a crescent board model, where it really helps me figure out the exact size I want. For this luminaire specifically I wanted to see the size of the box in relation to the light bulb that would be placed in the acrylic box to be made.
I figured out the perfect size! After that I put the design into AutoCAD so I could bring the file to the workshop and cut it into acrylic on the laser cutter....

Presto! After about a half hour I had this wonderful object which I carried home one the bus (as noted above). It took little time to glue it together.

While I was home on Easter weekend, I put the lamp kit in, and screws....and that's where the process ends for now! I'm going to finish the luminaire this weekend and present this coming week!
Now you can see into the world of a wonderful design student! Things don't just magically come to be because there is so much that happens in between an initial idea and a finished product. 
Maybe I'm strange, maybe I'm crazy, maybe I have no life (well as a design student homework=life), maybe I'm a nerd, but I LOVE school. I love learning,and curiosity really seems to be a major theme in my life recently. There's so much to know about the world, things to make, inspiration to be had. 

I'm just enjoying the process.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

North Side

*Gasp!* What's this? Two blogs two days in a row? This is actually a repost of a note my sister Elisabeth posted on Facebook, and it was so wonderfully well written and to the point that I had to repost it here. She blogs over here about teacher art, a blog she hopes can be a resource for homeschooling parents, and other parents wanting to teach their children art. Anyway, this blog describes something that I have had to deal with as well, people looking down on me just because of where I've grown up.

Minneapolis = the ghetto?

I live in North Minneapolis. I have resided here for the majority of my life (20 years and counting). My family has a nice house with a yard filled with flower and vegetable gardens. We're about ten minutes from downtown, conveniently located near several major highways, shopping centers, art museums, great restaurants, etc. I like where I live. And yet...some people insist on telling me (or inferring) I live in a horrible place. That somehow, because I live in an urban area, I'm less well off or lacking in some way. Some people seem to believe and act like that as soon as you cross the boundary into Minneapolis, you will be mugged, raped and murdered. You will be pulled from your car at gunpoint, they'll steal your shoes and leave you dead in the river. Or something to that effect. Ummm.....yeah. Let me set a few things straight, friends. Yes, it's the city. Not the countryside or suburbia, where you leave your doors unlocked and your purse sitting on the seat of your car with the windows rolled down. Yes, drug dealers do conduct their business on some street corners...whereas in other areas that's behind closed doors, so it's easier to pretend it's not going on. Yes, there is more crime...but there's also more community. How often do you see, let alone talk to, your neighbors in suburbia? One of my neighbors is like another grandfather to me, we've lived by each other so long. You see your neighbors on good days and bad, they're there and you can't really ignore them. Your back doors are closer together, their apple tree drops fruit into your yard, you can hear a back door slam and the conversation held outside. (and I'm not saying there's zero community in the suburbs, you're just forced to interact with the people around you in a different way here)
Yes, it's the city--where sirens and train horns and traffic on the highway are part of the background noise of everyday life. People drive by playing their music too loud, and some person lets their dog crap in your front yard.

Yes, it's the city--where recent immigrants struggle to acclimate, boys strut by with their pants too low, and the girls mince past in jeans too tight. As a white person, you're not always in the majority. Black, White, Asian, African, Indian, mixed. Diversity is a fact of life, not something weird or unusual, it just is.

Our houses don't match, the grass isn't perfectly green, and someone's garage definitely needs a paint job. But I do not live in the ghetto. Don't look down on me because of my zip code.

If I were to list all the awesome things about my city, it would be far too long for a note on facebook. Suffice to say, I like where I live.

Interior Design

My dear reader, it is that time in the semester when I do nothing but homework, and feel guilty event to take the time to write a blog post. So what exactly do I spend my time doing?

Interior Design. That’s what I’m going to school for. People don’t really get it.

I’m not going to school to learn how to paint walls, or to make things look ‘pretty’ and decorate. I often have to defend what I’m going to school for when people ask because people discount it to my face, or just have no idea what interior design actually is. After I say I’m going to school for or my major is interior design, I get reactions such as: “Ah, inferior design!” “Oh cool! Could you help me decorate my house?” “When you graduate you can come and design my place!” “Oh yeah, interior decorating, that’s great…” “Do you watch HGTV?” *sigh* I’ve even heard of certain people saying: “Have your kids go to school for something worthwhile, not something like interior design for example…”

Sure you may think that I’m wasting my time going to school for interior design, but do you know what it actually is? Do you know the choices that designers make in the environments that you spend a majority of your time in? (The statistics say that Americans spend almost 90% of their time indoors now!) Why do you return to your favorite coffee shop? Or restaurant? How come you like shopping at one clothing store over the other? Why does it seem so much easier to study at the library? It most likely has something to do with the designed environment.
Since I love definitions so much, I’ll throw this one out: "Interior design includes a scope of services performed by a professional design practitioner, qualified by means of education, experience and examination, to protect and enhance the health, life safety and welfare of the public." from NCIDQ (emphasis mine)  

Or this: "Interior designers need to be creative, imaginative and artistic. They also need to be disciplined, organized and skilled business people. Combining aesthetic vision with practical skills and knowledge, interior designers work with clients to develop design solutions that are "aesthetically appealing, technically sophisticated and pragmatically satisfying." from ASID

Or this is a condensed version of what NCIDQ says interior design is:
creative and technical solutions are applied, solutions are functional, enhance the quality of life, aesthetically attractive. Designs coordinated with the building shell, acknowledge the physical location and social context, must adhere to code and regulatory requirements,environmental sustainability, follows a systematic and coordinated methodology,research, analysis and integration of knowledge, creative process, needs and resources of the client are satisfied.

Hmm, that sounds like more than painting walls to me...
Okay so I can give you the textbook definition of interior design, but what is it really to me? In the long hours that I work on projects I ask myself that all the time. It's artistic, it's visual problem solving, it's multitasking, it's thinking about people's needs, it's shaping the environments that people move through in their day, it can be designing people's lifestyles, it is installation art, it's a marketing tool, it can help people relax and heal, it's what gives your favorite restaurant character, it's shapes people lives.

Like you, I would love to spend the majority of my time outside enjoying a limitless sky above, and no walls at my side. But the fact of the matter is that in our modern world we work, play, eat, learn, heal, sleep, and live indoors a majority of the time. Interior design is what makes the spaces we move through beautiful and functional. It's the backdrop of our lives.